Cleaver Bill carefully lifted the plastic sack from behind the toilet. Removing the towel the bag was wrapped in, he wondered if the butterflies he felt were a result of his excitement or the fact that he caught the faintest whiff of the sludge inside. It didn’t matter. Now he had to concentrate. Using his prison issue boxers as a facemask, Bill removed the twisty from the top of the sack and peered inside. A cloud of warm gas flowed from the bag and over his shaved, tattooed head. Even through the shorts, his eyes burned and he knew better than to breathe.
The mix looked different today. Gone was the color of crushed cafeteria oranges, replaced by a tepid gray. Gone too, were the chunks of bread crust he added for yeast, dissolved into the fermenting liquid. One by one, Bill lifted the thirty ketchup packets, the last additions to the concoction, and squeezed their contents into the bag. He had already ripped open each packet corner (he liked that part) so he could hold the bag with one hand and squeeze ketchup with the other. Omitting this step caused him to spill the sauce, making embarrassing stains on his orange jump suit. This was the good stuff–Heinz. He didn’t use the lesser generic brands which make the recipe taste kind of cheap. Those were the shortcuts the hacks down in cell B used.
With unmistakable pride, Cleaver Bill resealed the bag and warmed it under the sink. He rewrapped the bag with the dirty towel, knelt by the toilet, and with reverence, placed it once again in its hiding spot. Bill didn’t care about the respect he would earn in the courtyard, he was just happy to be making the best hooch this block ever tasted.
So why the ballad of Cleaver Bill? Because believe it or not, Bill is a good winemaker. He only considers using the best ingredients available and he strives to make the best product possible. Winemaker Gregory Graziano is a little like Bill except he has some of the best grapes from Mendocino County available for his wine. With this week’s recommendation, he skillfully integrates four Italian varietals and gets them to work together seamlessly like he was the Big House kingpin.
Monte Volpe 2007, Prima Rosa ($11.99): Delicious and complex. Ripe blackberries and plums pop in and out doing short time while soft tannins lazily hang out on the palate like lifers.