Throw a dart and there’s wine
Go around the world in wine; it’s worth the trip
By Tim Protzman firstname.lastname@example.org
Some days wine talk flies out of my mouth like actor’s spittle at a Shakespeare Fest.
Other times, I wish I were pillow tester or had some other low-impact occupation. Does anyone need a Director of Looking Out the Windows in their organization? It’s a sad fact that there are times I’m too lazy even to drink wine. Maybe it’s just spring fever.
To charge my creative battery I read the newspaper. Today, there’s a cyclone in Australia. A cyclone is the South Pacific and Indian Ocean’s name for a hurricane. In the Northern Pacific it’s called a typhoon.
Being the map-oriented person that I am, I looked up Queensland, one of the six Australian states and the one in the path of Cyclone Larry. It’s in the northern part of the country I wonder if they make any wine there? I know the answer beforehand. Of course there are wineries there. Even in a state like our Florida, there’s someone making some abominable glop out of oranges and calling it wine.
Gee, I sound as bitter as a glass of Gator River Grapefruit Wine.
Actually, Florida has 21 wineries, and some produce decent wine. Local grape varieties like Blanc du Bois, which much “depends on the kindness of strangers,” and Stover tickle my tasting bone. They’re made to resist heat and tropical diseases like the dreaded Pierce’s Disease. Schnebley Redland’s Winery south of Miami goes totally native and makes grapeless wines from passion fruit, guava, mango and lychee. These sound tasty in a summer way, over ice with a splash of sparkling water.
Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt in the Australian cyclone, but with 106 wineries located on the coastal plain I’m sure some sustained some damage. I’ve never had any wine from Queensland, which is overshadowed in production by Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia, Western Australia and even Tasmania, which has 89 wineries. The only state in Australia without an overabundance of wineries isn’t even a state. With an area bigger than Texas and a population of only 201,000, this territory, which could fit 35 Tasmanias inside, doesn’t even qualify for statehood. It has only one winery. It used to have one in the Red Centre, which is quite a tourist region with its miles of sun-baked red clay and the sacred Ayres Rock rising from the flat desert plain, but it closed. Now it’s the Milky Way Café, an outdoor planetarium that uses lasers to point out the constellations and tells the Aboriginal legends of their creation. It’s on the site of the former Chateau Hornsby, which wasn’t named for St. Louis Cardinals great Roger Hornsby or Bruce Hornsby, the singer.
The only drawback on the Milky Way Café is their menu promises superb “coffee and cake, while you view the stars that twinkle brilliantly in the blackest night you’ve ever seen.” Stars, yes. Cake and coffee? I’ll pass on that, especially at $30 Australian dollars a person, which comes out to $21.30 US.
The other winery in the Northern Territory is the Red Centre Farm, which is also known as Shatto Mango. They make a mango wine, a riesling-chardonnay blend and a ruby cabernet and shiraz blend. Ruby cabernet is a Californian hybrid cross of the finicky cabernet sauvignon grape and the more heat-tolerant carignan grape. It was popular in the 1960s jug wines, but has faded from the scene. From the Internet webcam Red Centre Farm has all the charm of a logging camp. It’s probably one winery I’d have to be paid to visit and it’s just as easy to rent the 1990s cult film Priscilla, Queen of the Desert as to trek the hundred miles north from Alice Springs for a glass of fortified port in a blazing hot tin-roofed hut.
The wine surprise of the week is something I tasted at a baby shower. The shower had a soul food, South American theme, except for dessert, which was an Italian rum cake. The wine was something I probably wouldn’t have purchased myself, but since it was open I poured myself a glass. Fruit with low tannins, supple and rich on the tongue and a finish that wasn’t watery or shy. It wasn’t a Grand Cru, but it was so much better than I anticipated. And that’s why I drink wine — for the discoveries.
It was a 2004 Fetzer Valley Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon, $8.99. A great everyday wine that presents well on first sip, displays ripe plum and grape flavors and finishes strong with the perfect amount of tannins. Another great thing about this wine was that it went well with the Bahamas Mamas the host was serving up. They’re a delicious tropical punch made from,1 part white rum, 1 part Malibu coconut rum, 3 parts orange juice, 1 part pineapple juice and a splash of grenadine, shaken and served over ice.
Who says you can’t get a second growth for under $20? Well, I do, but you can get their second label, Chevalier de Rauzan-Gassies, for $18.49. This is a pretty darn good Margaux for the price. Margaux is an area in Bordeaux and they use a little more merlot than the other communes down river. This wine had structure, lacked real depth, but beat out most American wines of the same price. This was the 2000 vintage and it was exceptional. If you just got your tax refund try Chateau Rauzan-Gassies or its larger neighbor, Chateau Rauzan-Segla. The 2000s will set you back about $85 if you can find them.
2004 Oyster Bay Pinot Noir, $16.99. from Marlborough, New Zealand on the northern part of the South Islandis very fruity in an cloying way at first, but finishes like a Premier Cru Burgundy with the ammonia and tannins balanced just right.
2001 Hagafen Napa Valley Syrah, $15.99. “It’s Kosher” I was told by the clerk. That means the vines are at least four years old, nothing else is grown in the vineyard but grapes, and the wine is made from kosher materials (such as egg whites used in fining) and handled only by observant Jews. The result was a little magical. The wine was subdued and elegant, with cinnamon, quince and cherry flavors. It seemed a bit more natural, or maybe it was my sense of a spirituality.
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