William Chris Vineyards releases Texas Red Blend to benefit Southern Smoke Foundation

William Chris Vineyard’s new Texas Red Blend. Photo: Madison Boudreaux, used with permission.

Bill Blackmon and Chris Brundrett, co-owners of William Chris Vineyards, recently announced the launch of the Wanderer Series Relief Project, featuring a new wine benefitting the Texas hospitality industry created in collaboration with Master Sommelier Craig Collins. The red blend features 95% Cinsault and 5% Mourvedre from the Texas High Plains and is now available online, as well as from the following retailers in select locations: H-E-B, Kroger, Twin Liquors, Whole Foods Market and several independent bottle shops throughout Texas. This wine, priced at $20, was created with a mission of supporting the incredible group of chefs, servers, sommeliers and bartenders that make up the Texas restaurant community, which has been critically impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. All profits from the sales of this wine will go to the Southern Smoke Foundation with the goal of helping this group get back to doing what they love. (William Chris Vineyards, 2020)

Another remarkable aspect of the project is the abundance of generosity put forward by the industry partners involved. This project would not be possible without the support of Victory Wine Group, who is handling distribution of the wine; design shop Canales & Co. out of Austin, who created the label design; and Fortis Solutions Group, Berlin Glass, Lafitte Cork & Capsule, G3 and Oeneo-DIAM, who all generously donated the respective bottling materials for this project.

In addition to the release of the Wanderer Series Relief Project, WCV is finding every opportunity to keep their staff of 64 busy while the tasting room is closed. This has resulted in several new ways for fans to stay engaged with the William Chris experience and team; from weekly virtual tastings and daily online happy hours on Facebook, to curbside pick-up on site at the winery. By supporting WCV during this time, fans can help ensure that the company will be stable and ready for the brighter days ahead. #WCVSTRONG.

“Our industry, our country, and our world is hurting right now, emotionally, physically, and financially. As a company, we’re fighting to stay afloat, and our brothers and sisters in the restaurant space have been some of the hardest hit…. Buying a bottle of this wine for yourself and maybe a couple more for friends and family is a great way to give back to folks who desperately need our help, while enjoying some delicious 100% Texas-grown wine.” – Chris Brundrett


Book review: ‘Flying Alone’ by Beth Ruggiero York

Photo: google

Beth Ruggiero York is a former airline pilot for Trans World Airlines. She entered the world of civil aviation in 1984 shortly after graduating from college and, for the next five years, climbed the ladder to her ultimate goal of flying for a major airline. Now she has dual careers–Chinese translator and professional photographer. She teaches photography workshops for Arizona Highways PhotoScapes and her own company, Ruggiero Images LLC. Her popular instructional book on night photography, “Fun in the Dark: A Guide to Successful Night Photography” has worldwide sales and she also co-wrote “Everglades National Park: A Photographic Destination.” She originally wrote “Flying Alone: A Memoir” in the early 1990s, shortly after her career as a pilot ended and the memories were fresh. It relives the struggles and the challenges of civil aviation that she faced thirty years ago.

“Flying Alone” begins with a prologue titled ‘The Promise’ where Beth recalls the moment she knew she would someday learn to fly. She is fourteen and traveling alone for the first time to visit relatives in Colorado when she first experiences the thrill and excitement of flying in an airplane. From there the story picks up with a grown up Beth fueling airplanes for New England Flyers, a tiny flight school in Beverly, Massachusetts. She is working from the ground up to fulfill her dream of flying for the airlines, but the road ahead is a long one. Before any major airline will even look at her, she has to go through ground school, many hours of flight time, instrument rating, she has to get her pilot license and she must have up to three thousand hours of flying experience. It takes her five years and along the way, her dream of making it “in a man’s world” is complicated with a “probable” Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis, a romantic relationship with her flight instructor, having to fly run-down airplanes and working for shady businesses whose only concern is making money. She finally makes it to the majors and begins working as Flight Engineer, or Second Officer, in the cockpit of a Boeing 727 for Trans World Airlines. In the Epilogue, she recounts how, after only a year, she is officially diagnosed with MS and can no longer qualify for the certification needed to keep her job. She goes back to school and graduates from Harvard and after completing the master’s program for Chinese Studies, she begins working as a Chinese to English translator.

Beth Ruggiero York’s “Flying Alone” is not only a memoir of her experiences while trying to become a commercial pilot, it is also an intriguing glimpse at the aviation world, including all the necessary regulations, the widespread problem of drunk pilots and what it takes to keep a business afloat. Aside from Chapter 5, ‘Instruments,’ where she describes the inner workings of an airplane, the language is easy to understand and the action flows easily. It is refreshing to read about how hard she worked and her determination to achieve her goals despite what must have felt like one disappointment after another. Even when she could not continue after her MS diagnosis, it is inspiring to read about how she turned that around and still managed to find a fulfilling job “I have continued to live the life I wanted, albeit a struggle.” The most exciting parts are when she is flying , her experiences with faulty equipment and, as in Chapter 26, ‘New Year’s Eve’ in icy and foggy conditions: “Halfway through the turn, Paul panicked. ‘What’re you doing?’ he yelled and grabbed the controls, putting the plane in an even steeper bank. Before I could grab it back from him, we were at a near stall, nose up.” “Flying Alone” is an inspiring story of one woman’s courage and determination to achieve her dreams despite overwhelming odds. It is recommended for readers who appreciate exciting first person accounts of personal struggles and victories.

*The author received a copy of this book for an honest review. The views and opinions expressed here belong solely to her.


Television adaptation: ‘Tales From the Loop’ by Simon Stålenhag

Tales From the Loop is available on Amazon Prime. Photo: google

Simon Stålenhag is a Swedish artist, musician and designer specializing in retro-futuristic digital images focused on nostalgic Swedish countryside alternate history environments. Most of Stålenhag’s artwork was initially only available online but was later released for sale as prints. Since then, it has been turned into two narrative art books, “Tales From the Loop” in 2014 and “Things From the Flood” in 2016. Both focus on the construction of a supermassive particle accelerator called the Loop. The settings of his artwork have formed the basis for the Amazon television drama series Tales From the Loop. All eight episodes of the first season were released simultaneously April 3 on Amazon Prime Video.

Tales From the Loop science fiction drama television series based on Simon Stålenhag’s art book. It explores the mind bending adventures of the people who live above the Loop, a machine built to unlock and explore the mysteries of the universe. The machine is now making possible what was once considered science fiction. It stars Rebecca Hall as Loretta, Tyler Barnhardt as Danny Jansson and Daniel Zohlgadri as Jakob.

I have not read the book, but after watching the first two episodes, it is understandable why Amazon calls it “perfect for fans of E.T. and Stranger Things.” The series is set in the 80s and has that nostalgic look and feel that has recently become popular. With science fiction themes like time traveling, body swapping and robots, it appeals to fans of The Twilight Zone who appreciate mind-bending stories.

According to Amazon, “Tales From the Loop” is the first narrative artbook from acclaimed author and artist Simon Stålenhag about a fictionalized suburban town in the 1980s inhabited by fantastic machines and strange, imaginative beasts. In 1954, the Swedish government ordered the construction of the world’s largest particle accelerator. The facility was complete in 1969, located deep below the pastoral countryside of Mälaröarna. The local population called this marvel of technology The Loop. These are its strange tales. From the same author who wrote the imaginative artbook The Electric State, this “haunting,” (The Verge) “sophisticated sci-fi” (The Nerdist) follows the bizarre stories from otherworldly creatures and is a page-turner readers will not be able to put down.

Lone Star Beer announces new Mexican lager

Rio Jade: The New Taste of Texas is Lone Star Beer’s new Mexican-style lager. Photo: Lone Star Beer, used with permission.

Lone Star Beer announces the latest line in the beloved family of Lone Star Beers: Rio Jade. Rio Jade: The New Taste of Texas, is a Mexican-style lager inspired by the appreciation for Texas’ diverse lands and waterways. The beer will be available throughout Texas starting in late April, with full distribution in May, for a limited time until the end of summer. In light of current events, to assist those who have supported its beer for generations, Lone Star is also launching a goodwill initiative called Keep The Lights On Y’all to help support members of the bar and restaurant community during these uncertain times. (Lone Star Beer, 2020)

Lone Star’s first seasonal beer will inspire all drinking-age generations to be proud of what Texas represents. Like the ever-flowing waters of Texas, Lone Star Beer is here to ensure no one goes thirsty. The new beer, which translates to “River Jade,” was inspired by the love of the land of Texas and the color and design is reflective of the natural beauty found in the waters of Texas and Mexico. From natural pools, to running rivers, everyone can find their oasis in Texas with a Rio Jade in hand.

With an ABV of 4.5%, this crisp, Mexican-style lager is locally brewed in the Hill Country of Austin with the finest ingredients Texas has to offer, including award-winning malt from Blacklands Malt, the first malt house to use Texas-grown barley. The beer has a unique-to-Texas flavor that provides a crisp and refreshing taste with characteristic sweetness of flaked maize balanced with spicy, floral and citrus notes from the hops. Rio Jade pairs perfectly with floating the river, sunbathing at a favorite swimming hole, or watching the sunset from your backyard to practice “social distancing” at this time.

Served in bold turquoise cans, Rio Jade is the first beer label designed by Burnt Nopal Creative Director and Texas-based artist Cruz Ortiz. Rio Jade will be available throughout Texas, with six-packs available at a suggested retail price of $7.99. Beer lovers can use Lone Star’s beer finder to find a store selling nearest to them. Rio Jade will also be available for delivery with Drizly. Lone Star encourages everyone to enjoy the new lager at home during this time.

As a response to the COVID-19 crisis effect on members of the service industry, Lone Star is launching the Keep The Lights On Y’all initiative. With the help of the team at popular Texas Humor, Lone Star has created an exclusive T-shirt inspired by the classic neon lights that grace fine establishments throughout the state as a call to action for Texans to support local bars and restaurants. The shirt serves as a reminder to all Texans to show support and help out those in the service industry while their doors are temporarily closed. One-hundred percent of the profits from the new merchandise will benefit Southern Smoke, a Texas-based nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization that supports the food and beverage community and their suppliers—championed by Houston Chef Chris Shepherd. Keep The Lights On Y’all initiative t-shirts are available online for $25 each.

Lone Star Brewing Co., the makers of Lone Star Beer “The National Beer of Texas” and Lone Star Texas Light Beer, have been proudly brewing beer in Texas since 1884. Since its founding, Lone Star has partnered with local communities throughout the state, supporting Texas-specific charities and organizations. Lone Star Brewing Co. is owned by Pabst Brewing Company, one of the largest independently owned American brewing companies.

“We’re excited to launch the Rio Jade Mexican Style Lager as it gives us a chance to honor our heritage, but also celebrate the Texas of today. The beer perfectly represents what we value at Lone Star – connecting to the land and people of Texas, providing new and refreshing ways to enjoy our great state, and above all else, making delicious tasting beer for Texans everywhere.” – Lone Star Brand Director, Emily Hoyle


The Squeezebox announces Fiesta Packs To Go

Fiesta Packs To Go are available at The Squeezebox. Courtesy photo, used with permission.

Fiesta may have been postponed but San Antonians can still get their Fiesta fix this week. The Squeezebox is announcing “A Night in Old SQZBOX” with Fiesta Packs To Go for customers to enjoy at home. The package options include a 6 pack of beer plus Fiesta food favorites like Chicken on a Stick, Gorditas, Footlong Sausage and Footlong Corndog. The Fiesta foods will be catered by Berna’s Street Food. All packages include a FREE Twang Michelada Kit and Beer Salt. (The Squeezebox, 2020)

Availability will be on a first come, first served basis (pre orders have closed). 100 percent no contact pick-up. Payment only via debit and credit card. Pick ups will be available Thursday, April 23 through Saturday, April 25 from 6p.m. to 10p.m.

Package options include:

Tio’s Fiesta ($25):

  • 6 Pack of Domestic Beer (Choose between Lone Star, Lone Star Light, Bud Light, Miller Lite, or Coors Lite)
  • 2 Fiesta Foods of Your Choice
  • Twang Michelada Kit + Beer Salt

MRKT Square Starter Pack ($30):

  • 6 Pack of Premium Beer (Choose between Dos XX, Modelo, Carta Blanca, Tecate, Tecate Light, or Pacifico. Whiteclaw and Austin Eastciders also available).
  • 2 Fiesta Foods of Your Choice
  • Twang Michelada Kit + Beer Salt

Squeezebox Owner and vinyl DJ Aaron Peña is also offering a Fiesta Spotify music list for folks to enjoy at home with their Fiesta Packs.

The Squeezebox
2806 N St Mary’s St.
San Antonio, TX 78212

Twang Partners Ltd. is a family-owned and operated creator and manufacturer of premium-flavored salts, sugars and seasonings based in Texas. Product lines include Twang-A-Rita, Beer Salt and more designed to easily add flavor to drinks and elevate at-home alcoholic beverages to cocktail bar status. Twang’s products are available throughout the country in 46 states, in grocery stores, convenience stores and online.  Twang Partners has successfully collaborated with some of the top food and beverage companies around the world to create innovative custom blends.

New release: ‘If It Bleeds’ by Stephen King

‘If It Bleeds’ is Stephen King’s new collection of stories. Photo: google

Stephen King is an American author of horror, supernatural fiction, suspense, science fiction and fantasy. His books have sold more than 350 million copies and many of them have been adapted into feature films, miniseries, television shows and comic books. He is best known for “Carrie,” “It,” “The Green Mile” and the Dark Tower series. His new book “If It Bleeds,” a collection of novellas, was released yesterday and is available everywhere books are sold. Watch him read the first chapter on his site.

According to Amazon, from #1 New York Times bestselling author, legendary storyteller, and master of short fiction Stephen King comes an extraordinary collection of four new and compelling novellas: Mr. Harrigan’s Phone, The Life of Chuck, Rat and the title story If It Bleeds; each pulling you into intriguing and frightening places.

The novella is a form King has returned to over and over again in the course of his amazing career. Several have been adapted into iconic films, including “The Body” (Stand By Me) and “Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption” (Shawshank Redemption). Like “Four Past Midnight,” “Different Seasons,” and most recently “Full Dark, No Stars,” “If It Bleeds” is a uniquely satisfying collection of longer short fiction by an incomparably gifted writer.

Pluckers Wing Bar launches family meal packs and Sunday game night

pluckerslogoPluckers Wing Bar recently launched two family meal packs and Sunday Family Trivia Game Night. (Pluckers Wing Bar, 2020)

The family meal packs feed 4 to 6 people, and both include:

  • Appetizer: choice of fried pickles or Holy Mac
  • 15 wings
  • 8 boneless wings
  • 4 side items: waffle fries, tater tots, and 2 orders of mac and cheese
  • FREE brownie with ice cream

In addition to the food, two different drink options are available at the following price points, one with alcohol and one without:

  • $65: choice of gallon beverage – lemonade, iced tea, or strawberry lemonade
  • $100: choice of gallon alcoholic drink – Pluckers Lemonade, Batman, or House Margarita

Additionally, Pluckers has launched a Sunday Family Trivia Game Night on Facebook Live. Join every week online for 3 rounds of kid-friendly trivia and fun physical challenges.

Owners Mark Greenberg, Dave Paul and Sean Greenberg opened their first Pluckers restaurant in Austin in 1995. Over the past 24 years, Pluckers Wing Bar has opened 25 locations, expanding to Baton Rouge, Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, Killeen, San Marcos and San Antonio. Pluckers is known for their signature wings and is consistently recognized as the best sports bar and chicken wing restaurant. They offer guests a fun, laid-back atmosphere where friends, family, and co-workers can enjoy a great meal and watch sports. Pluckers has been named in USA Today’s “Top Ten Wing Restaurants” and ESPN’s “Top 5 Sports Bar in North America,” along with being named one of “Austin’s Best Places to Work 2017” by the Austin Business Journal and Dallas Observer’s “Best Sports Bar.”

Pluckers Wing Bar
14881 IH-35 North
Selma, TX  78154

Pluckers Wing Bar
15651 I-10 W
San Antonio, TX  78249

Bank of America investing in San Antonio

Photo: google

Bank of America recently announced their $100 million contribution to support communities around the world during this time of need. As part of this effort, the bank is working with organizations that are going above and beyond to provide assistance in San Antonio to serve our most vulnerable populations amidst the coronavirus crisis. (San Antonio Food Bank, 2020)

In total, the bank is supporting local nonprofits in San Antonio with $375,000. Of this, $200,000 is going to the San Antonio Food Bank to address food insecurity – an urgent need in the community. In addition to food insecurity, the nonprofits the bank is supporting are focused on homelessness, emergency childcare services and child abuse and neglect.

The six local nonprofits receiving support from Bank of America include the San Antonio Food Bank, Haven for Hope, SA Hope Center, Soldiers’ Angels, ChildSafe and United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County.

The San Antonio Food Bank supports 16 counties in the San Antonio area and a total population of 2.5 million. Historically, the Food Bank serves approximately 60,000 families per week, but demand has recently doubled. This contribution from Bank of America will help the Food Bank purchase food and supplies needed to provide to families.

Haven for Hope is a 22-acre facility providing emergency shelter and transformational services and resources to individuals, families and children experiencing homelessness. The organization will utilize these funds to compensate staff overtime and temp workers, purchase additional critical supplies such as food, sleeping mats and activities for children and increase cleaning and janitorial services during the coronavirus pandemic.

SA Hope Center is a resource center empowering individuals and families in crisis to become sustainable through holistic individualized services, accountability and grace. Bank of America’s support will go directly towards providing food services to the most vulnerable population served by SA Hope Center. The food service center historically services an average of 100 families per week and is currently serving 1,100 families, or over 3,300 people, per week given an increase in demand.

Soldiers’ Angels provides aid and comfort to the men and women of the United States Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, their families and a growing veteran population. Bank of America’s support will help Soldiers’ Angels provide box lunches and mobile food pantries for military families and veterans during this coronavirus pandemic. The organization saw a 40% increase in food requests in March and anticipates this will continue to be the case, if not higher, in April and May.

ChildSafe provides expert care and specialized services to children and adolescents who have been traumatized by abuse, neglect or sexual abuse. The organization has found that child abuse spikes during times of uncertainty and high stress, when financial burdens, interruptions of childcare and school, take its toll on families. With the City of San Antonio’s shelter-in-place order, cases of child abuse in March increased by 18% compared to the same period the year before. ChildSafe will utilize these funds to continue to provide wraparound services to handle the influx of cases they are seeing locally.

The United Way of San Antonio and Bexar County has established a COVID-19 Community Response Fund to help address the immediate and long-term needs of our community. Bank of America’s support will go directly to United Way’s Emergency Childcare Assistance program, which provides childcare for essential workers.

“At Bank of America, supporting our communities and responding to some of the biggest challenges we face in Bexar County is what we do. Many of our local residents and businesses, like others around the world, are hurting during the coronavirus crisis, and by working with leading local nonprofits, we are able to deploy critical resources to immediately address some of their most pressing, basic needs.” – Jessica Miller, Bank of America San Antonio Market President.

Luck Productions presents 4/20 live stream

Courtesy photo, used with permission.

Luck Productions presents “Come And Toke It”—a new variety show and fourth installment of Luck’s ongoing live programming, following Til’ Further Notice, Hello Walls and Prime Cuts. What better way to honor Willie’s favorite holiday, than to celebrate with him on April 20th at 4:20 p.m. in the comfort of your own home. Hosted by the unofficial patron saint of weed himself, Willie Nelson, who will be joined by artists, chefs, comedians and cannabis experts during the 4 hour and 20-minute live-streamed program. (Luck Productions, 2020)

The variety show will include performances by various musical guests, cooking and cocktail demos and weed-centric moments. Stay plugged-in to Luck Reunion social media channels, as the talent will be revealed on a rolling basis. All programming will stream on Luck reunion  and Twitch TV.

Luck and Willie’s Reserve are joining forces to launch the #comeandtokeit #passleft challenge, which is perhaps the world’s only chance to knock smoking with Willie Nelson off their bucket list. Whether you partake or not, this is your chance to live the dream. Luck will be asking fans to post a video of themselves passing whatever toking material of their choice to the left with the hashtags #ComeandTokeIt #PassLeft. One lucky participant will be randomly selected to talk to Willie himself, live on air, to pass left and wish him an early birthday “in person” during the broadcast. More details available on You Tube.

To help kick your at-home party off, viewers in Austin, Dallas, Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York City areas will be able to order from classic cocktail delivery service Sourced Craft Cocktails.  Come And Toke It will also highlight its partnerships with Willie’s Reserve, Last Prisoner Project, El Silencio, and Grav.

Luck Productions is a rogue cultural collective headquartered in Willie Nelson’s Luck, TX. Anchored by its flagship event, the annual Luck Reunion—also dubbed as the “Anti-Coachella” by Fast Company—Luck Productions creates experiences that embrace our past while cultivating new traditions in American roots culture. In addition to the Reunion, Luck Productions has hosted pop-up events including “Luck Mansion” residencies during Nashville’s AmericanaFest; a featured stage activation during Highwater Festival; the “Luck Hotel” content and concert series in Dallas; and the new “Luck Social” supper and song series held in Luck, TX. After the postponement of Luck Reunion 2020, Luck Productions kicked it into high gear with a virtual festival Til’ Further Notice – a live streaming concept that raised upwards $200,000 for participating artists and partnering nonprofits who are heavily impacted by the current disaster.

Don’t forget to tune in for Luck Presents Prime Cuts: a live, cook-along event featuring award-winning chefs and musical guests Fridays at 6p.m. and for Hello Walls: a music-discovery focused mini-series Sunday nights at 8p.m. Past guests on Prime Cuts include award-winning host chef Michael Fojtasek and musical guest Shakey Graves. The first episode of Hello Walls was hosted and curated by Deer Tick’s John McCauley and Langhorne Slim hosted episode two.

“Come and toke it with me on 4/20 at 4:20. There will be music and good times. And, it’s for a good cause.” – Willie Nelson


VIA and San Antonio Food Bank announce partnership

Photo: google

VIA and the San Antonio Food Bank are partnering to help make sure homebound residents do not go hungry during these challenging times. VIA operators are currently delivering meals and supplies prepared by Food Bank staff and volunteers to homes and distribution points Monday through Friday throughout San Antonio. (San Antonio Food Bank, 2020)

Since VIA joined the Food Bank’s mission to “fight hunger and feed hope,” operators have distributed more than 650 food packages to nearly 500 locations throughout the city. VIA has continued to operate transit service in a safe environment as part of its COVID-19 response that includes a fare-relief period for all VIA services through April 30 and safe capacity limits on its buses and vans to help maintain social distancing for passengers and operators.

The San Antonio Food Bank serves an estimated 60,000 individuals each week in one of the largest service areas in Texas. That was before the coronavirus shuttered hundreds of businesses and thousands of jobs, leaving many with little resources and few options.

The immense need for local food assistance became abundantly clear when 10,000 people formed long lines and waited several hours to receive rations from the Food Bank’s popup distribution at Trader’s Village on Thursday, April 9. Volunteers and City staff handed out one million pounds of food that day—just one of several distributions the Food Bank staged last week.

VIA’s collaboration with the Food Bank marks the launch of its VIA Cares Program, an extension of its effort to connect our community by organizing available resources to help make ends meet for neighbors in need. Other VIA Cares initiatives that kicked off this month focus on providing Wi-Fi access for students through a partnership with the City of San Antonio, San Antonio Housing Authority and San Antonio ISD and matching VIA volunteers with opportunities to serve. More about VIA’s crisis response is available online.

VIA will continue to deliver food bank supplies as long as resources are available. If you are home bound and in need of food, please call the San Antonio Food Bank at (210) 431-8326 to pre-register or click the link at the Food Bank’s home page and sign up online.

“So many are suffering and struggling in this new environment of COVID-19. Our partnership with VIA and VIAtrans will ease the hunger pains of seniors and those with disabilities by bringing grocery products and household supplies right to their doorstep. This type of innovation and partnership is San Antonio at its finest.” Eric Cooper, President/CEO of the San Antonio Food Bank