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Today, the temperature is 44 degrees.  That’s above zero.  Yesterday, a California friend called and asked how I was surviving the fierce cold.  I told him it depended upon which day of the week to which he was referring.
I was more concerned about how he was faring in the bizarre weather in California.  The old jokes about California rain don’t seem so funny anymore.  Half the state seems to be slipping, sliding, or flooding while the other half is drying up.
He lives in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, where there’s plenty of deep snow all around him, but very little where he has vineyards.  It seems that all the really bad weather encircles him, fortunately.
During the conversation, I couldn’t help telling him about my rediscovery of one of the finest wines I’ve ever tasted.  I didn’t stop to think that the winery did not purchase its grapes from him, but grew their own in vineyards I had often visited.  The vintners had gone to California from Germany in the mid 1800’s, where their family had been in the grape growing/wine making business for generations.  They were sort of the Bachs of booze.  They brought with them their treasured huge oak wood wine barrels.  I don’t remember how it happened, but they managed to find a big piece of property in the Napa Valley, which is heaven to grapes and wine.  There were, on the property, some large caves where the temperature is perfect for storing and aging wine.  The environment, plus their gene pool, still produces very fine wine.  It’s a tad more expensive than most others, but worth every dollar, believe me.
I grew up in a non-drinking family.  Champagne was consumed on feast days, but confined to one glass each for a toast and a sip only for kids.  As a result, I’ve never been a drinker, with three exceptions – wine, brandy, and champagne.  None of these popped up in my life until I was married and living in California, where wine and wine by products were almost a way of life.  They were always combined with good food, and I happily learned the whole life style.
If I were asked to define a typical California meal I would say; a large, crisp mixed salad, a loaf of fresh Italian sour dough bread (almost always incorrectly identified as French bread), a large piece of Monterey Jack Cheese, a basket of fresh fruit, and a bottle of good wine.  You can add some meat or fish if you must, but it isn’t totally necessary.
Recent research in the field of nutritional benefits of foods and drinks has come up with some interesting results.  It turns out that wine contains ingredients that can combat cancer, heart problems, strokes, high blood pressure, and some other conditions.  To my surprise, so does beer, due to the malt.  Now, no one is suggesting that we all become drunks.  No, the advice is a small glass of whichever wine or beer you prefer can be an aid to health.  If you’re a confirmed teetotaler, for whatever reason, your blood pressure could rise just by reading the reports, so skip it.
To me, there are few things worse than a drunken human being or someone whose belly is bloated from beer, but I will continue to enjoy my white Zinfandel and half glass of lite beer, my brandy snifter, and one flute of champagne whenever called for by the occasion, and accompanied by food.
When I first came to Maine, and for many years thereafter, the state owned all the liquor stores, which, unfortunately, included wine and its offsprings.  No matter where I looked, I could not find what I considered to be really good wine, champagne, or brandy.  Now, to my delight, the really good stuff is available right where I buy my groceries.  The only flitch is in the brandy.  I can find several highly prized European labels, but not the one California label I want.  Surprisingly, the champagne, under the same label, is available, but not the brandy.
I always have a bottle of champagne in the fridge for unexpected reasons of celebration or holidays, plus a bottle of wine for everyday good health and enjoyment, and good cooking.
There are two other liquids I drink but in large daily amounts.  One is green tea, the other orange juice.  The juice I’ve consumed since a child.  The green tea I’ve been drinking since reading the results from Harvard on its ability to fight cancer, strokes, high blood pressure, and several other bad things.  When I first started, the only green tea I could find was tea bags in small boxes in China.  After Lipton announced its own research results, I can now buy green tea from every tea company in America.  If I could only find my brandy I’d be all set.
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