March 16, 2006


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Honoring the dead soldiers
Sometimes to only way to pay homage is to hide them
By Tim Protzman†

High on my list of procrastinated things is recycling empty beer, soda and wine containers.

The soda containers, and thereís not a lot of them, seem to mirror an extra-exotic taste. High-energy drinks, club sodas and some really weird stuff like Dr. Brownís Cel-Ray Soda, which tastes like celery seeds made into a weak tea and then carbonated, pop out among the wine and beer empties. These are easily disposed of in the regular trash. The sanitation engineers happily fling them into the truck once theyíre safely ensconced inside the black Hefty Handle Tie bag. The beer empties are easy to handle, too; they just hop back into the little cardboard six-pack holders they came in and the recycling engineers scoop them up into the truck. I have great respect for these people. They do an important job, and get up at 4:30 in the morning to begin their day. I have great respect for anyone who gets up at 4:30 a.m.

The wine bottles are more of a problem. The standard plastic recycling bin only holds 14 of these suckers. Sometimes I make the Wednesday recycling date. Since I feel the need to explain all the wine bottles, I often leave copies of the newspaper, coyly opened to my article, which I circle in glitter ink, so the sanitation engineers know Iím a wine critic, not a wino. Lately, Iíve been taking my bottles for a ride. I pack them into little two- and three-bottle packets, discreetly covered in a brown paper bag and separated by cardboard to prevent clinking, and drive them around to rest stops, service stations and anywhere thereís an open trash can. I avoid ones posted with signs that prohibit household trash. I donít want to break the law, just clear some space on the sofa. Once, when I received some unsolicited wine via the large brown shipping company, I sent them back to the sender, empty. It was a desperate ploy, but hey, donít send me something called ďChicken Bone ChardonnayĒ if you donít want the empties back. And it only cost me $9.87!

Last Sunday, I decided to take a ride. I got up at 4:30 a.m. and had great respect for myself. I confronted my empties head on as I removed a Miller Lite Pony Bottle from the Pyrex pot section of my Mr. Coffee. I assembled four old-fashioned brown paper bags tucked into the plastic kind. (I can never decide on paper or plastic) and began sorting.

Then I filled the car, backseat first, and then the trunk with the empties. They looked a bit like a Chinese food delivery, because I stapled the bags shut in a fit of OCD.

My first stop was my office. Here, in the early morning light, I tucked my first package into our dumpster. I laid to rest: an empty bottle of 2002 Chateau Souverain Chardonnay, $14.99, a tropicalflavored white from Sonoma with hints of pineapple and caramel and a bit of oak that gives it a tongue depressor finish; and a spent six pack of Harpoon UFO Hefeweizen, $7.99, this was a treat to drink and a half pint of Jenkins Vodka, which gave itís life for some Sea Breezes ó 2 oz vodka, 1 oz cranberry juice and 2 oz grapefruit juice..

Hefeweizen means yeast (hefe) and wheat (weizen). Itís cloudy with leftover yeast sediment and crisp and has a lemony, chamomile tea taste that showcases the hops. The UFO mean Unfiltered Offering which preserves the artisanal taste of this beer.

Stop #2 ó The Scenic Overlook
I felt guilty about this one but they had such inviting trash cans ó black wrought iron covered the aluminum can ó and it overlooked a little estuary. It was so pretty that I left behind my foreign pack: Santa Anastasia 2002 Passomaggio from Sicily, $17.99, a deeply layered blend of Nero díAvola 80 percent and Merlot 20 percent from the vineyards of an old abbey on the north coast of Sicily, dry, with smoky currant flavors; 1998 Chapoutier Cote Rotie, $39.99, a syrah wine that was disappointing, very tannic and astringent with the typical green olive flavors, perhaps it was too young and feisty to drink; 2003 Navarro Correas Malbec, $8.99, from Mendoza, Argentina, a good everyday wine that tastes of the regionís soil, not of a factory, but still lacks the much-sought-after structure.

Stop # 3 ó The Fast Food Outlet
I got rid of a six-pack and three wine bottles here. I bought a burger and backed up near a trash can.

Magic Hat St. Gootz Beer, $8.99, great beer, confusing Web site. This had a caramel edge to it that revealed a layered bitterness that was refreshing and pleasing all at once.

2003 Concannon Central Coast Merlot, $7.49, a pleasing everyday wine with fruit and a hint of structure that far outlives its price.

2003 Wild Horse Zinfandel and 2003 Syrah, $17.99, these wines from the Paso Robles AVA were shipped to me for free. They totally exceeded my expectations. Deep, rich with layers of flavor. Grape jelly, cinnamon and chocolate. Devoid of any chemical taste.

Across the street at a Taco Bell I tossed out an empty pint bottle of Don Julio Blanco 100 percent Agave Tequila, $19.99, the smoothest liquor Iíve ever had.

Stop # 4:The Town Square
It just seemed right to leave one empty package for the small town municipal workers. I have great respect for them and hope that my well-bundled bunch of empties isnít too heavy and affords a modicum of job security. It contained the following: a 12-pack of Samuel Adams Black Lager, $13.49, Espresso-like with herbs and a clean rile of hop flavors running through it. Even though itís a dark beer, it drinks light and easy and you donít feel like youíve eaten a plate of fried dough.

2003 Voyager Estate Margaret River Cabernet/Merlot, $23.99. Not Bordeaux, but not Barossa Valley. Gentle, understated and a definite finish make this Australian blend from the cooler West Coast a real ambassador of Australian craftsmanship and finesse.

2004 Walnut Crest Merlot, $6.49, 1.5 liter. Itís a steal on price and as long as youíre not looking for a First (or Second or ThirdÖetc.) Growth taste, itís pleasant and nice. Add brandy, orange and grapefruit juice and fruit slices and it makes a yummy sangria.

Next week Iíll be looking for either an Outback Steakhouse or Fox Network affiliateís (Rupert Murdochís News Corp.) dumpster suitable for disposing of my empty 2002 Rosemount Balmoral Estate Syrah. This McLaren Vale wine is deeply structured with raisins, olives and smoked peat moss flavors that rival any Rhone producer, with a gunmetal finish that surprises and dissipates leaving one wanting more. At $39.99 you canít just toss it in the trash.

Tell Tim your wine stories. You can reach him at

Comments?†Thoughts? Discuss this article and more at

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