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Friday Fishwrap
The Music Did Not Die and CGCW Lingers On

By Charles Olken

Everyone of a certain age must see the day coming when things change. Sometimes, those changes are permanent, sometimes they are anticipated and are ridden out and sometimes they come out of the blue and you just don’t know what to think.

That is where I and Connoisseurs’ Guide were on Sunday night last as I waited in the emergency room of the local hospital worrying that my doctor’s prognosis of a replacement knee operation had finally come true. Not to make too much of a bad thing but the pain was intense and most pain killers were useless. That is when they dragged out the morphine. I can tell you that morphine was once my drug of choice because my first experience with it, also in an ER when I had a gall stone problem, brought on some of the wildest, delightful dreams. Later experiences were less pleasant, but this one was pretty tame except for the trip down memory lane and the fears of the future that it pulled out of thin air.

Well, here is what was going through my wee brain a couple of nights ago. “Oh my god, they are going to take my knee. Let me the hell out of here. Sure it hurts but just give me some more morphine. I’ll call you in the morning if it still hurts”.

I suspect, being the smart folks that you are, you have already figured out the near-term ending to this story. The morphine and something else strong knocked out enough of the pain for me to become rationale again. Or at least semi-rational because the other part of the “music dying”story was my somewhat bizarre conclusion that I might have to step down from Connoisseurs’ Guide—and where would I be then.

Well, by Wednesday, I was at least mobile in a wheelchair, with knee intact, painkillers reduced to more normal levels and CGCW tasting resumed with only a couple of days hiatus. So, on the one hand, I wish to apologize for all this self-centered navel gazing. But on the other, I have had to take stock of where we are and what the future holds for me and for CGCW. No promises, and no campaign rhetoric to follow, I can assure you. Just a few thoughts that are roaming around in my head.

CGCW is more fun, better written, has more content as measured by number of wines reviewed and it casts a wider net than ever before. It is written by a couple of what might be called older folks, and the day will come in the next decade when permanent change will probably occur. In fact, some of it already has—and for the better. Our tasting notes are longer and they are both more highly analytical than ever before, but they are also more filled with detail about the wines, especially the great ones, and their history and ageworthiness now.

And then there is this blog. It serves both our readers and our friends who do not subscribe. It is far more philosophical than the wine-evaluation content of the Guide, and it allows us to roam freely into topical areas that the printed page would not accommodate. Call it “whimsy”, if you like, but whatever it is, this blog is part of the reason we are having more fun than ever before. Someday it gets overwhelmed with hits and somedays not. But that is not the point. What we are doing here is no different from what we do at Connoisseurs’ Guide. We are having fun writing about wine.

That is why the music is not going to die—even when pain and strong drugs take us on introspective ventures that just do not occur on a day-to-day basis. Today is Friday and I am up and walking with a slight limp and fully intend to go to my favorite weekend sporting “game” where once again the boys in red will vanquish the boys in blue or yellow or whatever new color they come up with.


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For thirty-five years, Connoisseurs’ Guide has been the authoritative voice of the California wine consumer. With readers in all fifty states and twenty foreign countries, the Guide is valued by wine lovers everywhere for its honesty and for it strong adherence to the principles of transparency, unbiased, hard-hitting opinions. Now, it is becoming the California winelover’s most powerful online voice as well. And, our new features provide an unmatched array of advice and information for aficionados of every stripe.


by Tom Taylor
Posted on:10/19/2012 8:23:12 AM


Face the damned music, even if you do not like the tune! Knee replacements are life-style enhancing. As the husband of a wife who deferred a replacement far longer than she wanted I can attest to the gradually increasing limitations a bum knee will cause. It incidiously invaded and degraded almost every element of her (and our) life, until she got the replacement done a few months ago, and she got her life back. You and Stephen are key elements of my wine appreciation support system and I selfishly do not want your tasting judgement and outlook impaired by knee pain. So please...! 

We kneed you
by Mike Dunne
Posted on:10/19/2012 8:49:37 AM

Glad to hear you are to continue to dance, Charles.

Get up and dance
by doug wilder
Posted on:10/19/2012 11:05:40 AM

Cha Cha Charlie is back!

Blog Love
by Ron Washam, HMW
Posted on:10/19/2012 4:29:56 PM

Hey Charlie,

Sorry to hear about your trip to the hospital. And glad to hear you're out of the chair. Get Clint Eastwood to pretend it's Robert Parker and tell it to fuck off.

Nice to hear that you enjoy writing your blog, though I only barely believe you. Blogs are work, and not particularly rewarding work. Takes hours to write them and minutes for others to ignore them. I haven't the vaguest idea why I continue to write mine, and neither does anyone else.

However, as a very longtime reader of CGCW, I'm glad to hear thoughts of your retirement were drug-induced. I need to take some of those drugs. CGCW has long been the leading authority on California wine, in my opinion, as well as the most thoughtful and reflective.

Feel better, my friend. There are many vintages ahead of you.

Navel Gazing
by Charlie Olken
Posted on:10/19/2012 4:46:17 PM

Wow, what nice and uplifting thoughts from you all.

Most days of the week, Steve Eliot and I will look across our tasting table at each other with satisfied smiles that we get to taste wine for a living. So, it was a bit of a surprise to me to find myself wallowing in self-pity (simply not my style), but the awful thought of giving up a knee Iand, Tom, my younger brother has replaced a knee and both hips and swears by the improvement) just scared the pants off me--or would have if I had been wearing pants at the time.

Tom, you are right, of course. The day will come when the inevitable cannot be put off, but today, thanks to strong drugs and cortisone, I am upright and happy.

As for CGCW, I know in my heart that its long run will have to conintue without me. But that day is not as near today as it seemed earlier in the week, and for that, I am grateful.

Ron, blogging is both unrewarding and its own reward. We get a pretty good class of commentators here. When we have something serious to say, we find that serious people will add to the conversation. I do find the blog a lot easier, and thus a lot more fun to compose these days. You told me early on that there would be a leraning curve. For me, the most important piece of learning was to stop lecturing and start talking. Conversations are a lot more fun when they go both ways.

Again, thanks to all. I am not going anywhere--well, except up to the Napa Valley to have dinner with Hugh Johnson and locals tonight. Not a bad reward for a hard day's work.

by Thomas Pellechia
Posted on:10/22/2012 7:51:43 AM


Glad to hear that you are out of the woods--for now.

As for the knee and cortisone: get the replacement. Cortisone is not to be trifled with.

As for the dreams and fears--'swhy I love the opiates...

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