Thursday, March 14, 2002
Photo by Bradley Zeve; Fly Girl--Susan Petersen of the Monterey Jet Center.
RAISING THE BAR I''m out cruising with SWEET THING one afternoon last week, around happy hour, developing a hankering for cocktails. Can''t decide where to go--always a problem in cool-bar deficient Monterey County--when we get a c-phone call from two of our buds, Chuck and Heidi. Turns out they were cruising also so we decided to hit TOOTS LAGOON for a couple to reconnect and figure out what to do. Well, Toots is kinda slow this time of year, plus it''s up for sale, so needless to say it wasn''t exactly jamming. However, we did encounter a real classic. MICHAEL STALEY, a man of deep intelligence, strong character and rugged individualism, holds court behind that timeworn bar every night except Wednesday and Thursday.
He''s a guy who grew up in Berkeley, lived in Manhattan in the sixties, lived here since ''88; he''s seen a tanker full of experience and still digs in to life with the hunger of a homeless man. Drinking at his bar and listening to his diatribes should be required curriculum for the increasingly vapid humans populating our culture today. Check it out.
BIGGER, FASTER AND BETTER Ran into the Peninsula''s hottest concierge the other day, SUSAN PETERSEN from the MONTEREY JET CENTER. Her job is making all the big shots who fly in on private jets happy; a daunting task. Somehow she goes about it all with an upbeat, caring, positive attitude, always apparently thankful for her life and the way she is able to live it. I felt truly inspired by her zingy personality.
She told me about the 140,000 square feet expansion to the Jet Center that took place. The finishing touches are being administered now and it will be operational within a couple of months. It''s a good sign for the community that we need to expand the facilities that bring heavy hitters to our visitor-dependent economy. We need to increase the size of the MONTEREY CONVENTION CENTER as well.
I also ran into GEORGE EDWARDS. For those of you unaware of it, he''s the guy who ran the wine and spirits program at PEBBLE BEACH forever and is one of the most knowledgeable and respected men in the industry. Not only is he talented, but he''s got real integrity to go along with genuine humility. That''s a rare combination in these days of self-promotion and personal glory-grabbing. His talents are available, and judging by the weaknesses in the wine and spirits programs at many of the area''s restaurants and hotels, they are sorely needed. Get help. Give him a call: 373-3961.
SPEAKING OF WINE It was a good week for winos. First there was the luncheon at FANDANGO to taste the pre-release JUSTIN ISOCELES, the award winning Meritage from Paso Robles. Any chance to eat at Fandango is always a thrill; add to it the pairing of good wines from a talented producer and it''s perfect.
If you want to taste a talented producer''s wines, check out the magnificent Alsatian beauties from upstart great MARK TEMPE. EPIC wines, the local distributor for Tempe, threw a wonderful tasting and lunch at FRESH CREAM in Monterey. Chef GREG LIZZO of Fresh Cream pulled out all the stops with a beautiful three-course lunch he created to complement the incredible wines.
A special treat, aside from the presence of TOM MCGOWAN of Casanova, was the fact that Tempe and his wife, Anne-Marie, were on hand to tell us about the wines and his winemaking philosophy. Unfortunately, he only speaks French so no one knew what the hell he was talking about. Fortunately, DOMINIQUE DACRUZ, sommelier from SIERRA MAR in Big Sur was on hand to interpret.
Monsieur Tempe is as passionate and articulate about his wine and his approach to winemaking as anyone I have ever seen. He believes in total commitment to biodynamic farming combined with minimal interference in the winemaking, allowing each vintage''s individual characteristics to determine how the wine should evolve. We tasted about 10 different wines, from his Pinot Blancs and Rieslings to his late harvest Gewurtztraminer. Every one was stellar.
At one point, sitting there inhaling the gorgeous honey and melon scented wine while gazing across the beautiful gray-day Monterey Bay, it dawned on me how very fortunate I was to be in that space at that time.
--RAYMOND NAPOLITANO (RAY@COASTWEEKLY.COM)