May 25, 2006

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Got milk?

Water, water everywhere
Exploring the joys of Adamís ale
By Tim Protzman†tprotzman@sbcglobal.net

In the late 1960s my father forced me to play sports. It wasnít a traumatic event like in The Great Santini; he just wanted me off the couch. I chose wrestling. It got me out of the house on Saturdays, so I didnít have to do yard work. Then a miracle occurred. Richard, my neighborhood nemesis, moved and a cool family moved in. They were athletic and smart. The kind of smart that got my cynicism. The thing that most attracted me was the sister, but the guys had a certain charisma that was infectious. So infectious they had me chasing after them like a puppy, even when they went to football practice.

Iíve never loved football. I donít hate it, but I prefer watching a good baseball game. And now, close to 50, I like tennis and hiking, which are safer and easier. But back then, when Tom and Jack reported for the first day of pre-season practice I was with them.

Practice began at 9 a.m. sharp. It ran until noon. Everyone left and went home for lunch but had to be back at 4 p.m. This went on for two weeks. It had its own special name that even now, 35 years hence, strikes a note of terror in gut. It was called double sessions.

The first morning practice was easy. We got weighed, got our uniforms and lockers and we taped our names on our helmets with white adhesive tape. In my 14 years of life Iíd never seen as much white adhesive tape as I did during football. They used it for everything. Taping sprains, piecing together ripped jerseys and, on the small guys, taping the hand-me-down football pants up.

Having made it through the morning session I was more confident about the afternoon. Big mistake. It was hot. The practice field was dusty. The coaches were merciless. We ran. We sweated. We tackled. We sweated. We jumped and we sweated. Soon we were begging for water. But there was none on the field. Then, halfway through the grueling practice, the assistant coach came out with three red plastic buckets of water and a sleeve of bathroom-sized Dixie Cups. We broke ranks and ran toward the bucket. The coach exploded! He cussed us out. He hadnít given us permission to drink! And he kicked the buckets over.

Today it would be called abuse by the hordes of wussy parents intent on air-bagging their kidsí lives. But we took it for what it was. Coach was in charge. Coach wanted control. And Coach was the bad guy and we had to band together as a team to survive. But for the time being we were running punishment laps. And begging for water like French Foreign Legion recruits.

Finally, Coach relented and three more buckets came out. Never had water tasted so good. The slightly dusty water with the sprigs of dried grass floating in it was the most delicious thing I ever drank.

But of course water can also cause harm, like it did recently. I had a scare a few years ago during a winter storm trying to cross a flooded road in a tidal marsh. The water was deceptively calm and shallow-looking. And it wasnít the wind as much as the water that laid the Gulf Coast low.

But like that cool bucket on a hot day, water can be delicious.

The best water I ever tasted was from Brunswick Springs, Vt. Thatís because itís an old Indian spring with six sources. Itís supposed to be haunted by an Indian maiden, but that doesnít affect the water. Itís clean, crisp with the taste of limestone and a hard finish with unscented talcum powder accents.

Recently, we tasted several bottled waters, both sparkling and still. We tried them alone and with Johnny Walker Black Label Scotch and Grey Goose Vodka. We used an 8-oz old-fashioned glass and we used one measured jigger of liquor when we drank it as a mixer.

Acqua Panna Spring Water from Tuscany, $3.29: Pleasant, soft taste with a hint of sage. Good with the scotch, better with the vodka, but not as minerally as Iíd want to drink on my own.

Fiji Natural Artesian Water, $2.89: I thought it might have a salty taste but it was a good thirst-quencher with some calcium backbone. From deep Pacific aquifers.

Naya Sparkling, $2.59: Yummy with the Johnny, the perfect scotch and soda mixer.

Calistoga Sparkling, $2.88: Got radical with this one and had it with Goose, homemade lemonade and a splash of fresh strawberry juice. Exquisite. Good by itself too. From Napa!

Deer Park & Poland Springs, about $1.99: Nice and reliable to drink, good with the scotch and Haley thought it brought out the vanilla undertones in the vodka.

Zephyrhills Natural Spring Water, $1.89: Floridian and it tastes it. Too chalky, but OK to wash your poodle in.

Since one cannot live by water alone, here are this weekís wines:

Kunde Estate 2003 Merlot, $14.99. Like driving one of them fancy Hyundai: sleek, pretty but a little under-powered. From Sonoma.

Cantina di Montefiascone Secco Est! Est! Est!, $18.99. This one has a kitschy little story behind it about a bishop with an obscene name and his Dark Ages trip to Rome. Three bottles came as samples and two were alright, but this one was a superbly rich and unique dry white wine made from the trebbiano and malvasia grapes in the province of Lazio. Wonderful with cheese and food with a slight honeysuckle aroma and hints of pineapple on the tongue. Make sure itís the Secco, which means dry.

Clos Du Val 2004 Pinot Noir, $25.99. From Napa. This just goes to show you that a great vineyard is not the master of all grapes. Thin and flavorless. Stick with the merlot.

Flora Springs 2003 Trilogy $54.49. Iím not a big fan of the Trilogy, meritage-style wines, preferring the Flora Springs Cabernet Sauvignon. But this wine was huge. Dynamite! Juicy plum flavors, raisin hints (we call that cassis), inky berries, chocolate and tobacco. The previous Flora Springs Trilogyís Iíve tasted have been much less moving. Maybe itís because this oneís 70 percent Cab and the 2002 was 50 percent? One of the top four wines Iíve tasted this year, (and you know what a lush I am). Thank you Lorraine, for the sample bottle, or I would have passed this treasure by!.

Tell Tim your wine stories. You can reach him at tprotzman@sbcglobal.net.


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


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