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UT Community Leadership Awards, Archeologist & Winemaker and more

Michael Barnes
mbarnes@statesman.com

SCHOOL 1: UT confers Community Leadership Awards. The grand, somewhat austere Mexican American Cultural Center warmed up for the informally formal occasion on Tuesday. University of Texas President Bill Powers and VP Gregory Vincent spoke thoughtfully and forcefully. Their message: What the community around campus does matters. Major players — including superstar cookbooker Diana Kennedy — showed up to honor Travis County District Clerk Amalia Rodriguez-Mendoza and State Sen. Judith Zaffirini, as well as FuturoFund Austin and the Workers Defense Project. I never get enough of these ceremonies. Not only because the honorees are worthy, but so many storylines open up. (When was the last time we profiled Amalia?)

FOOD 1: Into the world of an Austin sommelier and beverage director. “You want the wine profile without the price.” Paul Ozbirn got it just right. During our interview at Parkside on Tuesday, the man who oversees drinks at Olive and June, Backspace and Parkside — plus chef Shawn Cirkiel’s new, as-of-yet unnamed spot at the Radisson Austin — walked me through his life of curiosity, travel and skateboarding. He also helped with one of life’s enduring questions: How to get the wine you want at a restaurant without breaking the bank. We started by stating our favorite varietal, Italian Nebbiolo from Borolo, and purchased instead an Austrian Zweigelt under the Sattler label. Delicious. And probably a quarter of a Borolo’s price tag. (Expect an extensive profile and report on the process soon.)

FOOD 2: Wine threads its way through archeologist’s life. My story in Wednesday’s Statesman: “The subject of wine winks at Michael Thomas from two sides of the globe. In California, the Austinite makes lush pinot noir, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and syrah under his family’s Wrath label. “More ‘wrath of the gods’ from the Led Zeppelin song, rather than ‘The Grapes of Wrath’” the tall, woolly-haired University of Texas archaeologist jokes. In Italy, Thomas directs the dig of a Roman wine distribution center under the modern town Torre Annunziata. There, in ancient Oplontis, his team has discovered more than 400 amphoras — large, ceramic wine vessels — in a clearinghouse smothered during the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 A.D.” http://shar.es/ICkwl(Jealous of this guy’s life.)

CITY: At 100, Limón clan elder still enjoys a party and still votes. Reported by Juan Castillo in the Statesman: “Eloisa Ojeda Limón, the oldest member of the massive Limón clan of Austin, is celebrating 100 birthdays today, and true to Limón fashion there will be a pachanga. But it won’t be small. When your family tree is 3,000-strong and counting, small isn’t possible. On Friday night, (Nov. 1) more than a few of those family members will pour into an Austin dance hall to congratulate Eloisa. There will be dinner, mariachi serenades and a performance by the iconic, Grammy-winning group, Little Joe y La Familia. It will be a worthy tribute, says her 62-year-old son, Johnny Limón, who should know a thing about a good party. Earlier this month, the Limón clan celebrated its 28th annual family reunion. The reunions are three-day affairs that draw hundreds for an outdoor church service, barbecue and bands, and renewing friendships with other branches of the family tree and with cousins. Lots of cousins.” http://shar.es/ICAMb (Love the Limóns!)

SCHOOL 2: Messy board fight leaves school’s founder on the outs.Khotso Khabele helped build one of Austin’s fastest-growing private schools from the ground up, expanding it from nine students in a rented room in a church to more than 500 at campuses downtown and in South Austin. The Khabele School attracted some of Austin’s biggest names, and it now has a budget of about $6 million. Businessmen — including Whole Foods co-CEO John Mackey and Bobby Epstein, who helped bring Formula 1 to town — bought into Khabele’s vision with major donations. Celebrities such as reality TV star Jesse James and musicians Shawn Colvin and Alejandro Escovedo enrolled their children there. But after a decade of growing the Khabele School and a merger with another private school in town, Khotso Khabele has found himself on the outs, at odds with a new majority on the merged board. Some of Khabele’s critics accuse him, among other things, of charging the nonprofit school exorbitant rent for buildings that he and his wife own.” http://shar.es/ICyJz (Messy to say the least for one of Austin’s most prominent families.)