After a delightful swim with Talley Ho and Mary Melons, Mr. Vino and I caught some more sunshine with the gorgeous girls. We chatted about why there were no oranges or orange trees on Orange Avenue. "Why is called Orange Avenue? There are mostly palm trees on the Avenue. If you drive into Lemon Grove, there is a giant lemon as big as a baby elephant," I said.
After a slight pause, Mr. Vino said, "Maybe we don't see the orange trees because we don't look for them."
"What!" I exclaimed.
"Understand, you rely too much on your senses," Mr Vino said. I looked at him as if he were a lunatic. He gave me a reassuring smile and went on, " Some things are often perceived as no more than a feeling, especially when they are difficult to see. Like the human aura, for example. That one cannot always see it does not mean that it is not there."
"Pal, enough of the mysticism."
Mr. Vino frowned. Then he said, "There is orange on the Avenue. Just go out a clear, hot August evening at sunset and you can see the orange fill the sky from the Hotel Del Coronado to the Old Ferry Landing, and there is your orange. It blankets the street like a mother covers her baby on a chilly day. It comes out for a few moments, then vanishes."
I said, "Where does the orange go?'
Mr. Vino gave me a Cheshire Cat grin, "Back, where the orange hides, Orange Avenue,” he said, and we all chuckled.
Mr. Vino told us that we would be dining formally that night. I found a tuxedo waiting for me in my guest room and the girls had their designer wear ready for them in their rooms, too. After showering, I put on the tuxedo, thinking I would look like Fred Astaire. But the tux didn't fit right, the tails were too long and the sleeves too short for my Orangutan-long arms. In despair, I regarded my ridiculous image in the mirror and wondered what a starlet like Honey Drinkwell could ever possibly see in me. I'm what you call "four shooter handsome." At least, that’s what Sugar Plum, the hour-glass shaped former Coronado High School Cheerleader, had told me at Danny's Palm Bar & Grill, while I was downing a Slam burger and she was half in the bag. In other words, she’d said, after a girl takes four shots of Patron Silver Tequila in a half hour I start to look a lot like Brad Pitt. She’d meant that as a compliment… I guess.
I finally made it into the sunken living room, where Champagne was being served. Talley Ho and Mary Melons were alone, and didn’t seem to notice anything amiss with my costume, so my anxiety about meeting Honey Drinkwell began to subside a little. The blond supermodels were sharing a bottle of Pommery, Royal Brut and offered me a Champagne flute filled with the delicious bubbly. They were in animated conversation about their next photo shoot in Paris for Vogue, and otherwise ignored me, so I had a chance to calm down a little more. I was enjoying the bubbles and trying not to knock over any of the priceless antiques as I looked out the window and watched the peaceful rhythms of ocean. Between the ocean and the bubbly, I was well on my way back to what I’d call normal.
My peace had only lasted for about a minute and half, though, when Mr. Vino, wearing a white tux, entered the room with Chef Kenny and his fiance, the former Miss Universe, Kandi Cain. Chef Kenny had made a fortune as a male model, posing on the cover of Romance novels without his shirt on and followed that with his popular cooking show on the Food Network, Dining in Romantically, which had tens of millions of female viewers. Not only that, his tux, like Mr. Vino’s, fit him perfectly.
I nearly passed out when I spotted, Honey Drinkwell slowly gliding into the room right behind them. She was wearing a silky dark green gown which fit her as tightly as a surgical glove, and showed off each wondrous curve of her Supergirl figure. Her shoulder length blond hair was luscious. Her small facial features, high cheekbones and flawless complexion had made every motion picture camera fall deeply in love with her. Her cherry-colored lips were ever - so kissable. Her dark eyes were drowning pools into which any man would blissfully dive and never want to come up again anyway.
When Mr. Vino approached to introduce me to Honey, I snapped out of my trance barely in time to give my sweaty palms a fast wipe on the seat of my pants before offering to shake hands. I could barely speak, and I’m sure I held her soft hand a little too long before I finally blurted out, "I love your show, Coronado, 92118."
Her raw beauty melted me like soft butter on hot popcorn, and her voice was like a soft symphony as she smiled and murmured "I'm glad you like it. It's a living. And it's easier than working at the deli at Avenue Liquor." As I reluctantly let go and she withdrew her hand, she took a drink from a passing server’s tray and then immediately replaced it. “Just need the napkin,” she smiled at him.
"Do you think Coronado is becoming the new Hollywood?" I said trying to be a gentleman by averting my eyes from her bountiful bosoms.
She nodded her sweet blond head, "I'm think so, a lot of locals think 'Nado is just a sleepy ol' Navy town, but with all the beautiful people living on the island, sooner or later it was going to be noticed by Hollywood. 'Nadoland is a talent scout's paradise."
After we drank some more Pommery Champagne, the handsome Mr. Vino beckoned us to dinner.
The large dining room was filled with paintings, Matisse, Rubens and Manet all represented. The table setting was priceless, the finest china, silverware and crystal. Capping off the splendid presentation was a spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean. I was extremely self-conscious as I was seated next to Honey, Mr. Vino sat in between his blond beauty bookends, Talley and Mary. Chef Kenny was at the head of the table, flanked by Kandi.
We began with some Spanish cheeses and rustic bread, followed with bread oil. Our first glass of red wine was from Italy, Fattorria Di Barbi, the famous Brunelo di Montalcino producer, Brusco di Barbi. As we did our toast, Mr. Vino said, "To power."
"And beauty." said Talley.
We all clinked our wine glasses together, and most Mr. Vino spoke again, "Good wine comes from places of power and great wines from the most extreme examples of power. This wine comes from Montalcino, home of the great Brunelo. Brunelo di Montalcino is a great wine. The wines coming from Tuscany have been compared to the finest first growth Bordeaux, wines like Lafite and Haut Brion."
Honey added,"Montalcino has such improvised soil, the vines are so hard to get to the water, no wonder the grapes are so complex. The wines are so delicious."
Mary nodded her head in agreement and said, "This wine is not Brunelo but it comes close in terms of structure. It has the earthiness, but a slightly shorter finish."
I interjected, "Brusco di Barbi is less than half of the cost of Brunelo. But I know that doesn't mean much to you millionaires!"
Mr. Vino let out a cackle, "Don't insult me, I'm not that poor. I'm a billionaire, but I still enjoy a good value in a wine."
Our dinner hit the table, steak au poivre, peppered steak with a cream Cognac. Mr. Vino had another wine open, Moulin de Duhart, a superb Merlot blend from Bordeaux and another winery owned by Lafite-Rothschild. As I took a taste of this heavenly vino, I saw the beauteous Honey smile as watched my reaction. The wine had a combination of earthy tones and voluptuous fruit. It was superb.
As the evening progressed, the table got noisier. The wined loosened tongues, even mine, and I was engaged in a very pleasant conversation with Honey and Kandi, when Mr Vino interrupted with the stunning announcement, "I have pulled a couple of bottles of 1787 Chateau Lafite from my cellar, they were the subject of an important book about the most expensive wine ever purchased. This same vintage of wine was part of Thomas Jefferson’s wine collection, and a bottle of the stuff was acquired by billionaire Malcom Forbes at auction for $157,000. The wine and the sale were very controversial, and are the subject of a book called Billionaire's Vinegar. The wine was allegedly part of shipment of wine that were to be sent from France to Jefferson's home in Monticello, but for reasons unknown never made trip. Forbes' 1787 Chateau Lafite was placed on display in a glass case in his library and, naturally, after being exposed to light. the wine cork popped out and the most expensive bottle wine became the costliest bottle of vinegar within minutes."
"I have purchased a couple bottles of 1787 vintage of Chateau Lafite from a collector but unlike Mr. Forbes, who displayed his wine like a trophy, we're going to drink it!”
The table sat silent. Finally, I shook my head in disbelief and said,"I understand from what I read that 1787 was a good vintage in Bordeaux, but how can the wine that that old be anything but spoiled?"
Mr/ Vino scratched his head and then stated. "Wine is a living thing and like all living things it has its time on this Earth. But seeds have been found in Egyptian mummy's tombs that have planted and still grow, after thousands of years. This wine is entombed in its bottle like the genie in Aladdin's lamp. We will release the genie and find ou!t"
"I hope we get three wishes from the genie," Honey said sweetly.
"Yeah that would be great," I said looking at the dreamy Honey knowing already what my first wish would be.
I was prepared for a big disappointment, but I felt a surge of energy coming from Mr. Vino. He had total confidence that the wine was still drinkable. He showed the aged bottles to each of with the TJ, 1787 and Lafite etched on each bottle. I looked at Chef Kenny and he gave me wink. Honey grabbed my hand in anticipation. Between the thrill of her touch and the anticipation of the wine, I could respond with only a sort of twisted grin. God knows what the expression on my face must have looked like, but everybody was staring at Mr. Vino and the wine, anyway.
After a short tussle with the cork, Mr. Vino opened the first bottle. I felt honored that he let me have the first taste. I examined the color, it was a coconut-brown with slight hints of red in the center of the wine. I thought this wine might still have some fruit, I swirled the wine in the glass and I saw a primordial soup, layers and layers of flavors released after centuries. I placed my nose in the glass and the perfume of wine was of old cigar tobacco, cedar, prunes and sherry but happily no vinegar. As the wine touched my lips, I tasted beef broth, coca, pepper and in the distance, an echo of cranberry. The wine still had fruit.
"Fantastic," I said, "A little tired, but there is still life in the wine."
Mr. Vino poured the rest of the guests and felt triumphant and declared, "A wine from Lafite is almost immortal, because it comes from a place of power, the vineyards of Lafite-Rothschild. It has a spirit that can go on for centuries. We can only imagine the beauty of Helen of Troy or Cleopatra, they only live in poetry of men. But in wine, we can enjoy beauty and lyricism in a glass.
I looked in Honey's eyes, all my nervousness evaporated for good, and said "Cheers!" Her answering smile, and the musical clink of our glasses, told me that at least one of my three wishes was going to come true.
Frank Marquez (AKA Mr. Vino) is a wine enthusiast, writer, lecturer, buyer & seller of fine wines.
Frank attended and graduated from Coronado High School and has deep roots here on the island.
Click here to email
619-435-4663 or visit:
Avenue Liquor & Wine
(878 Orange Avenue)
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