Riddles In Concrete.

Also done “on the road” using my older drawing board.

I’m going to start off talking about the art today. The piece above is an “homage” composition, to a piece of art by Sheldon Moldoff that was done for the owner of Comics Ink, and hung on the wall there for decades. When I stayed at my friend’s Napa home, and saw it hanging in the guest house where I was staying, it demanded an “homage.” It also seemed appropriate because a big part of the reason for the whole “Space Plot” of the summer is Marvel’s current editorial choice, which I am not all that fond of. That would be “Secret Empire.”

Marvel’s next Big Thing is “Marvel: Legacy”, which is intended to remind fans of what they “love about Marvel Comics.” No joke, that was in the press release. That comes in a few months, and one of the key things driving the Event are the covers, which are all “Homage Covers,” referencing famous past Marvel Comics Covers in their composition. Since I am OVER “Secret Empire,” I got the jump on homage compositions here.

So…obviously that Vulcanoid Warrior has a Silver Age Style Challenge for Cap. She has to determine the purpose of that concrete case, and I guess write it down on that piece of paper? Not so sure about that, really. I’m also not so sure how that Smug Guy is going to attack the Enterprise in orbit…presumably, these guys on this desert planet no longer have their own spacecraft, and even if they did, they wouldn’t have warp power. Maybe some superweapon on the planet? I’m not too concerned about it, really.

The Silver Age Style Challenge is fun though. There used to be whole issues where Superman had to do some kind of scavenger hunt, or solve some kind of riddle, all to deal with a kind of arbitrary threat that you could just solve with your Silver Age Superpowers. That’s what is going on here, although I’m assuming Cap and Applejack are not going to play along like Superman would. Probably break open the concrete case, and see if that reveals its purpose. If not…oh, well.

The concrete case is based on an actual thing, by the way. When I went to the Wine Group Shareholders Meeting (fancy!), the wine makers were all excited about these new concrete tanks they had gotten. One guy was SUPER excited, and another mentioned that he had a “tilt up” tank set up. All of these guys assumed that you knew what the @#$% you would use concrete tanks for, and I just plain DID NOT.

In the question and answer segment, a lot of people were asking complicated sounding shareholder questions. Dividends, reporting to shareholders, future investments….it all went over my head. I really wanted to know about those concrete tanks though, so I asked the question. Apparently, the wine makers were happy to get it, and I became an instant celebrity…since NO ONE ELSE had a @#$%ing clue as to why you would want concrete tanks, and what they did.

So, here it is. For centuries, European vintners used monstrous concrete tanks to ferment and store their wines, a technique used in California’s oldest wineries before Prohibition. Prohibition caused most wineries to shut down, and when the state’s wine industry blossomed in the 1970’s and 1980’s, many wineries turned to stainless steel. Now, concrete is making a comeback. North Coast wineries are trying an old technique in a new way, installing small, portly concrete tanks, instead of the supergiant ones.

I got to see them, and when I say small…the cylindrical concrete tanks hold 1082 GALLONS of wine. That’s apparently small by the standards of the industry, but I could SWIM in that tank. Still…they are small and convenient compared to the Old School Concrete fermentation tanks. Some of the cement structures installed by early California wineries are as large as a building, spanning 20 feet by 20 feet.

In the 1970’s and 80’s, when the California wine industry was growing FAST, wineries began turning to stainless steel fermentation tanks, which were much easier to clean. Around Sonoma Valley, some of those blocky former concrete tanks have been transformed into shops or winery rooms…that’s how big the Old School Concrete Tanks were.

The concrete tanks made today are different from the previous generation, beside the obvious reduction in size. obviously, they’re generally smaller, and the tanks made by Sonoma Cast Stone are porous, allowing tiny amounts of oxygen to gradually seep into the tank during fermentation. Because the egg-shaped tanks are smaller at the top, the oxygen bubbles that rise during fermentation are pressured to move more quickly. That creates a liquid current within the tank, so the wine is constantly moving. That is a subtle advantage to the process, keeping the fluid in motion.

So…there you have it. Concrete fermentation tanks, in book report form. Hope that you enjoyed it, Gentle Readers.

Artistically…Cap and the Enterprise will be leaving this planet pretty soon…I’ve only a couple of things left in the setting to deal with, and I’m kind of tired of these Vulcanoid dissidents. There’s a whole lot more of Space to be punched, or thrown, or even suplexed.

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