First Drive: 2016 Nissan Maxima

I’ve been waiting for this one for a while. Several decades ago the Nissan Maxima was one of the few sedans you would think of apart from the German cars when someone mentioned they really wanted a sport sedan. Fortunately for other car brands that has changed in the years since, but for Nissan it puts more pressure to get the new Maxima right in today’s more competitive environment.

The most recent generation Maximas weren’t bad but there wasn’t much that made the vehicles stand out. With the all-new 2016 Maxima we now have the eighth generation and Nissan appears to have another winner on its hands.


It all starts with the exterior design, which you can see from the photos is impressive from all angles. I was curious as to what Nissan would do with the front grille of the Maxima after seeing the more cautious designs for the front of the Altima and the Sentra. Instead we see a more distinctive, unique and ambitious “V-Motion” front grille that’s similar to what we saw with the Rogue. At first I wasn’t sure if I liked it, but as our day went on it started to grow on me. It works with the rest of the vehicle which is beautifully designed and it fits the more aggressive image of the Maxima.

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Burning nitro with Patron Funny Car driver Alexis DeJoria


To some people, Alexis DeJoria is the wife of “Moster Garage” star Jesse James. To others, she is the daughter of Jean-Paul DeJoria, billionaire businessman and co-founder of Paul Mitchell hair products and the Patron Spirits Company. But on the NHRA Mello Yello circuit, Alexis DeJoria is one of the best Funny Car drivers on the tour.

We spent two days with Alexis and her team from Kalitta Motorsports at the Kansas Nationals at Heartland Park in Topeka, and inadvertently found ourselves in the middle of the most exciting weekend in the history of the sport.

The day before we arrived, during the second day of qualifying, DeJoria ran the best run of her career, an Elapsed Time (ET) of 3.994.

During the weekend, there were a total of 15 three-second runs. There were 19 three-second runs in the entire 2014 season.

In this video, Alexis talks about how her car accelerates faster than anything on earth (yes, even a fighter jet), how she got into racing, and her career-defining victory in the 2014 NHRA U.S. Nationals, it’s 60th anniversary, a feat akin to winning the Super Bowl.

While ET (the time it takes the car to get from the starting line to finish line) determines qualifying order, it is not as important on race day.

On race days, the car that crosses the finish line first wins, regardless of ET. So the quicker car might not be the winning car, because that driver may have left the starting line slower.


For any driver, a time in the low fours is considered a successful run. But in Kansas on this weekend, the perfect storm of weather conditions and high performance vehicles combined for the most sub-four runs in one weekend, ever.

So what does that even mean? Each run, or “pass” is 1,000 feet. Going a thousand feet in under four seconds means the cars are travelling at speeds in the 300-315 MPH range. Alexis’ car goes from a complete standstill to 100 MPH in less than one second.

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Frei Brothers offers solid Sonoma County drinking

Frei Brothers is a label that’s probably familiar to many wine consumers. Their offerings are produced in sizeable quantities and available all over the country in all sorts of retailers. It had been a while since I’d actually consumed any of their wines though, so I was happy to dive back in and see what they have going on. What I found are wines reflective of their Sonoma County origins, true to their varietal, widely available and well-priced. What’s not to like? Here’s a closer look at the trio I tasted.


Frei Brothers Reserve 2012 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir ($27)

This offering is 100 percent Pinot Noir and entirely Russian River Valley fruit. Fermentation took place in a temperature-controlled environment. Barrel aging was accomplished over nine months in a combination of new and used French and American oak. The black cherry hue of this Pinot Noir gives it a darker color than average. The aromas wafting from the nose are similarly dark and ever so slightly brooding. Black and red cherry flavors dominate the palate with bits of plum and strawberry interspersed as well. Cinnamon, bay leaf, mushroom and hints of cigar box are all part of the above-average finish. This is a solid choice for an everyday Pinot Noir. It’s got a little more heft than the average Pinot, but not so much to distract.

Frei Brothers Reserve 2013 Russian River Valley Chardonnay ($20)

This wine is predominately Chardonnay (99 percent), with a touch of other mixed whites blended in (1 percent). All of the fruit came from the Russian River Valley. Fermentation occurred in a combination of barrel and stainless steel using wild yeasts. This textbook example of Russian River Valley Chardonnay shows off bits of toasted vanilla and white fruit aromas in a welcoming nose. The palate is stuffed with orchard fruits, baker’s spices and a lush mouthfeel that fills the mouth and coats the senses. Toasted hazelnut, crème fraiche and continued apple and pear flavors dominate the above-average finish. This is a solid example of Chardonnay for the money. It offers plenty of fruit and reasonable complexity.


Frei Brothers Reserve 2012 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon ($27)

In addition to Cabernet Sauvignon (83 percent), some Merlot (13 percent) and Petite Sirah (4 percent) were blended in. All of the fruit was grown in Alexander Valley. After temperature-controlled fermentation it was aged in a combination of new and used French and American oak. Blackberry and earth aromas interspersed with bits of vanilla leap from the heady nose of this Cabernet Sauvignon. The palate is studded with juicy, dark fruit flavors such as black plum, raspberry and hints of smoke. Earth, black teas, pepper and continued dark fruit flavors are all in play on the finish which has terrific length. This Cabernet has soft tannins and good acid. It would be an excellent match for a burger or cheesesteak.

Store shelves are filled with a dizzying array of wines. That’s particularly true when you look at offerings that are widely available and made in fairly large quantities. We need something to help us distinguish one offering from another. In this case these wines set themselves apart because they do taste like their place of origin, Sonoma County and the grape they were each predominately produced from. All that, and they’re reasonably priced. Check them out!

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Getting that man cave look

flat screen TV

Every man needs a “man cave.” It’s the perfect place for a guy to get time away from the women in his life. Whether you want alone time in your “man cave,” or you’re having the guys over, there are a few things that you must have in order to have the perfect men’s environment where you can enjoy guy time.

Every “man cave” needs to have a look, a look that speaks about the man that will spend his precious time there. When setting up a “man cave,” it is important to have a good feel in the atmosphere. Decor will depend on your tastes, from sports to the outdoors.

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Italy’s Alto Adige, The Home of Delicious Pinot Bianco

Pinot Bianco (or Pinot Blanc) is one of those grapes that falls through the cracks for the vast majority of wine lovers. That’s a real shame, because when it’s grown in a region favorable to its characteristics and treated well it can produce distinct, lovely wines that are a tremendous match for appropriate foods. One of the regions that can and does produce its fair share of excellent Pinot Bianco is Italy’s Alto Adige. This Northern Italian region has the climate and soils that allow this grape to prosper. I recently tasted through some current releases and found three that really spoke volumes to me. So put aside those bottles of Chardonnay (at least for a moment) and dig into an alternative white!


Kellerei Kaltern Caldaro “Vial” I 2012 Pinot Bianco – This offering is 100 percent Pinot Bianco. The fruit was sourced from a vineyard that sits at the base of the Mendel Mountains. Fermentation took place over an extended period of time in a temperature-controlled environment. Five months of aging on the lees followed, prior to filtration and bottling. This wine has a suggested retail price of $13. Ebullient White flower aromas leap from the nose here; gentle wisps of linseed oil offer a lovely counterpoint. Anjou and Bartlett pear flavors fill the appealing palate, along with fleshy, yellow melon characteristics. A mélange of orange, tangerine, minerals, ruby grapefruit and toasted walnut round out the above-average finish, which is also crisp, refreshing and studded with racy acid.

Castel Sallegg “Prey” 2013 Pinot Bianco – The grapes for this wine were sourced at a site that sits 550 meters above sea level. It’s 100 percent Pinot Bianco and comprised of numerous clones. Fermentation occurred in a cool, temperature-controlled environment. It has a suggested retail price of $13. White peach aromas are followed by morsels of fresh flowers on the nose. A strong Granny Smith apple flavor runs through the core of this wine, joined by papaya along with white pepper. A hint of mesquite honey marks the solid finish. This wine would excel paired with roasted pork loin and a side of apple compote.


Cantina Terlano 2011 “Vorberg” Riserva Pinot Bianco – The fruit for this wine was sourced from a vineyard sitting between 350 and 900 meters above sea level. 1993 was the first year this particular wine was produced. It has a suggested retail price of $23. Golden Delicious apple aromas practically explode from the nose of this Riserva. Ripe yellow melon, apple, pear, bits of tropical fruit and a dollop of spices are each part of a palate that is dense, layered and generous in its wide ranging flavors and overall depth. Crème Fraiche, wet limestone, and pepper spice are all part of the finish, which is memorably long, persistent and mineral driven. This wine can be enjoyed now but it will easily age well for the next decade. If you’re looking for proof that Pinot Bianco can produce knockout wines with longevity, here’s the only exhibit you’ll have to enter into evidence.

Winter is here and everyone is drinking lots of reds; I know I am too. But sometimes you need a break from those to enjoy something different, and these three Pinot Biancos provide just that. They’re delicious and pair well with a variety of lighter foods; serve them to your guests with an opening cheese course or a beet salad as a couple of options. Instead of sparkling wine with brunch, these wines would be fantastic alternatives — each one would absolutely kill with Eggs Florentine. If you haven’t had Pinot Bianco before, what are you waiting for? You can’t drink Chardonnay every day. If you’re already a fan, add these three to your to drink list. You certainly won’t be disappointed and you may find a new favorite to share with friends. And ultimately, isn’t that what it’s all about?

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