July 13, 2006

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Got milk?

Nice day for a white wedding
Wine snobbery trumped by screw-top champagne
By Tim Protzman tprotzman@sbcglobal.net

There’s this TV sitcom on Fox or FX called, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. It’s about four guys and a woman who own a bar. It’s a neighborhood bar and it’s really plain.

The characters are a little dysfunctional but very realistic, especially since I know Kevin.

Kevin got married last week, out of the blue. The last time I saw him he was doing tequila shooters in this little Mexican restaurant. The waiter poured a half shot of booze, added 7-Up, covered the glass with a bar rag and slammed it down on the table, which produced a foamy head. Then we knocked it back. That was three years ago. Kevin and I used to work together at a large insurance company. It was a big company and it was fun. Kevin left first, heading to an Internet consulting group. I left second and Lauren stayed. She’s still there. I had watched a few episodes of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia before I got a phone call from Lauren asking me to accompany her to Kevin’s wedding. He was marrying his new girlfriend, Leigh Ann. The last time I saw him he was with Paula. Between the two of them they smoked like a carton of cigarettes a day. I see Lauren about four times a year. She stays in touch with Kevin, I don’t. Kevin’s not his real name. It’s one of the characters on It’s Always Sunny in Philadelp
hia but the real Kevin is from Philadelphia and exactly like the fictional Kevin. Half blue blood, half blue collar; and he rides a motorcycle. OK, it’s a Yamaha but he rides with six other guys who all ride Harleys so he’s almost cool.

Kevin’s a big-hearted guy, just a little goofy. No, a lot goofy, and he had a goofy wedding. But it was probably one of the best weddings I ever went to, because it taught me an important lesson.

We didn’t want to go. Lauren was at her crankiest. It was a hot day and the wedding was outdoors. It was 39 miles away. It was at a spa that had seen better days. And Lauren wore the wrong shoes and the wrong kind of slip so, even though she looked beautiful, she felt bunched and rippled. As we crossed the lawn toward the garden where the ceremony was held Lauren’s heel sank into the wet lawn. We had to wipe the dust off our seats. Behind the decorated arch where the couple exchanged vows, golfers teed off. And the only music was a lone bagpiper. A bad lone bagpiper. The bride walked down the aisle to an off-key rendition of “Scotland the Brave.”

The cocktail reception featured a large display of cheeses of all nations. A woman asked what kind of hors d’oeuvre was I eating.

“An eggroll.” I answered. She was from Kentucky. People in white bathrobes kept passing by. One robed man had the cotton balls from his pedicure jammed between his toes.

We found our table and Lauren told me she might have to fake a migraine. She’d thought we’d be seated with the Biker Buddies, because she knew them. But we were at a different table—the one with the high school friends.

One guy’s pants had been on the hanger so long, they were puckered at the knees. His date was wearing a poofy little number from the late '80s. Then this other gentleman and his date, who hadn’t made the ceremony, came in. He had been deaf from birth but he had a cochlear implant. The apparatus was tucked over his right ear.

Tom shook my hand and smiled, spoke clearly and softly and understood every word I said in return. I felt very ashamed of my snooty, judgmental thoughts.

The two couples turned out to be the highlight of the whole wedding. We told Kevin stories. We filled each other in on each other’s blank spots regarding Kevin’s life.

“Did you know he just bought a house?”

“Where’s he working now?”

“What happened to Paula?”

The bad-clothes couple told us all about mountain biking in Idaho, Alaska and Texas. In the fall they’re going to Sicily. They were sweet, funny and interesting.

Tom’s girlfriend is from western China and she came to this country to become a pharmacist, where she met Tom. When prompted by '80s clothes girl, she told us about watching the sun set over the Himalayas.

The biggest surprise came when it was time for the toast. Lauren, probably out of self-protection, had made me designated driver. So until it came time for the toast, I hadn’t drunk anything except a Diet Pepsi and a champagne flute of sparkling water. I had actually looked at the champagne, which was being poured freely for the guests as they stumbled across the wet, muddy lawn toward the reception. I poo-poohed it 'cause it had a screw top. When I tasted it I was in for a surprise.

It was William Wycliff Sparkling Wine, although it calls itself champagne. It was fruity with a touch of strawberry and the perfect amount of sugar. It was crisp and finished on the upswing, without the leaden malty taste that some champagnes have. I tasted peach and raspberries and watermelon. I was thrilled and totally aware of my second “don’t judge a book by its cover” moment of the day. Our waiter (who I’d also pegged as a slacker) found an unopened bottle and left it on the table. I handed him a ten when we left. We talked and sipped the delicious bubbly till they kicked us out at 10 p.m. Our new friends and newfound champagne more than made up for the tacky plastic emerald appliqués on the train of the bridal gown. Back at Lauren’s house she broke out the Three Olives Chocolate Vodka, $12.99, to make up for her crankiness. On first sip, one tastes vodka — pure crisp neutral spirits. Then it finishes with a hint of cocoa, and a slight touch of mint. It pairs well with Stolichnaya Vanilla, $14.99.

Other nice flavored vodkas are:

Stolichnaya Raspberry Vodka, $14.99 —mixes well with sour mix and club soda.

Hangar One Kaffir Lime and Hangar One Mandarin Orange Blossom Vodka, $37.99 — truly a sensual taste experience. Fruit flavors so fresh you think they’re fresh squeezed.

Three Olives vodkas are distilled in Lewiston, Maine, by White Rock Distillery. It’s an old company that imports some fine single-malt scotches like McClelland and Auchentoshan. They’re good and they’re a bargain.

Even more of a bargain is Wycliff Champagne from William Wycliff Vineyards. It’s owned by E. J. Gallo and is sold almost exclusively to hotels and restaurants. I wonder how my travel agent will react to my next request to book accommodations in a hotel that carries Wycliff Champagne along with those little soaps. .

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


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