This week (March 24) marks the third year of Jim’s passing … and sometimes I still think I’ll pick up the phone and he’ll be yelling (affectionately) into my ear about what a pain in the ass I am, etc., etc. This time of year always gets me to thinking about how much I shared with him and how so many of those memories involved good food and, of course, drink. More often than not, the drink was a fantastic bottle (or two) of wine, most likely a red of some sort from the Napa Valley. I’ve talked some about the tough times with Jim, how he was such a pain to deal with, his obsessions and passions, but there has been one passion that we really have only scratched the surface of: his love of fine wine, great bars and restaurants and his enduring, undying fear and loathing of onions. So what better way to honor his memory and usher in the season of new growth and all things delectable then to focus some blogs on the foodie side of Jim (not that he would “stomach” being called a foodie, I’m sure he would think it was uber-pretentious). Instead, Jim would just say, “I know what I fuckin' like and what I hate.” And leave it at that.
However, I did see Jim take a bit of pride (on the down low) about his knowledge of California wines, which surprised me the first time he broke it out. I must have looked rather skeptical at this hard-drinkin’ foulmouth who suddenly asked the waiter about their best “Cab Sav” in the house. Seeing my initial surprise, Jim said one of the reasons he knew a bit more than the average Joe about wines from “Sonapa-Noma,” as he liked to say, went back to a shoot he had done to accompany a piece for New West magazine – “Brother Against Brother: The Wine Feud that Split the Mondavi Family,” back in November 1976. And, thanks to Jim’s obsessive cataloging of his black and white work, we were able to dig up these never-before-seen shots of Peter and Robert Mondavi from that shoot. I sure wish I could have been there to watch Jim interact with the two titan vintners. For more info on the brothers, their famous feud and the history of wine in this country, check out Julia Flynn Siler’s book, “The House of Mondavi: The Rise and Fall of the American Wine Dynasty.”
Stay tuned for more foodie and wine-related tales from the Jim vaults. And, as always, we welcome your recollections, especially if they happened over a great restaurant table or in a favorite Jim dive or, ESPECIALLY, if they are about Jim’s ongoing battle to avoid his Kryptonite: onions. If you have any photos documenting those memories, send them in, we'd love to see them and hear the stories that go along.