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Oe-Knowledge It’s a modest little board game,...

Oe-Knowledge It’s a modest little board game, but you’ll be amused by its presumption. “California Wine Quiz,” a trivia game that takes you from Almaden to Zinfandel and throughout the Napa Valley, is the latest byproduct from the wine-growing region whose spinoffs already include a prime-time soap and a tourist glut. Third-generation Manteca almond-and-varietal-grape farmer Michael Hat, inspired by a glass of more-than-decent Chardonnay and a ferocious Trivial Pursuit match, concocted the game, played with colored corks on a board with labels from 77 wineries. Even if your nose recognizes no bouquet beyond a screw-top bottle of raw and recent red, creator Hat pledges you can still answer some of the 5,700 questions, like “How many times a year must a grapevine be pruned?” (one) and “Who dug Beringer’s famous wine cellars?” (Chinese laborers). In two versions, the “split” and the “magnum” (the latter with room for two bottles of wine), the game has sold 4,500 copies so far, mostly to sotted or besotted viniculturists, but a few as far away as Texas, where the usual house wine is the beverage with an agave worm in the bottom. You Go Out There a Woofer, You’ll Come Back a Star She shuns Chopin, and cringes at John Cage, but when Tchaikovsky is playing--and especially the “Nutcracker” suite--don’t get between Dice and the stereo. Dice is a mixed Labrador-Samoyed, a 4-year-old performing pooch who adds to her taste for singing Slavic schmaltz--in a range best characterized as “collieratura"--the ability to drink milk through a straw, ride back seat on a motorcycle, and play blackjack. “She cheats,” allows Dice’s owner, Masami Saito, who is rather amazing herself: a Texas-reared Japanese-American who is a singer-actress-magician-former private detective-professional chef-psychic. Your typical Angeleno. Saito and Dice--named for the seven black spots on her white coat--make up “Dice & Co.,” and they perform for parties and magic shows. The dog gets top billing; “people like her better than me,” Saito says with professional generosity. Dice’s grandfather was in a movie once, and that kind of thing stays in the blood. Saito discovered Dice one morning when the puppy began singing--really crooning, not woofing--to Tchaikovsky, and only to Tchaikovsky. She will not be fooled by Respighi or tricked by Mussorgsky, and with the hauteur of a star, “she will not sing when I’m singing,” says Saito, who once sang opera in Texas. “She’s pretty dumb-looking, but when she gets up on stage, she changes.” That’s the miracle of Hollywood for you. The Land of the Pinto Bean and the Cod His shipowner namesake ran guns to that radical upstart, George Washington. His psalm-singing missionary ancestors upchucked across two oceans to Christianize the Sandwich Islands--now Hawaii. His cousins by the dozens have served in Congress and statehouses. With political juices and cod liver oil alike churning in his veins, where else should one find Nathaniel S. Bingham, formerly of Connecticut and now of Mendocino, but as the recently elected president of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations? The prep-school refugee swaps sou’wester for a three-piece suit to negotiate fishing pacts with coastal Indians, speak before sundry subcommittees or otherwise represent nearly 4,000 California coastal fisherman. The tangled web of 50-pound test eventually lured him from Berkeley studies to a fishing bark. “He tells a good yarn,” says the group’s executive director, Zeke Grader. Who says salt air and hot air can’t mix?


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