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How to Kill a Democracy. Lesson 1: Destroy the Free Press



How Hitler did it: A Lesson for Trump

1925, From Mein Kampf: Hitler: “The Arbeiter-Zeitung [newspaper is a] concentrated solution of lies…The so-called press is artificial…a blemish upon liberal democracy…indecent…My revulsion of the…press became unlimited…It is of paramount interest to the state and the nation to prevent these newspaper scribblers…The state, therefore, has the duty of preventing any mischief. It must particularly exercise strict control over the press. With ruthless determination [the state] must place [the press] in the service of the state and the nation. The state must not forget that all means must serve an end; it must not let itself be confused by the drivel about so-called ‘freedom of the press’…”

Jan. 30, 1933: Hitler becomes Chancellor of Germany.

Feb. 4, 1933: German Parliament passes “Ordinance for the protection of the German people.” Gives Hitler power to ban newspapers of his political rivals. Violators subject to arrest and detainment without charge.

Feb. 8, 1933: “The purge began.” Jacques Delarue, “The History of the Gestapo,” 1962.

Feb. 27, 1933: Reichstag [German Parliament] fire. Nazis blame it on Communist terrorists.

Feb. 28, 1933: German Parliament passes Reichstag Fire Decree, in the name of combating Communist terror. Nazis immediately outlaw the Communist press. Article 1 of the Decree suspends the Weimar Constitution’s provisions for press freedom. Among newspapers banned: Vorwärts, run by the Social Democratic Party. (Hitler had sued Vorwärts in 1923 and won a libel case.)

Spring, 1933: Control of newspapers given to Joseph Goebbels, Minister of Propaganda and Enlightenment, Hitler’s Bannon. From the book “The Nazi Dictatorship” (1936): “Dr. Goebbels…had extensive experience in reviling the ‘gutter press.’…The editorial and news staffs of all papers were gleichgeshaltet [re-organized]…by the appointment of Nazis to responsible supervisory positions…local censors were appointed…The entire contents of every paper must be approved before it can go to press…Goebbels decided that the sensibilities of the public…must be protected.”

Oct. 4, 1933: Reich Press Law passed. Makes newspapers “servants of the state.” Jewish and liberal editors fired. Among papers shut down was the liberal publication, Vossische Zeitung—Germany’s equivalent of the New York Times—which had been founded in 1704. The only newspapers remaining in Germany are Nazi-owned or oriented, like Der Stürmer, which fomented hatred of Jews.

Jan. 4, 1934: Hitler promises to make Germany “great” again.

Oct. 16, 1946: Julius Streicher, founder and publisher of Der Stürmer, found guilty of Crimes Against Humanity, hung at Nuremberg.

Feb. 18, 2017: Donald J. Trump, at political rally in Florida: “[The media] just don’t want to report the truth. They’re part of the problem, part of the corrupt system. They have their own agenda, and their agenda is not your agenda. But despite all their lies, misrepresentations, and false stories, they could not defeat us in the primaries, and they could not defeat us in the general election, and we will continue to expose them for what they are, and most importantly, we will continue to win, win, win. ”

(This is me, Steve). Why does Trump want to kill the free press in America? His goal is obvious, as it was in Hitler’s time. In this particular case, Trump’s Russia connection is a ticking time bomb. The revelations, probably followed by indictments, are coming; you can bet on it. When they do, he wants to be able to tell his supporters–those gullible people wearing their little “Make America Great Again” caps–that it’s all lies.

TOMORROW: Trump’s Der Stürmer: the Wall Street Journal’s exaltation of Scott Pruitt


Boeing: New Air Force One will be cozier, less costly




Corporate Headquarters


To: Executive Council; Board of Directors; Air Force One Division; Commercial Airplane Division; Defense, Space & Security Division; Human Resources

From: Dennis Muilenburg, CEO

Subject: Air Force One 747-8

Date: Feb. 20, 2017

As you are aware, President Trump has expressed concerns over the proposed cost of the next Air Force One. The President suggested in a tweet that the $4 billion price tag was “out of control.”

I had the honor of a one-on-one meeting with the President last week, at which this topic was of central concern. As I explained to reporters in Trump Tower following the meeting, “We made some great progress on simplifying requirements for Air Force One, streamlining the process, streamlining certification.”

I would like to share with you some of the simplifications I and my team envision in this next generation of Air Force One.

  • Eliminate up to four restrooms. The prior design had called for six restrooms. The new design calls for two: One for the President and his immediate family, and the other for everyone else.
  • Shorten the airliner’s length. The early design called for the new 747-8 to be the longest and second-largest airliner ever built, 232 feet in length, 196 feet in wingspan, and 4,786 square feet. Our redesign calls for square footage to be reduced by roughly 50 percent. This will necessitate eliminating up to 60 passengers from the carrying capacity. President Trump suggested that the media seating area be removed and replaced by a snack bar.
  • Interior cabinets and components all were originally to have been custom-built, using American craftsmen. However, in order to effect cost savings, all cabinets and components, including plumbing, refrigeration and heating systems, media centers, and all furnishings and fixtures, will be acquired off-the-shelf from Home Depot and Best Buy.
  • The Conference Room will be eliminated, as the President suggested he will have no need of in-flight conferences. The space (450 square feet) instead will be re-designated as a fashion-storage/changing area for the First Lady and other members of the First Family.
  • There will be no changes to the original designs of the following areas: the Presidential Stateroom, Presidential Office, Presidential Living Quarters and President’s Private Dining Room.
  • Finally, the historic coloring of Air Force One—a white body with blue nose—will change to white and red, to reflect the President’s red “Make America Great Again” caps. Savings will be enhanced by purchasing paint at wholesale from Kelly-Moore and hiring painters through Craigs List. President Trump emphasized that the red color is not an allusion to Russia.

We feel these changes will not only save money, but make Air Force One more family-friendly for our new leaders. I look forward to your comments.


What do Republicans have in common with German and Japanese soldiers?



There’s a German term, kadaverische Gehorsamkeit, that means “corpse-like obedience.” It refers to a supposed personality tendency of Germans to be docile and unquestioning in the face of authority. The idea is illustrated by a story Stalin described, at the Teheran conference in 1943, that was revealed by Averell Harriman in a memoir.

“He [Stalin] told of visiting Leipzig in 1907, when some two hundred German workers failed to appear at an important rally because, Stalin said, there was no controller on the railway platform to punch their tickets on arrival.” Without properly punched tickets, the German workers “were too timid to leave the station.”

That is kadaverische Gehorsamkeit–corpse-like obedience. (Incidentally, Hannah Arendt, in her little book “Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil,” refers to Kadavergehorsam [a shortened way of spelling it] as characterizing Adolf Eichmann’s “carrying out orders that are clearly criminal” due to his concept of “duty.”)

Why would anyone stand by someone advocating “orders that are clearly criminal”? I asked myself that question yesterday when reading this article, “Backers stay true to Trump,” in the San Francisco Chronicle. It describes how—despite Trump’s historically low approval ratings and “repeated contradictions and falsehoods”–his “hard-core supporters’ faith appears to be unshakeable.” Indeed, the most recent Pew Research Center poll found that a whopping 84% of Republicans and Republican-leaning voters approve of him. (By contrast, only 8% of Democrats/Lean Democratic voters share that approval.)

What are we to make of this “stand by your man” obstinacy by Republicans? Kadaverische Gehorsamkeit–corpse-like obedience.

One of the Trumpists interviewed for the Chronicle article showed how far these people are willing to rationalize Trump’s erratic behavior. The man, described as “the former president of the Sun City Conservative Club outside Las Vegas,” dismissed the reports about Flynn and the Russian connection; he just doesn’t care. Another pro-Trump guy, a county Republican chairman from Ohio, echoed the White House/Bannon line: All the chaos and false moves, the slapdowns by the Courts and the embarrassing litany of lies, “are [coming from] people inside the administration who are trying to undermine him.”

This brings us back to World War II, and another example of kadaverische Gehorsamkeit. Members of my generation no doubt remember that, well into the 1950s, there were reports of Japanese soldiers still hiding out on remote Pacific islands, who refused to believe (or didn’t know) that their Emperor had surrendered (on August 15, 1945) and were determined to fight the war out. These “remaining Japanese soldiers” (Zanryu nipponhei) “continued to fight the enemy forces, and later local police, for years after the war was over.” They, too, were kadaverische Gehorsamkeit—obedient to the point of obstinate refusal to accept reality.

Such people by clinical definition cannot have their minds changed, or, if they can, only under the most difficult circumstances of therapy. Will these Trumpian Republicans remain obedient corpses, even unto the end? We can only hope they’ll wake up. Meanwhile, we—the sane—will continue #TheResistance.

TRUMP’S LIE OF THE DAY: from his @RealDonaldTrump twitter feed: “The repeal and replacement of ObamaCare is moving fast!”  #Lie. It’s hopelessly stalled. Even Congressional Republicans have no idea what to “replace” it with, if and when they repeal it.

New feature: Trump’s “Lie of the Day”



Thursdays’s big lie, at Trump’s insane press conference, was, “The leaks are real, the news is fake.”

I can practically overhear those water cooler conversations in Red States. “’Course, it’s a shame that guy, what’s-his-name, Flynn, was so dishonest, and so disloyal to the President,” says Mrs. Bingham, who organized “Farm Wives For Trump” in Olawatchie County. “He shouldna done what he done, whatever that was, I guess. But those dishonest medias, they lie all the time, so the news about the leaks is fake, fake, fake.”

Her co-worker, Mr. Needham, who contributed $50 to the Trump campaign in ten small donations, shakes his head. “Well, if that’s what President Trump says, I guess it’s true. ‘Cause he don’t lie.”

Never mind how the leaks can be real, but the reporting about the leaks is fake. Never mind that the content of the leaks is so damaging to Trump and his people. Trump voters don’t bother themselves with such fine intellectual distinctions. “If he says it’s true, then I guess it is.”

But there was so much more news yesterday than merely Trump’s lie of the day. Flynngate! It took the Wall Street Journal a couple days to wrap their heads around this biggest scandal yet to hit their man. You could almost imagine the meetings of senior management. “How’re we gonna report on this?” “Mr. Murdoch says to soft-pedal it.” So they give the beta response to good old Henninger, as conscienceless a columnist as I’ve ever read. Here’s his defense of his President. (1) Everybody does stuff like Flynn did, so fageddaboudit. (2) Besides, things may be chaotic, but it’s all part of draining the swamp. (3) And anyhow, comparisons with Nixon and Watergate are incorrect, because “Nixon didn’t resign because of anything proven…but only after he…lost the support of his own party in Congress.”

Read that again. Yes, you got it right: “Nixon didn’t resign because of anything proven.” Well, if Ford had let him be tried, it would have been proven–but there was a deal…Anyhow, tto this outfit—the Trumpsters, Wall Street Journal hacks like Henninger—since there’s no such thing as a “real fact,” then it follows that nothing can be “proven.” Was it “proven” that Nixon ordered the break-in and then lied about it for two years? Well, yes, despite the avoidance of a trial. The smoking gun tapes prove it; History has reached that conclusion. If you believe in little things like truth, facts and evidence, then it’s been conclusively proven that Nixon broke many laws.

But the Trump crowd operates on the assumption that “History” doesn’t matter. “Conclusions” are soft, “truth” relative, reality something plastic to be shaped by the best performer. “Evidence” can be manufactured. One man’s “fact” is another’s “fake news.” Obfuscate enough–and the bigger the lie, the better–and the voter will become hopelessly confused, as Mrs. Bingham and Mr. Needham are, around that Red State water cooler.

Along other lines, my fellow Americans, these boycotts of Trump-friendly corporations are taking their toll. We all know about Uber and how Kalanick quit from that little business roundtable because his Millennials were #DeletingUber by the hundreds of thousands. But Uber’s hardly alone. Under Armour’s CEO just announced he’ll fight Trump’s Muslim ban, but he said so only after a slew of athletes, including Steph Curry, criticized him for earlier backing the President.

That’s a form of boycott. There are also widespread consumer boycotts in progress against Trump’s own businesses (including Ivanka’s barely-alive clothing brand). We all know how Nordstrom’s dropped her line after social media took her on. Macy’s, Bloomingdale’s and Amazon are on the target list because they sell Trump stuff; See’s Candy and Trident gum are, too, because they advertise on “Celebrity Apprentice.” LendingTree and New Balance sneakers find themselves boycotted, too, because their CEOs raised money for the Trump campaign.

This is good stuff, citizens. We may have lost the last election, but we can vote with our wallets. The woman behind many of these boycotts, Shannon Coulter, really deserves kudos for doing this. Check out her website, Grab Your Wallet (the name is a pun on Trump’s “grab their pussies”). It lists all the companies Shannon could find that support Trump and his nepotistic family. I don’t expect you to avoid all of them. I’ll still shop at Amazon and Bed Bath & Beyond, and I’ll still watch Ultimate Fighting even though their president is a rightwinger who strongly endorsed Trump. But I’ll try to limit my involvement with them. This boycott movement is all part of #TheResistance, so I hope you’ll look at Shannon’s list and figure out which companies you can boycott.

Have a great weekend!

It’s great to be part of #TheResistance



It’s been one of the great experiences and privileges of my life to be part of #TheResistance. That’s the generally accepted Twitter hashtag for this growing movement of Americans against the reactionary, imbecilic and dangerous regime of Donald Trump.

I don’t know if there’s been anything like it since the Sixties and the anti-war movement. I was on the fringe of that resistance. Not a big part of it, but sympathetic. Back then, the issue was, of course, Vietnam. I had watched the war build up, from the early days in ’63-’64 to LBJ’s massive increase in troops, which led to the historic street demonstrations that continued long after Nixon swept into office. I was against the war, more or less—couldn’t see any good reason for it, and I certainly didn’t buy into the (now completely discredited) domino theory. But I wasn’t a huge anti-war person, because by ’65 or so, I’d become part of what would later be called the hippie movement, and our slogan—“turn on, tune in, drop out”—precluded major involvement in political causes in favor of a more introspective lifestyle. Still, I went on a couple protests against the war, including the 1966 one led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. that marched from Central Park to the United Nations.

The anti-war movement, when you think about it, didn’t really amount to much, beyond lots of headlines. The war didn’t end in ‘67’, or ’68, or ’69, or ’70, or ’71, or ’72, or ’73, or ’74. It took until April, 1975, for it to be over. Nixon had famously declared, six years earlier (Dec. 1969), that the war would shortly be over due to his “secret plan” to end it.

Nixon had no such secret plan. He simply lied. But still, enough Americans believed he would end the war that they elected him over Hubert Humphrey.

Nixon was the most infamous liar of his day, and the most mendacious U.S. President ever, until—well, you know. Now we have another person who was elected President by telling lies that gullible people believed. His latest was yesterday, when he promised he would achieve “a great peace deal” between Israel and the Palestinians.

He won’t. He’ll do his best to kill a two-state solution, which means that the right wing Netanyahu regime will continue, and the two sides will be further apart than ever—and the dangers to Americans will exponentially increase. But let’s give Trump the benefit of a doubt: we won’t be able to say he lied about “a great peace deal” for a couple more years. Then we can say it—and when that happens, assuming he’s still alive, he’ll find someone—Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, the New York Times, ISIS, Chuck Schumer, Elizabeth Warren, Democrats, the crooked media, Planned Parenthood—to blame.

Which brings me back to #TheResistance. It may be (and I hope it is) that, someday, our children and grandchildren will ask us what we did to oppose the imposition of fascism upon our democracy. For me, it began on August 22, 2016, the day I announced my retirement and told readers that this blog would transition from one about wine “to demolish[ing] the Republican Party, which deserves it.”

A week later (Sept. 1), I mentioned Trump for the first time, in a piece I headlined “Dr. Donald’s Trumpsparilla: Selling quack nostrums to gullible Americans.” I can’t say I saw through Trump’s lies earlier than anyone else; I think all Democrats did. He’s still at it, lying left and right, and his supporters are still buying it—so far—because (near as I can tell), although they know he’s an asshole, he’s their asshole.

So I’ve been a member of #TheResistance for going on six months. We’re winning: the Puzder fiasco is an early sign of our gathering strength. If anything, I’m more fired up than ever, because the dangers posed by this #IllegitimatePresident (another good hashtag) are more apparent every day. As many of you know, I don’t have kids—hence, no grandkids—but if I did, someday I would have loved to sit down with them and tell them about these glorious days, when Americans of every stripe united to end the tyranny of Donald Trump. How will this resistance end? Remember, Nixon—in his hubris and anger—managed to get himself impeached and had to quit. Even his fellow Republicans eventually decided that he was too much. That’s what I think is going to happen to Trump. Another hashtag: #GoneBySummer. If you’re not part of #TheResistance, doing whatever you can to fight, “I hope someday you’ll join us.”

Flynngate: the meltdown continues…



At this point in the brief but increasingly troubling tenure of this current administration, we’re so used to scandals, conflicts of interest and foreign policy blunders that Trouble—with a capital “T,” as The Music Man might sing—has been normalized. This, of course, may well be the aim of Donald Trump, Steven Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, Sean Spicer and other Trump minions. If there’s so much bad stuff happening almost every day, the media can hardly be expected to follow up on any of it. Too much happening! Short attention span! And, in the interim, Trump & Team get away with the most remarkable breaches of conduct, if not actual crimes.

The latest scandal, of course, is this business with ex-National Security Advisor Michael Flynn’s ties to Russia. That he deliberately lied to everyone is now proven. That he may have broken numerous Federal laws is likely. That he might have been subject to blackmail by Putin is eerily similar to the suggestions that Trump himself was beholden to Putin in the matter of the Dossier. And so—as Democrats are rightly pointing out—we are faced with the latest iteration of the most famous jurisprudential question ever posed concerning a U.S. President: What did Trump know and when did he know it?

Paul Ryan doesn’t seem to care, although you can see how squeamish he is every time he has to drag his buffed body in front of the cameras to respond to get another Trump disaster. “I’ll let the President speak for himself” is his dodge—embarrassing for him, painful for us to have to watch the Speaker of the House pretend that something we all know is awful doesn’t exist. Over in the Senate, McCain and Graham—as usual—are trying to have it both ways: burnishing their indie cred with skeptical-sounding words, but refusing to put their money where their mouths are by, for instance, demanding hearings. Kellyanne Conway, too, is in deer-in-the-headlights mode. She is so out of the loop, so distrusted by everyone at this point (and she looks so awful, the poor thing) that all she can say at her briefings is something along the lines of, “That’s what the President says.” And Trump himself? In one of his greatest lies to date, he claims the problem is—not Flynn’s motives, not his (Trump’s) own ties to Russia—but the “illegal leaks” by which we found out what Flynn did.

How about everyone’s favorite press secretary? The hapless Sean Spicer, who everyday looks and sounds more and more like Melissa McCarthy, faced the press yesterday—“the fun,” he now calls his daily briefings. What did he say? It hardly matters, because it’s what he didn’t say, and can’t say, that counts. He offered the standard excuse that Flynn had lost the President’s trust. Blah blah. What he dodged—either because he, too, is out of the loop and doesn’t know, or because he would lose his job if he told the truth—was what Trump knew about Flynn’s misdeeds and when he knew it. “The President has been incredibly tough on Russia,” Spicer lied—I swear I heard reporters laughing. He bragged about the “incredibly productive meeting” Trump had with Trudeau, even as reports have surfaced that the young, handsome, progressive Canadian Prime Minister’s body language suggested otherwise.

The Spiceman got in the requisite insults of Barack Obama, and claimed Trump’s historic backing of “civil rights.” (More laughter.) He promised that Trump will end “the Arab-Israeli conflict.” (Odds of that?)  But back to Flynngate. When Spicer finished his P.R. spin, reporters jumped on the Russian connection. Again, no answers. Not even the pretense of an answer. What did the President know? No answer. When did he know it? Since Spicer won’t acknowledge that the President knew anything, the timing of what he didn’t know is meaningless. Still, the reporters wouldn’t let it go; and all a sputtering, struggling Spicer could fall back on was “Flynn lost the President’s trust.” How about Kellyanne’s remark, made on Monday, that Trump still has “full confidence” in Flynn—only to have Flynn resign under pressure that night? “I’m not going to get into details.”

The poor reporters, they hardly know how to handle such mendacity, such stubbornness, such clichés. Reporters face severe constraints in this sort of media briefing. They depend on facts to ask hard-hitting questions, but when they are denied the facts, they’re stymied. A press briefing is not a good format to get to the bottom of anything. A solid investigation by a reputable newspaper, like the New York Times, is the way to dig up the truth—and we have to hope and pray that the Times and other great news organizations are doing just that. At the same time, Congressional and FBI investigations have the force of law and the subpoena—and these, too, are underway. We’ll find out, soon enough, what Trump knew and when he knew it. And then it’s game on.

And finally, how is that bastion of the right, the Wall Street Journal, handling this latest Trumpian fiasco? Not well. On page 4 is the propagandist, Gerald Seib, arguing that—despite the self-inflicted wounds our new President is inflicting on himself and his party every day—Trump still has a “chance for a reboot.” As if. I suppose Germans were arguing, right up to the end, that Hitler, holed up in his bombed-out bunker, could still win the war…miracle weapons and all that. We know how that turned out.

Of more substance—just a bit—is the paper’s second editorial yesterday. The Journal doesn’t like dealing with things, like Flynngate, that are so damaging to their cause, but they have to, in order to preserve whatever shred of journalistic integrity they still have (or believe themselves to still have). And so, there it is: What is the problem with Flynn? In the Journal’s opinion, spies—not Russian ones, but “U.S. spies,” who leaked Flynn’s call to the Russian ambassador. The Journal–echoing the new party line–demands, not that this country get to the bottom of the ties between Trump and Russia, but that we find out who the leakers were!

This is classic bait and switch. Distract attention from the crime by pointing to something else. But wait, wasn’t it Donald Trump who urged Vladimir Putin to hack into Hillary’s emails and leak them?

Why, yes, it was.

New Wine Reviews



Stags’ Leap 2013 The Leap Cabernet Sauvignon (Stags Leap District); $90. It’s fascinating to taste this alongside the winery’s regular ’13 Cabernet, which I scored at 90 points. It’s considerably richer and denser. Made from 100% Cabernet grown in the estate vineyards, it displays that famous Stags Leap “iron fist in a velvet glove.” Velvet is indeed the texture: so smooth, so plush, so sexy. The color—midnight black, flecked with glints of ruby—hints at the concentration as well as the youth. Aromatically and flavor-wise, it’s massive. Intense tiers of blackcurrants and cassis liqueur, blueberry jam, candied violets, mocha and umami plum sauce, with an earthy hint of green olives. It’s all accented by the smoky sweetness of 50% new French oak barrel aging for 20 months. As sweetly fruited as it is, the finish is entirely, and satisfyingly, dry. The mouthfeel is full-bodied and elegant, with great weight and depth, and an alcohol level of only 14.1%. Delicious! A great accomplishment! Super-impressive! But oh, so young. I can’t stop anyone from drinking and enjoying it now, but if you do, decant! Otherwise, stash it in a good cellar. It will reward another twenty years, at least. Score: 97 points.

Stags’ Leap 2012 Ne Cede Malis Petite Sirah (Stags Leap District): $115. I’ve been reviewing this wine (the name means “Don’t give in to misfortune”) since the mid-1990s and since ’99 never gave it less than 90 points. The wine was grown on the estate vineyard, west of the Silverado Trail, in the lee of the Stags Leap palisades, within the famous natural amphitheater that captures afternoon sunlight yet benefits from the appellation’s southerly location to capture cooling breezes up from San Pablo Bay. The winery says the vineyard’s oldest blocks were planted in 1929. The blend includes at least eight other varieties, including some white ones. And the wine? It reminds me of the 2010, which I described as “dry and tannic, with wild berry, currant, licorice, tobacco and oak flavors.” This ’12 is all that, and more: there’s a charcuterie umami-ness that, to me, suggests salami and crisped prosciutto, and a spiciness I don’t recall from previous vintages. With the lush mouthfeel, it absolutely caresses the mouth, growing more complex and fascinating with each moment it breathes. It’s so robust and powerful, I almost can’t believe the alcohol is only 14.1%, but that’s what they say. I do find the price concerning. But in an era when the merest Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon can top $100, perhaps it’s time for us to reconsider whether Petite Sirah of this quality may not be worth a triple-digit price. I would drink this right out of the bottle on release, or stash it away for, who knows how long? Thirty years is not out of the question. Score: 97 points.

Aberrant Cellars 2014 Chehalem Mountain Vineyard Block B3 Old Vines Pinot Noir (Chehalem Mountains): $50. There’s much to like about this new Pinot Noir, but it really is young at this point, and wants some time to come around. It’s starting life off as tight and rather closed, with intense aromatics of raspberry compote, orange pekoe tea, chocolate brownie, espresso and cheese rind. In the mouth, the acid-tannin balance is just fine, and the wine has a nice delicacy, courtesy of 13.8% alcohol. The winery is owned by Eric Eide, who seems to have been an American in the wine biz who frequently visited Burgundy and fell in love with the wines. The vineyard was planted back in 1968 by Richard Erath, of Knudsen-Erath; the wine comes from an ungrafted 2.34-acre patch, hence the “Old Vines” designation. The intensity is explained by the low vine yield, only 1.4 tons per acre, while the sweet oak hails from aging for 15 months in 36% new French oak. The winemaker used 5% whole clusters in the fermentation, a wise choice that seems to add body, wood spice and texture to the delicacy. Only 210 cases were produced. Most people will probably consume this wine too early, but it will certainly be more satisfying after 2020. Score: 93 points.

Stags’ Leap 2013 Petite Sirah (Napa Valley): $39. I looked up all my scores over the years for this wine, and every one of them was at least 90 points, except for the 2009. This ’13 is consistent with that history. It’s a good Petite Sirah, darkly hued, dry and tannic, with deep, rich blackberry jam, espresso, black currant, licorice, beef teriaki and black pepper flavors. The grapes come from all over the valley, north and south. The wine was aged for a year in partially new American oak, which brings notes of smoke and dill. It will probably live for decades without gaining in complexity, so drink it whenever you want. The alcohol is 14.1%, and interestingly, the blend includes Syrah, Grenache, Carignane and Mourvedre, which makes it a California Rhône. Score: 90 points.

Stags’ Leap 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon (Napa Valley): $58. The wine is a blend of all five classic Bordeaux varieties, grown partly on the Stags Leap estate but also sourced from other vineyards in the valley. Cabernet Sauvignon dominates, with its dark color, hard tannins, and intensely concentrated black currant and cassis flavors, but Malbec—currently out of fashion in Napa—as the second grape adds darkness and tannins and plummy violets. Approximately one-third new French oak brings the usual toasty, smoky notes. At the age of three-plus years, it’s aloof. Everything is muted, seen through a glass darkly. But there are tantalizing hints of its future. I don’t mean to suggest you cellar this wine for a long time. But it will reward patience over the next six years. Score: 90 points.

Hindsight 2014 20/20 Red Wine (Napa Valley): $35. Convincing enough, a hearty, slightly rustic blend with enough sophistication to satisfy. Bone dry, with thick, scoury tannins and flavors of black tea, cassis, leather, coffee, cocoa nib, white pepper and smoky cedar wood. The blend is all five classic Bordeaux varieties, with Cabernet Sauvignon dominating both in percentage and taste. Drink now. Score: 89 points.

Michael David 2014 Earthquake Petite Sirah (Lodi); $26. One of these days I’m going to have to come up with a more creative way of describing a wine like this than “Will be good with short ribs.” Having said, that, this wine will be good with—short ribs! Or barbecue and such. To call it rustic and brawny is an understatement. The official alcohol is 15%, and there’s a chocolate-covered raisin superripeness, with a grapy, sappy blackberry liqueur sweetness and plenty of smoke from 1-1/2 years in French oak. It’s a solid Petite Sirah from this warm, inland Delta region. Score: 88 points.

Moniker 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon (Mendocino County): $25. The Thornhill family established their vineyard, on the east side of the Russian River in the Ukiah Valley, in 2002, and started the winery two years later. This Cab, which contains 1% Petit Verdot, has plenty of varietal character. It’s dark, dry, full-bodied and tannic, with a wealth of black currant, cassis and tea flavors, and a smoky edge from 22 months of aging in 36% new American oak. This muscular wine is fine for drinking now. The alcohol is 14.5%. Score: 88 points.

Merisi 2014 Diener Vineyard Petite Sirah (Lake County): $35. If you can get the cork out through the hard plastic capsule without slicing off a finger, you’ll find a pretty good wine. It’s big and bold, in the Petite Sirah fashion, with sturdy tannins and dense blackberry and mulberry, beef jerky, sugared expresso, clove, anise, pepper and toast flavors. The alcohol is high, at 15.3%, which gives it prickly heat, as well as a glyceriney sweetness. Score: 87 points.

Pamela’s 2013 Un-Oaked Chardonnay (Sonoma County); $16. Unoaked Chardonnay depends for richness on the grapes. They need concentration of flavor to succeed without oak, because Chardonnay itself is a fairly featureless variety. This wine succeeds in that respect. It’s easy to drink, offering plenty of Chardonnay personality, with tropical fruit, peach, honeydew melon, lime, vanilla and honeysuckle flavors. From Ron Rubin Vineyards and Winery. Score: 87 points.

Aberrant Cellars 2015 “Philtrum” Pinot Noir Blanc (Willamette Valley): $29. I never thought Pinot Noir was a good variety to make a dry white table wine from (despite its efficacy in sparkling wine), and this wine doesn’t change my view. This is a strong wine, with intense orange, strawberry, tropical fruit, hazelnut, roasted coconut and vanilla flavors that remind me of a dessert macaroon, although it is dry. It was fermented and aged, in roughly equal proportions, in stainless steel and oak. I admire the low alcohol, only 13%, and the brisk acidity, but for me the wine lacks delicacy and subtlety. You can call it a white wine for red wine drinkers. Score: 86 points.

Locations Non-Vintage I4 Red Wine (Italy); $??. A blend of three Italian varieties, Negroamaro, Nero d’Avola and Barbera. It is very “Italian-y,” in the sense of dryness, high acidity, tannins and a truffly earthiness. Otherwise, there are notes of cherries, blackberries, black tea, cola and spices. It’s a solid wine, a bit austere on its own, but will be a good companion to rich beef, cheese and pasta dishes. Score: 85 points.

Locations Non-Vintage F5 Rosé (France); $??.  This is a dry rosé made entirely from Grenache. The winery says the vines are 50 years old and dry farmed. The wine is unoaked. There’s no vintage date on the label or the paperwork. It has some nice raspberry and watermelon flavors, and a spicy pepperiness. Acidity is quite high, bordering on sour, and there’s a disturbing smell and taste of unripe greenness, which for me really lowers the score. 82 points.

Locations Non-Vintage F4 Red Wine (Portugal); $??. Smells disagreeable, with green, mushroom and cough drop flavors, and the taste is similar, although there’s a little raspberry-cherry fruit. The alcohol, at 15%, gives the thin flavor heat. The blend is Touriga Nacional, Trincadeira and Turiga Franca. Score: 82 points.

Michael David 2014 Petite Petit (Lodi); $18. This is, I suppose, a junior version of the winery’s Earthquake Petite Sirah. It’s two-thirds the price, anyway. The name comes from the 15% of Petit Verdot in the blend, which seems more like a marketing decision than a winemaking one, so they could call it Petite Petit. The wine is overpriced. It’s rustic and brawny, with blackberry and oak flavors and sturdy tannins. Some mustiness seriously mars it. Score: 82 points.

Oak Grove 2014 Family Reserve Petite Sirah (California); $9. Petite Sirah in name only. Smells like old cola that was left out on the counter overnight, stale and harsh. Feels brutish in the mouth, with no structure and some sugary sweetness. Barely drinkable. Score: 80 points.

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