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Wine Wednesday Episode 12: Markham Vineyards 

Wine: Markham 2015 Sauvignon Blanc 
Song: Same Things (from our album Perfect Strangers)

We are back in the greater Napa region with a very nice Sauvignon Blanc from Markham Vineyards. It's described as "Golden straw yellow with a bouquet of citrus zest and fresh pineapple that grab your attention while white peach and wet stone add structural support to the abundant aromas. "

Couldn't taste the stone, but we agree with the rest.

We paired this wine with our song Perfect Strangers. The wine is described as being "well-balanced," and the song, written by Sherry, is all about finding balance in a relationship.

A little more about Markham:
They've got 350 acres of vineyard "strategically located" in several of Napa Valley’s regions, because they like to take advantage of the various microclimates to achieve balance (there's that word again!) in their wines. The winery is among the oldest in California.

First Impressions 

We waited patiently in the recording studio lobby. Our engineer and his crew were late. 

When they finally shuffled into the facility, they seemed distracted and hurried. They took one glance at us, didn’t even say hello, and then went into the studio, leaving us in the lobby. 

Finally, one of the assistants came and escorted us to our stations. Sherry set up at the piano and I took the spot where I would record guitar. We put our headsets on and the engineer (let’s call him Mitch) was now at the recording console. He clicked on his microphone and rattled off some instructions to us. 

We could see Mitch behind the glass. If we were reading his body language correctly, he was wondering how quickly he could get this project finished and move on to some real work.

Can't say we could blame him. After all, we were unknowns and could have been any amateur vanity act. He had recorded al the professionals and had no idea of what we could do.

The crew had a number of technical things they had to do: setting up microphones, positioning acoustic baffles, etc. And the musicians that we had hired to back us up started to arrive and they also needed assistance.

In all the chaos, Sherry and I were left on our own. So we did what we do every chance we get: we practiced.

After we made it through just a few bars of one our songs, we heard the click in the headsets. It was Mitch again. 

“Hey, George and Sherry,” he said enthusiastically,  “How’s the balance? You guys comfortable?” 

We didn’t know he even knew our names based on the initial reception. Now we were best friends?  Mitch chatted some more pleasantries and told his assistants to drop what they were doing to help us get things adjusted just right. 

We are used to this reaction. Based on first impressions of us, people are skeptical we’re going to have any talent. And then we play. We may be not be earning a living making music, but we approach it professionally. So for the people who make snap judgments and lower their expectations just based on a glance, they seem to walk away impressed. 

It’s now happened more times than we can count (the latest  incident was just last week at a songwriting competition). 

At first this bothered us a bit. We weren't sure if it was a combination of 
agism (how old is that guy?) or sexism (she probably can’t play an instrument) or racism (do Asians even know jazz?).  

Now, we embrace the opportunity to surprise and delight the skeptics.

We’re both introverts so we are not inclined to come into a room and shout for attention.  

But we are far from shy. We know how to perform. We rehearse and polish our material. And we’re passionate and serious about what we do. 

We walked out of the studio that day having recorded with some of the top sessions players in town. They seemed to enjoy our songs and working with us. “Y’all come back and see us some time,” one of them said. 

As for ol’  Mitch, he left humming one of our tunes.

The root of all evil 

We have been battling with a most vexatious weed in our yard. It seems capable of propagating anywhere, sprouting to a couple feet in height with incredible speed and agility. Its tenacious roots anchor defiantly in the soil, making it almost impossible to pull out. Grabbing the thing isn’t easy, either. It defies hand-to-hand combat, defending its turf with prickly, contorted leafs that get the message out to keep your distance.

Meanwhile, our little quarter-acre lot is run rampant with squirrels. And from the looks of things, they are as healthy and happy as can be. They’re going nowhere, content to obliviously dig up newly seeded grass or uproot lovingly planted flowers. They’re on a frantic mission to bury (and subsequently forget) their nutty treasures.

It took awhile, but we finally made the connection between the “weeds" and the squirrels. And I’m somewhat embarrassed to even admit it, given I have been living in California nearly my entire adult life and should be at least nominally acquainted with the native vegetation. But thanks to modern technology (i.e. a newly installed app on the phone) we were able to photograph and identify the plant.

It turns out the “weed” is actually quercus agrifolia, otherwise known as Coast Live Oak. These plants clearly haven’t been taking root of their own accord. They have had a little help from their bushy-tailed friends.

Our own mini-ecosystem in action.

Well, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. So we took the time to laboriously replant one of the oak trees. We’ll see how well it grows with a bit of kindness instead of hostility.

Our enemy has become our friend, now that we have been educated to overcome our ignorance of what was once considered a foreign intruder.


Our humble harvest 

Throughout the summer and fall, we endured endless photos and postings from friends and family about their bountiful gardens.

We looked on in envy and awe at the cornucopia of fruits and vegetables that people seemed to effortlessly grow. Tomato plants the size of Christmas trees. Carrots that could double as police batons. Watermelons with such heft they require power machinery to hoist onto the table.

“We don’t even know what we’re doing,” they say, as though that should be consolation.

Or our favorite: “These cucumbers just sprouted in the compost heap.” Thanks. Now we feel better.

We bite our tongues, refraining from saying what we’re thinking.

That’s because there's something funny going on in our yard.
Everything we grow is stunted. Things ripen as they should. And they appear and taste normal. They’re just teensy tiny replicas of their respective species.

It’s not for lack of water. We’ve got drip irrigation and hoses everywhere. It’s certainly not on account of the soil. We’ve hauled in cubic yards of organic matter that’s so expensive they sell it by the ounce. Sunshine? Got plenty. As for tender loving care, we weed and till the ground and prune our leafy compatriots day and night.

Still, our harvest is on such a diminutive scale, we could fit it all in a doll's house.

Perhaps our little quarter-acre plot is some sort of self-contained ecosystem. Maybe the plants are adapting and evolving, using less resources to survive. It’s a well known phenomenon titled “Island Dwarfism.”

It certainly seems to apply to the plants. But apparently no one told the mammals. We’ve got more than our fair share of squirrels and they are as big, fat and happy as can be.