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Posted by on Sep 8, 2014 in Blog, Personal, Restaurant Reviews, Travel | 7 comments

A Visit to Sonoma Wine Country: Chateau Montelena




Note:  This is the second in a series of travel essays about a recent visit to California’s wine country.  This past week, Marieta and I were joined by close friends and fellow wine aficionados Mark and Tina Napolitano in beautiful Sonoma County, where we enjoyed tastings at several local wineries.  Today, I shall focus on the experience of visiting and tasting one of the most famous wines in the history of California wine production — Chateau Montelena.


Visiting the famous winery known as Chateau Montelena is sort of like going back to your 20-year high school reunion and checking out whatever happened to the prom queen.

Is she still hot?

Sadly, no.

Now, she’s become a bloated glob of disappointment.

That’s basically Chateau Montelena in a simple cork twist.

I very much wanted to like Chateau Montelena — both the wine and the tasting experience.  Unfortunately, I was grossly disappointed by both.  My colleagues too, shared this monumental let down.

We all knew the marvelous story of how this famed winery basically transformed the modern wine scene, and initially put California on the map as a serious producer of fine drinkable wine.  Back in 1976, everything in great in wine had to be from France.  But Chateau Montelena’s entry into the blind tasting contest at Paris, and winning the top prize, stunned everyone — especially the French.  That seismic event essentially created what became a sort of gold rush to the west.  Only this time, prospectors were in a quest for the perfect cabs, pinots, and zins.

The early story of Chateau Montelena was captured in the vastly underrated 2008 film starring Alan Rickman (best known as villain Hans Gruber in the first Die Hard movie).  It’s a wonderful underdog story of how a few people changed an entire industry, and altered wine consumption habits and attitudes.

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Posted by on Sep 7, 2014 in Blog, Personal, Travel | 4 comments

Francis Ford Coppola’s Five Oscars




Note:  This is the first in my upcoming series of travel essays about my recent visit to California’s wine country.  This past week, Marieta and I were joined by close friends and fellow wine aficionados Mark and Tina Napolitano in beautiful Sonoma County, where we enjoyed tastings at several local wineries.


I’ll make you an offer you can’t refuse.

The Francis Coppola Vineyard offers a free museum that’s open to the public daily with movie memorabilia from many of the famed director’s most celebrated films.

Located just south of Geyserville, right off the 101, this particular Coppola Vineyard is the much smaller of two vastly productive acreages.  The much larger 1,600-acre vineyard is about an hour’s drive away.  However, this vineyard is only about 40 acres in size.  It’s where most of the wine is bottled and shipped for distribution.  Yet it includes an upscale resort, a film museum, and a superb restaurant that is astounding.  It’s an attraction sure to interest anyone into his movies or the array of affordable wines made by the acclaimed film director and screenwriter.

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Posted by on Aug 31, 2014 in Blog, Personal, Sports Betting | 2 comments

Advisory: Rules and Guidelines for Trying to Reach Me During the NFL Season




September 1st means one thing — the start of football season.

This past weekend was my final free Sunday, at least until early February.  That’s five months from now.

From this point forward Sunday will no longer exist.  Most of my Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Mondays will be tied up, too.  Plus my Tuesdays and Wednesdays.  So, if you need to reach me over the next five months via any modern communication device — be it by phone, text, e-mail, or social media — here are some explicit instructions for establishing contact.

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Posted by on Aug 29, 2014 in Blog, General Poker, Personal, Sports Betting | 0 comments

How PokerStars Almost Offered to Buy the NFL’s New Orleans Saints




Introduction:  Here’s another fun story from my days working for, where I served as Director of Communications between 2004-2006.


One of the wackiest poker stories never yet told took place in early 2006, about six months after Hurricane Katrina slammed into New Orleans and flooded most of the city.

The New Orleans Saints were quite possibly the most dismal franchise in all of professional sports.  Despite their losing ways, they remained beloved fan favorites and were a unifying attraction for all of Southern Louisiana.  Even though the team won just a single playoff game during its first 30 years of existence, the 80,000-seat Superdome sold out every time the Saints played at home.  When the Saints went on the road, they almost always lost.  However, the joke was that if they covered the pointspread, thousands fans would always welcome and cheer the arriving team plane at the airport.

With the lowly Saints coming off yet another losing season in 2005, when they were forced to play all their games outside the city of New Orleans (due to severe damage to the Superdome), unanimous pessimism persisted about the city’s ability to continue supporting an NFL franchise.  It seemed, people who had suffered such severe financial and emotional devastation had priorities other than football.

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Posted by on Aug 26, 2014 in Blog, Essays, Las Vegas, Personal | 8 comments

Is Las Vegas Still a Good Place to Live?




Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes made of ticky tacky,
Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes all the same.
There’s a green one and a pink one 
And a blue one and a yellow one,
And they’re all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.

— Peter Seeger (“Little Boxes” — 1962)


Several years ago, I gathered with a group of friends all visiting Las Vegas.  At the time, each of us lived elsewhere, scattered in different parts of the country.

Someone within our group made what turned out to be an astute observation.  He predicted that, give or take a few years, most of us would eventually end up settling down in Las Vegas.  This made perfectly rational sense.  Everyone among us enjoyed all the typical activities most commonly associated with Las Vegas — including playing poker, sports gambling, dining at good restaurants, plenty of cheap bars, relative affordability, and the around-the-clock lifestyle of the city.  Hey, a man’s got to have his priorities straight.

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