April 2012 Dirty Dozen

Tuesday, April 3, 2012 9:02 PM

Days get longer, the nights grow short, our Easter baskets are getting filled up, and what’s this? Baseball season? Yep, it’s April and it’s time for opening the windows and doors, getting some fresh air, and maybe a picnic or four. However you like to spend your time this spring, consider this: Twelve bottles, one low price.

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2010 Orvieto, Cardèto
Big on our list of springtime wines are dry, crisp, easy quaffers that deliver in the quality department, yet keep the big bills in your wallet. This Orvieto is just the ticket! Lean and crisp with a citrusy freshness, this blend of Trebbiano and Grechetto is a great refresher should a warm spring afternoon come your way. Pairs great with a bowl o’mussels.

2010 Chardonnay, Viano Vineyards
Is it us, or do you ever see Cali Chardonnay in the sub $10 category anymore? At least quality, sub $10 Cali Chardonnay? Sales reps visit us and pour and pour, but we keep saying no until the right one comes along. Well, here it is! From Contra Costa county, no less; halfway between the Napa and Livermore Valleys comes the Viano. Pair with a crab salad.

2010 Vino Valpredo Bianca Mia, Fritz Winery
Rather than choose between Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc, why not blend them? At least that’s what our friends at Sonoma’s Fritz Winery thought. You know what? This is some quality juice. Aromas of stone fruits and citrus blossoms give way to a zesty citrus palate. Anya says grill up some shrimp and serve it with mango salsa … and this, of course.

NV Prosecco Superiore, Giavi
Talk to any of us about our new D.O.C.G. Prosecco Superiore, the Giavi, and prepare yourself for an enthusiastic reply! Seriously, this Prosecco has it all: tiny bubbles, a pale, frosty appearance, depth, and crispness. Crostini with caviar?

2010 Blanc de Domaine de la Petite Cassagne
Her name is Diane de Puymorin. We adore her wines … all of them. Diane purchased the Petite Cassagne estate back in 1998, renamed it Château d’Or et des Gueules, yet still pays homage to the old guard with a Rouge, Rosé, and this Blanc. Diane blends 40% Rolle (Vermentino) with Grenache Blanc and the result is a bright, citrus infused aromatic showpiece.

2009 Fernão Pires, Quinta do Alqueve
Dare we try to get wine geeky on you, but here’s Portugal’s Fernão Pires blended with a smidge of Arinto. Geeky? Maybe. But the stone fruity aromas and crisp mouthfeel will make wine geeks out of us all! Great with sardines.

2009 Garnacha Two Rows, Odisea
As we switch to the reds, let’s point out that our friends at Odisea have another hit on their hands. Mostly Grenache with small parts Syrah and Tempranillo, the Two Rows is a plump palate pleaser. Ripe cherries and raspberries mingle with vanilla spice and herbs resulting in ethereal harmony. If it’s burgers on the grill; sorry, these Two Rows are taken.

2010 Tempranillo, Enanzo
Yummy Tempranillo from Spain’s Navarra region! The philosophy at Enanzo is simple. To quote them, “this Tempranillo is made by applying the only true winemaking criterion: intimate, permanent, progressive harmony between man and his environment.” It works here, the herb infused fruit is braced by dusty tannins and spirited acidity. Great with pizza.

2009 Château de Bouchet La Rentiere
What a vintage 2009 was for the wines of Bordeaux! The Wine Advocate’s Robert Parker likened the vintage to the legendary 1982 noting one exception: in 1982 there weren’t many small, inexpensive producers taking advantage of the perfect weather to make great affordable Bordeaux. That’s different now. Pair this beauty with your prime rib.

2008 Les Cimels, Château d’Or et des Gueules
If there’s a better $15 red wine here at TWH, I haven’t seen it. The aforementioned Diane de Puymorin blends some old vine Carignan with Grenache and Syrah, and the result is an herbal masterpiece. Forest floor, Kalamata olives, and black tea dominate the aromas, and the palate is more savory than fruity. The perfect wine for pasta with an herbal sauce.

2009 Côtes du Rhône les Boissières, Vignobles Boudinaud
New to us is Veronique and Thierry Boudinaud’s les Boissières Côtes du Rhône. It’s an exciting story as 100% of what’s imported to the US is imported for us! Think honest, old-school Côtes du Rhône here. It shows plenty of fruit, but without going overboard. Toss in some cracked pepper and herbs Provençal, and you get the drift. This is yet another versatile bottle in what can be called The Versatile Dozen. Great on its own, or paired with cassoulet.

2006 Syrah, Alberto Furque
Ever popular with our staff and customers, the Alberto Furque line crushes it when it comes to quality for price. Grown at altitudes of over 3000 feet, the vineyards of Mendoza’s Bodega Aconquija (we call them Alberto Furque) get just the right amount of warm days and cool nights to produce wines with dazzling structure. This Syrah sings of balance and harmony. If you find yourself dreaming about some thinly sliced Argentine beef with Chimichurri sauce, pour this.

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Dunn Vineyards’ 2007 Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon

Wednesday, February 1, 2012 9:59 PM

Having tasted a lot of wine lately from wineries I had never heard of before got me to thinking about the explosion of new California wine producers over the last decade or so. I’ve been working wine retail for about, oh gosh I’m about to age myself, twenty years, and though I do my darnedest to keep up, whenCalifornia had at last count over 3,000 bonded wineries how can you possibly know (let alone taste) it all?!? It is because of this that I am all the more thankful for the tried and true, the old guard, the legacy wineries like Dunn Vineyards. When Dunn Vineyards released their first vintage back in 1981 there were only 576 bonded wineries in California and Randy Dunn was finishing up his tenure at Caymus Vineyards. Randy moved his family up to Howell Mountain where he bought property that had 14 acres of planted vineyards. Howell Mountain was the first sub-appellation in the Napa Valley to be granted its own AVA (American Viticultural Appellation) in 1983. And unlike most AVAs that are often defined by waterways and property lines, Howell Mountain boundaries are defined by a 1400 ft. elevation contour line. When I came to work at The Wine House, all those years ago, Dunn Vineyards was one of those regaled Napa wineries that I had heard of but had never seen in shops. The red wax-dipped top and the sepia colored label draped across the bottle like a beauty queen’s sash has since come to symbolize for me quality, integrity and distinctiveness. I can’t argue with the prevailing opinion that Dunn’s Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon needs ageing but having tried recent vintages at release, I still find the wine far more enjoyable to drink now for its layers of flavor, structure and depth, much like I can find pleasure in a young Bordeaux that I know will have a long life ahead of it, than most gushy, juicy fruit-forward Napa Cabs. Just make sure you uncork a bottle when at the table with a proper meal-the civilized way to drink wine, or so I am told.
Below I have included the full tasting note from The Wine Advocates’ whopping 97-point score review.
Anya Balistreri
       
“The 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon Howell Mountain is unlike any wine I have ever tasted from Dunn. Layer after layer of flavor saturates the palate in this opulent, full-throttle Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2007 possesses dazzling textural richness, depth and sheer intensity. Purists may prefer more structured vintages, but for a producer known for such slow maturing wines, the 2007 is a huge pleasure to taste today. Anticipated maturity: 2017-2037.
I tasted a large number of wines with Randy Dunn this year. These are some of the most powerful, age worthy Cabernets being made in Napa Valley today. Dunn is very much an iconoclast who follows his own convictions. Picking is a bit earlier here than elsewhere throughout the valley. Dunn isn’t too concerned if stems occasionally make it into the fermenter. A fervent advocate of lower-alcohol wines, Dunn makes no apologies for removing alcohol from his wines if they come in above 14%. Personally, that strikes me as a totally unnecessary intervention, but it’s hard to argue with the quality of what is in the bottle, and ultimately that is what counts most. The Napa Valley bottling includes purchased fruit from the valley floor and is typically a slightly more accessible wine, while the Howell Mountain is a much tougher wine that typically demands 20 years to enter its early peak. These Cabernets are for the patient, but make no mistake about it, in top vintages the Howell Mountain is one of the great wines, not just of California, but of the world. Readers who want to explore these wines without waiting several decades may want to start with the 2005 or 2007 Napa Valley bottlings, both of which are somewhat accessible at this stage.”
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finger


The 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon from Pied à Terre has all the makings of what I would call, excuse the cheesiness but March Madness has had its influence on me, a Slam Dunk. First of all, and probably most importantly,Pied à Terre is a project put together with Steve Matthiasson at the helm…that alone makes it worth checking out (you may recall Steve’s 2009 Napa White made our Top 10 List for 2010.) Add to this, the fruit is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley.Not too shabby. And then to round out the trifecta of people/place/price, you have a bottle cost of $22.98! Woo Hoo, raise your hands in the air, a sub $25 Cab from Napa is always a welcome proposition. Yes, all this is well and good, but what’s it like? I’d say it has that elegant touch common to Matthiasson wines. My notes included “Very elegant. Lots of red fruit with a soft silky finish. But NOT wimpy.” A California Cabernet that I can wholeheartedly recommend and know that the customer is getting a deal? Not as easy to find as one would hope, but here you go.

 

jill


We’ve carried the 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon from Pied à Terre for a couple months now and I was lead to believe it was a Matthiasson ‘second label’, in the true Bordelais sense of the word. Even though I’m not a journalist, I thought it wise to double check with the source and asked Steve’s wife and business partner, Jill, to fill me in about Pied à Terre. It was explained to me that the project was started with a NY Sommelier who is a big supporter and fan of Matthiasson wines. Now this is pure conjecture on my part, but I’m guessing the Som was looking for a wine that had that Matthiasson touch but with a ‘by-the-glass’ price point (excuse the wine biz jargon). For the 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, they ended up blending wine from 10 different wineries. They had over 100 lots to choose from before narrowing it down, so as they explain, the’08 is really more an exercise in blending, than “winemaking”. It is here that I would like to point out that Steve’s primary occupation as Vineyard Manager for a few prestigous Napa Valley wineries places him in a unique position to have access to some of the best juice out there. Now I am not suggesting, because I don’t know, that Steve was able to source wine from any of the wineries he works with, but it has been my experience in life that you tend to work with what and whom you know. Regardless, what I do know is that the 2008 Pied à Terre Cabspent 18 months in barrel and has solid structure lurking underneath all that blueberry/red fruit goodness along with well-integrated oaky notes.

 

wheels


One of my New Year’s resolutions, probably seven years going now, is to visit more wineries. This happens few and far between. I think most of you can relate how difficult it is to extricate yourself from the routineand take a trip, even if in your own backyard. Visiting wineries and vineyards is what I am supposed to do as a wine buyer and merchant and yet it happens less and less. A few weeks ago, I was invited to participate in a pruning workshop in the Napa Valley. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to don some grubby jeans and work boots and learn how to prune those canes. The pruning workshop was hosted by Jill and Steve Matthiasson at their Napa Valley home and vineyard which I can only describe as enchanting. With five rows of vines, an old Napa Farmhouse lovingly renovated by Jill and Steve, two dogs, one completely senile and blind who came with the house, the other, one of the most intimidating dogs you’ll ever run into whose idea of a chew toy was a rock the size of a large man’s fist, chickens, and a child’s play structure, it became instantly clear to me that this was a home, not some fantasy set out in a lifestyle magazine. I had a great day learning about vine pruning. Listening to Steve speak passionately about the myriad of choices one can make when pruning made my head dizzy. As he demonstrated various techniques, Steve held pruning shears in his hand and it appeared as if those pruning shears were an extension of his hand or perhaps another appendage (see photo above). So often we think of the finished product, the wine in our glass, as the result of the winemaker’s choices during fermentation. But in fact so much of what ends up in your glass has everything to do with what choices were made in the vineyard.Anya Balistreri
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Our Top Ten Wines Of 2010

Tuesday, January 11, 2011 3:16 PM

Happy New Year! It was right around this time last year that we listed our first “Top Ten” wines of the year for 2009. We received an overwhelming response from that email/blog post, such a response, mind you, that we’re going to give it another go for 2010.

Again, the concept: A lot of different wines from different places fly through here throughout the year. Some make their way to our sales floor, some don’t. Of those that do, several stand out. They stand out for many reasons. Quality. Price. Quality for price. Exotic origins, unique varieties … You know, in 2008 TWH was awarded an Editor’s Award in the SF Bay Guardian as the Bay Area’s best “French Wine Warehouse”. We were happy and proud to receive such praise and honor, as we take our French wines seriously; but we take all wine seriously. This year, in addition to some French selections, we have wines from Spain, Greece, and of course, California that cracked the top ten. A couple have sold out, regretfully, but are mentioned here due to their merits.

We’re wishing you all a very happy, healthy and successful 2011!

10Domaine Ehrhart Cremant d’Alsace
We hear it often. “I have Champagne taste, but am on a sparkling wine budget.”(This does occur in other regions as well, but we’ll use this version for this wine.) Well, a sparkling 100% Chardonnay from Alsace is great way to get going!Philippe and Corinne Ehrhart’s Domaine is certified organic, and they pour their hearts into the finished product we get in the bottle. This latest batch of their Cremant raised eyebrows all around TWH with more than one staffer grabbing a bottle or two for New Year’s Weekend!
NV Domaine Ehrhart Cremant d’Alsace
Sparkling; White Blend; Alsace;
$16.98
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92008 Valdubon Ribera del Duero Cosecha
From the Ribera del Duero, is our first of two Spanish Top Tenners, the 2008 Valdubon. None of us on the staff need to discuss this at any length with each other, as actions speak louder than words. A good way to gauge what wines are fancied by members of our staff is simply to observe what is taken home for personal consumption. With me, it started with the sample bottle that was left for us. I really love the finesse of this Tempranillo. It’s medium bodied, has bright red fruit and spice up front and sits in perfect balance as its complexities fade. It’s a great food wine too! The medium body lends itself to pair with a wide range of cuisine.Chris’ folks liked it so much, they ordered a six pack, but still haven’t received it because Chris drank it all. Tom packs one under his arm every now and then, and every time Anya loads up a case for friends and family, at least one of these makes its way into the box. Proof’s in the pudding.
2008 Bodegas Valdubon Ribera del Duero
Red Wine; Tempranillo; Ribera del Duero;
$11.98
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82009 Bedrock Old Vine Sonoma Valley Zinfandel
If there is a young California winemaker who had a better year than Morgan Twain-Peterson did in 2010, we haven’t heard of it. Over the course of the year, if you glanced at the Bulletin Board on erobertparker.com, you would see posts entitled Bedrock this and Bedrock that along with Morgan Peterson’s name, time and time again. Having met him here at TWH last year, we couldn’t be more happy for him. His 2009 Bedrock Old Vine Sonoma Valley Zinfandel sold out faster than you can blink, Anya’s write-up notwithstanding. In spite of its sold out status, it surely deserves to be in our top ten!

 

72007 Lacuna Red Blend
Okay, it may be getting tough to get our mitts on anything Bedrock these days, but psssst! Here’s another one of Morgan’s wines under a different label, Lacuna. What a find.Chiefly Syrah that’s blendedwith Cinsault, Zinfandel and Grenache, this wine is a darling to all who love fuller bodied reds. The partners on this project knew straight away that they could have easily charged upwards of $40 for this delectable juice, but wanted it to be accessible to more than just the 40 and up crowd. Yes, sadly, this too will sell out, get yourself some while you can!
2007 Lacuna Syrah Blend California
Red Wine; Syrah/Shiraz; Other California;
$24.98
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Santorini A EN 2009 - 0292009 Sigalas Santorini Assyrtiko
Looking back, it is somewhat surprising that one of our Top Ten of 2010 is a white wine from Greece. Surprising on the surface, anyway. When we tasted the 2009 Sigalas Santorini Assyrtiko,we were blown away. Dry and crisp with vibrant acidity, we weren’t the only ones to be blown away by this wine. Your demand for it had us sold out on several occasions as we continued to return to the well for another fix time and again.Think Greek Islands. Growing grapes for purportedly 3000 years. Hmmm. What is the protein of choice of most island societies? What do you suppose they want to drink with it? Yes; crab, scallops or prawns would be perfect.
2009 Domaine Sigalas Assyrtiko Santorini
White Wine; other white varietal; Greece;
$21.98
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52009 Paco & Lola Rias Baixas Albarino
You just never know when the cosmic tumblers are going to line up and point the way to your favorite wine discovery of 2010! But that’s just what happened to me last year. An innocuous taste was just the first of several “signs” that this wine and I were meant to be. Just like many a wine geek, I gravitate toward versatile, aromatic white wines from all over the world. I seem to have found what I didn’t know I was looking for in a Rias Baixas Albarino, the Paco & Lola.
2009 Paco & Lola Albarino Rias Baixas
White Wine; other white varietal; Rias Baixas;
$16.48
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42009 Mattiasson White Blend
Speaking of versatile, aromatic white wines that will catch the attention of not only the wine geek, but the wine lover in all of us,the 2009 Matthiasson White is an aromatic heavyweight champ. It’s a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Ribolla Gialla and Tocai Friulano, all grown in Napa County. It’s the perfect Cali-quaffer that will get you out of a Chardonnay rut before you can say “new oak barrel”. It cracks the Top Ten merely based on the smiles on the faces of you customers who come back raving, as you pick up your replacement bottles. Well, yes, of course, we love it too!
2009 Matthiasson Napa Valley White
White Wine; White Blend; Napa;
$34.98
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32005 Paras Vineyards Mt. Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon
One of the perks of being in business for 33 years is the multitude of great relationships that we have forged with both customers and suppliers. Sometimes, as a result of a lengthy relationship, we continue to receive allocations of highly sought after wines. It’s kind of like a little bonus and a thank you from the supplier for believing in them before the critics started heaping on the praise. Generally, after the latter, allocations dry up and prices skyrocket. Well, we are tickled pink (or red, in this case) that we received our allocation of the 2005 Paras Vineyards Mt. Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon. Decanter Magazine tasted through a rather large smattering of 2005 California Cabernets. Guess which one they liked the most? We’re proud and grateful that we can offer this rocking Cab to our customers.
2005 Paras Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Mount Veeder
Red Wine; Cabernet Sauvignon; Napa;
SALE$59.98
Reg. $72.98
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22009 Chateau de Raousset Fleurie
Judging from what I’ve tasted so far, 2009 is one of those vintages that was good for everyone. Okay, everyone in France anyway. Timing can be funny. As I type, David is in France meeting people and tasting their wines. One of the many highlights of his prospecting last year were the incredible Cru Beaujolais from Chateau Raousset! The wines are blessed with perfect structure, balance and complexity. Of the 3 wines from Raousset, we found the Fleurie to be drinking perfectly upon arrival. Dare we say Gamay can age, and I would be thrilled to find a 2009 Fleurie (or Morgon) in my cellar 10 years from now. Thinking out loud here, good idea for a bumper sticker,“HIP Wine Drinkers Drink Cru Beaujolais!”
2009 Chateau de Raousset Fleurie Grille Midi
Red Wine; Gamay; Burgundy;
$19.99
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12007 Chateau Climens
Okay, I didn’t purposely set out to make a false claim in last year’s Top Ten. I did state that no Top Ten list would be complete without a red Bordeaux. What I meant to say was no Top Ten list would be complete without something from Bordeaux. This year a tip of the cap goes out to the 2007 Chateau Climens. It was at the UGC tasting in Los Angeles last January where I got the chance to taste this amazing wine. I had never before, nor have I since proclaimed a wine would receive a perfect numerical score from an influential critic, but I did with this wine. For the record, The Wine Spectator’s number was 93, but it was The Wine Advocate’s Neal Martin who saw things in similar fashion to me. Now I don’t expect Mr. Martin has any time on his hands to read my ramblings, but if he did, chances are he would also know that I am a supporter of the Chelsea Football Club. He is not a fan, this I know. My proclamation was issued in February 2010. Martin’s scoring of the 2007 Climens was released at the end of April. His score? 99+. Seems coincidental. We’re sold out, but there’s more in France. Please inquire if you are interested. – Peter Zavialoff
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Three Under Twenty

Thursday, September 9, 2010 2:57 PM

For me it is a Labor of Love, for that I am deeply grateful. Sure I complain and kvetch with my friends about work, who doesn’t? Although when I do, someone will inevitably look at me askew and say, “but Anya, at least you love what you do!” They’re right. I love wine and I love being a Wine Merchant. And as a Wine Merchant one of the things I work hardest at is finding those little gems that offer bang for your buck. We like to joke at the store that we taste a lot of bad wine so that you don’t have to, and nowhere is that more true than with the sub $20 category (though this has changed some in the past couple years). I’d like to recommend three red wines that I feel hit the mark in terms of quality, character and value.

 

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, JRE: 100% Napa Valley fruit from St. Helena, Pritchard Hill and Mt. Veeder. Less than 500 cases made. This has the makings of a very expensive bottle of wine. But no, its only $17.98! Aged in both American and French oak, this is a full-bodied, chewy, forward sort of Cabernet with velvety layers of plum and cassis and a slight note of spice. Admittedly, I know little about this winery except that the winemaker is a native Texan who came to California to make wine. After working for a few wineries and having operated his own single varietal label, he began John Robert Eppler Wines in 2001. Recently we tasted his 2009 Sauvignon Blanc, also Napa Valley from two vineyards near Rutherford, and it too impressed us so much we brought it in immediately (though we didn’t really need another domestic Sauvignon Blanc). And get this, we offer it at $10.98 a bottle. Crazy, right?!!

 

2007 John Robert Eppler Cabernet Sauvignon California
Red Wine; Cabernet Sauvignon; Other California;
$17.98
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2006 Zinfandel, Fritz Winery: This estate grown Zinfandel comes from two parcels that were planted to two different clones. This is old-school Dry Creek Zinfandel and by that I mean it has fruit and it has nice acid structure. This combo gives it an Italianesque quality to it.Not at all a fruit bomb, the Fritz Zinfandel’s brambly flavors and zestiness makes it an excellent choice for tomato-based sauces. Fritz Winery has been around since 1979, so this isn’t some great new discovery for us. Only it seems improbable, given how so many Zinfandels have inched up over $30 per bottle, that we can offer this crowd-pleaser at $13.98!
2006 Fritz Zinfandel Estate Dry Creek Valley
Red Wine; Zinfandel; Sonoma;
$13.98
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2008 Red X, X Winery: A fun blend of Syrah, Tempranillo, Grenache and Zinfandel from North Coast vineyards, this is a soft and juicy, super approachable red. A good choice for large gatherings where there are lots of different foods being served and you need something to go with it all. On the nose it’s a burst of red berries and on the palate there is soft cherry and peppery herbs. It’s got a twist-off cap, so convenient for picnics, long hikes, and fishing expeditions. I think wine critic Robert Parker, Jr. got it spot on when he said of this wine that it is a “fleshy, rich, soft, exuberant, hedonistic turn-on to drink…” Impossible to add to that!
2008 X Winery Red X Winemakers Blend X North Coast
Red Wine; Red Blend; Other California;
$11.98
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Labor Day Weekend has traditionally marked the end of summer. When a teenager I’d refuse to shower after the beach on Labor Day Monday not wanting to wash off summer and hoping that the traces of sand and suntan lotion would somehow put off the inevitable-that I was starting school the next day. This year summer was almost unrecognizable due to the unusually cool days and the shorter than usual summer break. Nowadays I cherish the long weekend. I can’t wait for Sunday’s family dinner Bacchanalia. And don’t worry, I’ll be showered by the time I come back in to work!-Anya Balistreri
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