Saturday, December 10, 2016

Art I'm looking At: Traveling Exhibit of Botanical Art & Illustration at the Petaluma Arts Center

The Petaluma Arts Center is hosting a small but very high quality traveling exhibit of botanical art right now. Tomorrow, December 11, is the last day to see it. The show features works of botanical art and illustration from the collection of the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation at Carnegie Mellon University, in Pittsburgh. The show comprises 36 works by artists from nine countries (Australia, China, England, Italy, Japan, The Netherlands, South Africa, South Korea, and the US), all but one piece by women, and each one exquisite. The Institute was established in 1964 to support and encourage botanical artists.

I was impressed by the care taken to depict the most minute details of even the drabbest of plants. While there are floral showpieces among the works, notably a luminous Hydrangea by Gael Louise Sellwood (United States, detail shown above), I was strongly drawn to a number of portraits of rather weed-like plants, such as the winged sumac and Queen Anne's lace by Lara Call Gastinger (United States), rose hips by Denise Roxanne Walser-Kolar (United States), a selection of oddly formed heirloom tomatoes by Asuka Hishiki (Japan, top), and curly dock by Barbara Klaas (United States, bottom).

Well worth a visit. The Petaluma Arts Center is at 230 Lakeville Street, Petaluma, CA, 94952, in Petaluma's Historic railroad station (707) 762-5600. Open 11:00AM to 5:00PM. Closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Friday, December 9, 2016

Wines I'm Drinking: Recent Grocery Outlet Wines (December 9, 2016)

Ever hopeful of finding bargains, I continue to visit my local Grocery Outlet on a regular basis. I've tried a couple dozen wines there in the past few weeks. As usual the majority are fairly uninteresting, if not objectionable, but I've lately come across a few bargains and a few worth mentioning as wines to avoid. The biggest recent disappointment was probably the 2009 Ripanera Chianti Classico. Ripanera is a fairly reliable brand for everyday wines. I've had decent examples in the past, but this wine was flawed, with an odd, jarring, volatile component. I took it back.

The 2014 Castle Tower Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel looked promising—although "Castle Tower" sounds like one of those generic, made-up names slapped onto wine of no special interest just to get it on the market. The wine was fairly tannic, not very fruit-forward, shortish, and generally ungenerous. Not terribly interesting. The 2013 Benison Lodi Zinfandel I tasted it with was better, with some red berry and sandalwood scents and a bright palate. Although it seemed a bit hollow—the flavors disappearing on the mid-palate—it came back with a fairly concentrated fruity, if somewhat woody finish. Acceptable everyday wine.

Recent Grocery Outlet finds that seem particularly worth recommending include the 2011 Bailiwick Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir ($6.99). Pinot Noir is perhaps the hardest of all common varieties to find cheap. I've been disappointed over and over again trying to find decent examples at an affordable price. The Bailiwick Pinot is not fine Burgundy, but it's quite solid California-style Pinot at a bargain price. It's as good as some I've tasted costing four to five times as much. It has presence and true Pinot qualities with a little character of its own. I went back for a case. Recommended—if it's not all gone. (The label shown here is the 2010 Russian River Valley Pinot from Bailiwick.)

A good deal is the 2011 Alto Cinco Garnacha ("High Five" get it?), from Spain. Another decent wine for everyday consumption with real Grenache character. Grenache is an under-rated grape in my view. When well done, it can have an irresistibly appealing ripe fruitiness. Also not bad is the 2013 Flying Feet Syrah.

Around Thanksgiving time I picked up a decent Champagne, the D'Armanville Brut, for $19.99 a bottle—actually less than that, as they were having a 20% off sale on all wines at the time. I can't say the D'Armanville is the best Champagne I've ever had, but it's competently made, has pleasingly fine bubbles, and is a nice change from the local sparkling wines in the same price range from the likes of Mumm Napa and Roederer. It's hard to find real Champagne of any kind at this price, although Grocery Outlet now has another on the shelves at $19.99 (with a blue label, I've forgotten the name) that was not as good, with comparatively large, loose bubbles and a bit on the sweet side despite being labeled "Brut". The D'Armanville is still available at the time of writing. I also picked up several bottles of a decent $6.99 Cava called Gran BarĂ³n. This appears to be gone, but I'll be picking up more if it appears again. Not great wine by any means, but respectable, everyday sparkling wine—and why not drink sparkling wine every day?

I have no financial or other connections with any producer or retailer of wine. For more wine reviews, use the "Wines I'm Drinking" label at top right

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Miscellaneous: Old-School Barber Shop

Not long ago I came across this old-school barber shop in Petaluma, CA. Didn't go in. The place was closed. So, I can't attest to the barbering skills, but I liked the colorful chairs.
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