February 9, 2006

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A dog-drink-dog world
Pairing wine with pooches a walk in the park

By Tim Protzman  tprotzman@hotmail.com 

Last week I dragged a friend to a Wine Expo. This week I paid her back by going to a dog show, as her guest.
She’s a member of W.A.G. (We Adopt Greyhounds). They take older racing dogs and bring them into the first real home they’ve ever known. She’s had four dogs from W.A.G, and they’ve all been great pets, especially Geri. The only drawback is she had to install a mechanical rabbit around the perimeter of her house. This gets the dogs up and out in the morning.

The dog show we attended was put on by a small kennel club and was nothing like the gigantic Westminster Kennel Club event held at Madison Square Garden. Some of the dogs were mutts, or mixed breeds to be more politically correct. And about halfway through the show, which really wasn’t a show where the dogs run around a ring and compete – it was more like a dog judging competition at a country fair — I noticed that some of the dogs really did look like their owners.

In an effort to alleviate boredom (really, how many pooches can one pet before it gets old?), I started to pair the breeds and their owners with, what else, wine. It was actually fun. That cute little Pekanese and her perky owner were total shiraz bait. And what could make a wiener dog owner smile more than a nice Riesling? So, without any scientific input, here’s a list of doggies and the wines that go with them.

The Beagle: A small hunting dog that was once the standard American pet. Many British nobles favored riding to the hounds with beagles. And Snoopy is a beagle. Beagle owners like a nice white so I recommend Bogle Vineyards Chardonnay, $9.99. Bogle is a small family-owned vineyard south of Sacramento. They cultivate 1,200 acres and, until 1967, they grew lettuce on their farm. Something about six generations of working the land must instill the ability to raise a bumper crop, because Bogle makes a decent wine.

They promote barrel and malolactic fermentation, which gives flavor and reduces one type of nasty acid. They let the wine rest on its lies, which are the dead yeasts, to give it that creamy, malty, toasty, natural flavor.
The Collie: This shaggy TV star dog can’t actually run home and call OSHA because Timmie fell down the well. But it’s really good at keeping sheep together in a pack. There are tons of sheep in Australia, so the collie and its owner would love a nice shiraz. Try Greg Norman’s Limestone Coast Shiraz, $12.99. It’s a little fruity but, hey, a collie’s a little hairy. They’ll go perfectly together.

The Retrievers: Majestic and once limited to people who put those MV stickers on their Volvos. Retrievers are gentle and playful. They love Frisbees and swimming. Hunters train them to retrieve fallen waterfowl gently in their mouths and deposit them at their masters’ feet. Duck and Burgundy go well together so for all those Golden and Labrador owners let’s open a nice Pinot Noir. For a big hearty American dog, try a big hearty pinot from Oregon’s Willamette Valley. 2004 R. Stuart Big Fire Pinot Noir, $16.99 — I have no idea what the big fire means, but the wine is pretty good.

The Doberman: A mean-looking dog that can be as cuddly as a llama or as nasty as your menopausal boss with a hangover. Sort of like the French. And even though this dog’s German, I’ll suggest a French number to go with its disposition. A great big expensive Bordeaux to complement a great big expensive dog — Chateau de Pez St Estephe, $31.99. Or Chablis Valmur Domaine William Fevre Grand Cru, $42.99, which is not a Bordeaux, but a Doberman-sized white wine from the Chablis region. With 100 percent chardonnay grapes, it’s like nothing you’ve tasted before.

The Shih Tzu: More fun to say than it is to type out. A tiny Chinese dog that may have been a gift from the emperor of Byzantium. Long flowing hair and cuddly soft, this dog was bred as a pet, not a working dog, which was rare in the olden days. I’d pair it with a soft sauvignon blanc that had some fruit to it but is clean enough to drink without food. Tohu Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough New Zealand is a structured white with several taste layers and a pleasant finish with little aftertaste. It’s grown by one of the only Maori-owned companies in the New Zealand wine trade and has a soft, silky fragrance and texture. $13.99

The Pit Bull: This game dog gets its name from the fighting pits that it used to perform in. The English were very fond of bull baiting, dog fighting, cock fighting and having pit bulls dispatch rats in a stadium-like pit for entertainment. It’s also the mascot of Urban Contemporary culture so I’d pair it with Roederer Cristal Champagne. Louis Roederer created Cristal in 1876 for the Czar of Russia. It uses chardonnay and pinot noir grapes from the house’s 10 best vineyards to create this ultimate bubbly. The price is over $150 per bottle.

Comments? Thoughts? Discuss this article and more at hippoflea.com





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