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The Last Recording

The more I listen the more convinced I am that “Horowitz: The Last Recording” is perhaps one of the most monumental artistic achievements of the last century. Horowitz had just celebrated his 86th birthday when he began recording in the fall of 1989. Almost all of his previous releases are unparalleled; however, there’s something hauntingly enchanting and beautiful about his final performances. Gone are the days of fire-breathing virtuosity; what the listener is left with is one last touching, delicate, serene, and reflective essay of a brilliant man that gave himself completely through his music.

It is in the music of his later years that we realize just how much joy and pain can be buried in a small handful of notes. The often stuffy and aristocratic-sounding Haydn gracefully flows with the excitement and wonder of a child. The artist’s aging hands do not allow the unyielding string of notes in Chopin’s Fantaisie Impromptu drag – the masterfully shaped bel canto melody sings as the delicately nuanced accompaniment demonstrates the very coexistence of fidelity and freedom. The Nocturne in B Major is beautifully reflective and played with stunning repose. Liszt’s transcription of Wagner’s Liebestood demonstrates how Horowitz can truly make the piano sound with the power of an orchestra while making the melody sing, and even cry with loving lament. As the piece beautifully and peacefully concludes, so does Horowitz’s career and life. “The Last Recording” is indeed an eloquent summation of a life which we as listeners will always be grateful for.

Origin : Cuba

Format : Corona Gorda

Size : 5.6” x 50

Wrapper : Cuba

Filler : Cuba

Binder : Cuba

Hand-Made

Price : $19.85

Hoyo de Monterrey was established in 1865 and is currently classified as a Global brand by Habanos S.A. The Epicure Especial was released in 2004 as an Edicion Limitada; however, the popularity of this cigar precipitated a re-release in 2008. The wrapper is beautifully blemish free with only a few small veins. The foot smells herbal and earthy with a bit of spice. An initial light reveals a rich earthy flavor with wood undertones. A developing complexity exposes notes of leather, cocoa, black cherry, and a lingering spice. The spice slowly builds to a climax in the final third. Toward the end the spice gives way to a pleasant herbal character as the cigar winds down. This Corona Gorda is well constructed and burns evenly.

92 points

For those of you unfamiliar with the world of R/C flying, a pattern competition is a graceful display of pilot skill where predefined sequences of difficult aerobatic maneuvers are flown using two-meter long radio controlled airplanes weighing under 11 pounds. Maneuvers are objectively judged by scrutinizing the geometry and scored accordingly.

This contest was some of the first flying I’ve done in more than two years. It was also some of the best flying I have ever done, and it felt wonderful to get back into the sport. The first day was gusty with winds out of the NNW at 15 knots. Approaches into the airfield were difficult as the wind gradient was steep and trees were causing a great deal of mechanical turbulence. The second day was calm and uneventful. It was nice to catch up with old friends from out of town. Tom Gilkey and I had some great conversation between judging the Advanced class. Masters pilots Mark Woytassek and Vincente Bortone gave me some great constructive criticism and helped me perfect the top hat maneuver with 1/4 rolls, as they literally wrote the book on it.

Kenwood Vineyards was founded in 1970 on what was the Pagani Brothers Winery. The estate sits on a twenty-two acre vineyard, but Kenwood also sources grapes from dozens of vineyards in Sonoma Valley. The 2009 growing season began with a dry spring followed by a mild summer, which lowered yields but produced good grapes.

The Kenwood Russian River Valley Pinot Noir has a smoky nose of oak and a hint of vanilla. It opens with dried berries, cigar box, spice, and a whisper of mineral flavors on the palate. Rounded tannins give way to a modest herbal finish. This red is fairly well balanced, but slightly high in acidity with a medium body. It’s an easy drinking wine that would pair well with a variety of cuisine.

-86 points

Origin : Dominican Republic

Format : Figurado

Size : 4” x 46/49

Wrapper : Connecticut Broadleaf Maduro

Filler : Dominican Republic

Binder : Dominican Republic

Hand-Made

Price : $6.50

 

The Arturo Fuente Short Story Maduro is not your typical cigar. Originally, only 200 cigars were given out at the 1999 and 2002 Cigar Family Celebrations combined. Surprisingly, the Short Story Maduro was shown at the 2011 International Premium Cigar & Pipe Retailers Convention (IPCPR) earlier this month. Keeping with tradition, Arturo Fuente is only releasing 1,000 boxes of the cigar to select retailers that purchased twenty or more boxes of Arturo Fuente cigars at the trade show.

The Short Story has a very dark brown blemish-free maduro wrapper with a light tooth. The wrapper leaf is beautiful and absolutely free of any noticeable veins. A graceful taper toward the head along with the pressed nipple foot give this diminutive cigar an elegant figuration. Yielding only very slightly to a gentle squeeze, it is evident that this Hemingway is rolled tightly and evenly. The prelight aroma is a dusty chocolate.

 The flawless draw on this perfecto facilitated a well-defined harmony of flavors. This cigar is characterized by its dominant slightly sweet and creamy flavors. Other flavors include hints of earthy chocolate, dark fruit, vanilla, and nuts. The Hemingway is smooth, well balanced, and refined; however, it is conspicuously lacking some complexity.

 With a smoking time of just under an hour, the Arturo Fuente Hemingway Short Story Maduro provided a refreshing set of distinct flavors well worth the modest cost. Get them while you can as a limited number are being released.

 

Appearance/Structure – 14/15

Smoking Characteristics – 23/25

Flavor – 22/25

Overall Impression – 33/35

Total – 92

It is a little known fact that a relatively small group of wealthy consumers determine how much we pay for wine by gambling on the prices before the wine reaches the bottle. Every spring, retailers flock to the French châteaux to engage in barrel tastings of last year’s harvest to ascertain what wines consumers in their local markets will be most interested in. The négociants note the critical reception, current economic status, and demand from retailers to negotiate pricing with the individual wineries.

The 2009 vintage was excellent and yielded multitudes of classic-quality reds. Reports indicate that the 2010 wines will be giving ’09 a run for its money; however, the two vintages are very different stylistically. Unlike the opulent reds of 2009, the 2010 offerings are balanced and fresh with ripe tannins and bright acidity.

What about the futures? Apparently merchants are finding 2010 to be a hard sell as consumers are gawking at the high prices. Many are buying older vintages at lower prices instead of tying up more of their money on wine that isn’t bottled and won’t be ready to drink for two decades. The fact that the futures of some wineries (Cos, L’Evangile, and Ducru-Beaucaillou) have dropped is making consumers unsure if 2010 is a wise gamble. What if the wine hits the shelf lower than the current futures? It is also interesting to note that the second wines of some châteaux are seeing the most aggressive increases in futures. Either way, the market has been turned loose to the mercy of the consumer. It will be very interesting to see where things end up after the dust settles.

The Sichel family has been producing affordable Bordeaux since 2002 when it acquired Château D’Argadens. This stunning and deeply-hued Bordeaux is a blend of 57% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 3% Cabernet Franc. The nose bursts with black cherry and cassis with a dusting of strawberry. This Bordeaux is clearly blended in a modern, fruit forward style with good structure. Notes of red fruit and earth dominate through a background of tobacco, oak, and vanilla. The wine shows balance with soft tannins and good acidity. The Château D’Argadens 2006 will not rival Premiers Crus from renowned Châteaux; however, it is a very solid wine at a bargain price of around $18.

-89 points

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