Ask G. L. Pease (Volume 43)
    December 19th, 2014

G. L. Pease
This time of year,
I find myself feeling a little sorry for those who live in other parts of the country. It has nothing to do with the weather, though I suppose that might be reason enough, but everything to do with the opening of the season for that magnificent regional delicacy, the Dungeness crab. Don’t take me wrong. Other crabs are delicious too, and of course, easterners have their lobsters, but the Dungeness crab is special. Its meat is firm, sweet, delicious, and the things are brawny enough to offer a more tangible reward for the not insignificant effort of divesting them of their hard, sharp shells.

Nothing is better on an early winter’s day than playing tourist, and buying a couple of these delectable crustaceans from the crab mongers along Fisherman’s Wharf who boil them in giant pots, crack their shells with a mallet, and bundle them up in butcher paper. Add a loaf of crusty Boudin sourdough, which also cannot be found anywhere else, a stick of butter, a bottle of crisp, unoaked Chardonnay, and a beach towel (eating crab can be messy business), and you’ve got everything you need for a fabulous movable feast, unique to the left coast. If it’s not raining, find a quiet place and tuck in. You can have a salad later, if you must. I know what I’m doing this weekend…

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Ask G. L. Pease (Volume 42)
    November 11th, 2014

G. L. Pease
Tobacco and terroir. I seem to talk about it a lot,
but the myriad manifestations of this "sense of place" continue to fascinate me. The other day, a friend asked me if, given the knowledge of their process and the necessary machinery, I would be able to reproduce the tobaccos created by some of the British blending houses still in existence. I think my answer surprised him.

The fact is, even if we knew exactly how they did what they do, even if we had identical machinery, even if we started with identical leaf, the results would be all but guaranteed to be different. Even ignoring the water, which some feel is an important element, there’s the whole issue of that miraculous community of microorganisms that are responsible for the fermentation of the leaf during processing. Since we all rely on the native microflora to do what they do, rather than inoculate tobaccos with specific cultures, there will clearly be differences in tobaccos processed in different parts of the world.

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Ask G. L. Pease (Volume 41)
    October 9th, 2014

G.L. Pease
It’s Saturday, 4 October as I sit down to scribble out this rather late edition of this column,
and as I do so, I’m caught up in a mistral of thought blowing loudly through my head, matching its speed with the activities of the previous month. In the small winery at which I am seasonally employed, we’ve just taken in the last grapes we’ll process this year. It’s been exhilarating, exhausting, challenging. Harvest came early for the Pinot Noirs that we do, and the grapes, always on their own schedule, following the whims of nature, came fast. What took place over six or seven weeks last year happened during just under four weeks of September, leaving only some Zinfandel stragglers to arrive on the first day of October. The month was filled with long days of dark to dark early risings (which, as a nocturnal creature, is not in my nature) and late homecomings, sorting, fermenting, punching down, babysitting, temperature monitoring and adjustment, testing sugars, sealing, barreling. I’m often amused by the reaction of people when they learn that I work making wine, thinking it a glamourous thing; the stains on my nails, my hands, my jeans , the aching muscles, the constant fatigue are anything but that. It’s satisfying work, though. At the end of a day, there’s something real that can be pointed to. That. Over there. That’s what we did today.

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Ask G. L. Pease (Volume 40)
    August 21st, 2014

G. L. Pease
Early this morning,
a dear friend packed a hired truck with boxes of pipes, tobacco, books, and all his other important belongings, preparing to set off eastward to make a new home on the other edge of the continent. I know we’ll see each other again, but I’m very much going to miss his company in the meanwhile. We’ve shared lots of good food, good drink, good conversation and laughter, almost always enveloped in a comforting fog of fragrant smoke.

Perhaps that’s the true magic of the pipe; it seems to catalyze fellowship whenever it’s present in the company of good people. Of those I hold close in my life, many have come to that place over a bowl or twenty. The pipe has a way of bringing people together through a common passion, whilst simultaneously creating something of a sacred space in which to discover our overlapping interests, and to peacefully explore both our similar and our divergent views.

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Ask G. L. Pease (Volume 39)
    July 23rd, 2014

G. L. Pease
I’ve been trying to put the finishing touches on a blend I’ve been working on since January.
No kidding. Seven months, and it’s still not quite there. Sometimes, things just fall into place, and it all seems effortless. Other times, every step of the way is like a ball being shot into a giant Pachinko machine, rattling and bouncing about endlessly, until, finally, it falls through the wrong hole. This one has been like that, like being stuck in that Adventure game in the "Maze of twisty little passages, all alike." It can sometimes be a bit maddening. Like barking mad. Like Mad Hatter mad. It takes a certain amount of insanity to do this stuff.

Then, one day, all the hair pulling pays off, which is what finally happened early in the week. Wish me luck. And, believe it or not, that’s actually a pretty good segue to this month’s questions, so without further ado, let’s pull the lever, launch another ball into its chaotic trajectory through Mr. Pachinko, and get to the questions.

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Ask G. L. Pease (Volume 38)
    July 1st, 2014

G. L. Pease
I’m back from Kansas,
and trying to recover from the fun. Pipe shows are great things, but they can be exhausting. Thursday night, after the pipe club meeting, I returned with a friend to his place to learn how to roll cigars. Scratch that. I rolled a few things that to the casual onlooker would have been perceived as alien life forms (who knew a cigar could have appendages?) or sections of branches from gnarled trees littering the ground after a forest fire. One actually did look vaguely like a cigar, if not observed too closely, but one that had been used as a chew toy by a pit bull on meth. I learned a bit about different cigar tobaccos, got to taste a lot of different leaf in its pure state, but the most important lesson was probably that I have no real future as a torceador. I’ll stick to pipe mixtures.

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Ask G. L. Pease (Volume 37)
    May 12th, 2014

G. L. Pease
I hate the flu. Because of this, I’ve done everything humanly possible to avoid it whilst almost everyone I know are beaten down by it. I’ve been successful this year, until last night. It started out as what I thought was just a really bad attack of hayfever. Then, it hit. The aches, the chills, the coughing, a throat that feels like a field of golf balls had sprouted in it, the relentless hammering that makes a head feel as though it’s been attached to the wrong end of a pile-driver, not that there’s a right end, and finally, the feeling that the not entirely unwelcome spectre of death may be lurking alongside a werewolf of London just outside the kitchen door, better not let him in.

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Ask G. L. Pease (Volume 36)
    April 23rd, 2014

G. L. Pease
Another month, another Ask G.L. Pease column, and it seems like I just finished the last one. For that matter, it seems like I just wrote the first one, but it’s been three years. Three years! Where does the time go?

I love writing this column. Every time I think the questions will run out, something really interesting pops into the mailbag. But, there’s one question that I’m asked often, both here and in real life, that always makes me a bit uncomfortable, not because of the question itself, but because of the answer, at least if I’m really honest in that answer.

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Ask G. L. Pease (Volume 35)
    March 26th, 2014

G. L. Pease
Spring is here, it seems.
My chiles are sprouting in my makeshift hot house, though it’s not been warm enough for them, and their growth is slow. I’m particularly excited about a Guyanese variety called Wiri Wiri. I’ve grown these successfully in the past, but it’s been a couple of years. They’re a bit challenging to grow, but well worth the effort. Each little berry, about the size of a small grape, is fiery hot (about like an orange habanero), wonderfully fragrant, and very flavorful. When I slice into these, their perfume fills the air. I can hardly wait for mid-summer when they, hopefully, begin bearing fruit.

But, what the hell do chiles have to do with pipes and tobacco? Glad you asked.

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Ask G. L. Pease (Volume 34)
    February 6th, 2014

G. L. Pease
As I sit down with this month’s questions,
I’m enjoying a wonderful bowl in little sandblasted apple made by one of my favorite makers. While this normally shouldn’t be worthy of mention, really, in this case it is. When I got this pipe in trade from another collector, it hadn’t been smoked more than a few times, and the first bowl gave me a profound sense of why he’d chosen to part with it so quickly. Its smoke was harsh, acrid, in a word, dreadful, and very much unlike other pipes I’ve had from this maker. No wonder it hadn’t made the cut for my friend; when there are so many truly great pipes to be enjoyed, why suffer a bad one? But, charmed by its shape, its size, its balance, its nicely detailed blast, I wasn’t going to be so quick to part with it, resolving, instead, to give it a sporting chance. Choosing a forgiving blend, I vowed to give it a full tin before passing final judgment. I’m glad I did.

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