July 27, 2006


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Got milk?

Slow process of maturation
Wine, and sometimes life, improves with age
By Tim Protzman tprotzman@sbcglobal.net

There comes a time in people’s lives when they don’t really look forward to having another birthday and turning a year older.

A 5-year-old just can’t wait to turn 6. She asks her mother every day, “how long to my birthday?” A 9-year-old wants to hit that double-digit milestone so bad he can taste it. The 12-year-old achieves coolness just by turning 13. At 16, you can drive. At 18, you can vote, get married and sign a contract. Twenty-one means purchasing alcoholic beverages and gambling.

And then it’s downhill.

Especially at 25, the big quarter-century mark. The big old Silver Anniversary sickle starts to hang over your head. You start telling yourself; “I don’t feel that old!” and, believe me, no matter how old you get, when you look in the mirror you tell yourself, “I know that’s me, but I don’t feel like an old person yet.” And at my age, when you have to peer over the top of your bifocals to get a really good look at your reflection, it gets harder and harder to convince yourself that no matter how you look, you’re still young at heart.

And you’re always the last one to know how old you look. On Saturday I decided to contribute to the Disney Company’s bottom line by seeing Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest. It was a dirty movie, full of mucky pirates and unwashed tribes and, worst of all, barnacle people whose faces were adorned with limpets and coral. But as bizarre as they were, I kept glancing over at an old colleague of mine who I hadn’t seen in four years. He was there with his kids and, boy, did he look old. He’d lost most of his hair. It wasn’t male pattern baldness, but an overall thinning that left him with strands. He looked healthy, though, and I prayed he wasn’t sick before I remembered, oh yeah, even if we don’t feel it we are getting older.

All this time passages stuff comes to mind because Justin turned 32 this week. He’s one of the Wine Rookies and he’s partial to pinot noirs. I decided to have him over for dinner with his wife and, after, we went out to a local club. He ran into some friends and the social talk turned to what ever happened to so and so. Justin was shocked to hear that one of his old teammates had died. I mentioned that my father-in-law was buried next to him in the cemetery near my house. We ordered a round of pinot noirs to toast his fallen comrade of gridiron days gone by. Like the true wine hounds we are we each got something different and sampled each other's.

Smoking Loon Californian Pinot Noir, $11.99 — sourced from 40 percent Mendocino County grapes and 60 percent Monterey AVA grapes. The wine had an inky, slightly sweet backbone and finished with a bit of alcohol, but the tannins were pleasant and hushed. Smoking Loon is part of the Don Sebastiani & Sons Winery, which somehow became the featured wine in the little place we go to play darts and recall our lost teammates.

Another Sebastiani wine on the menu was Pepperwood Grove. It was a dollar a glass less than the Smoking Loon and was made from South Eastern Australian grapes. It had a woody finish and was made with a splash of grenache, syrah and merlot along with the pinot noir. $6.99.

Sebastiani is a quality vineyard making wines that are value priced. Other labels include the following:

Aquinas Napa Valley, Plungerhead, Mia’s Playground and Used Automobile Parts, an upscale meritage blend of 43 percent Merlot, 25 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 13 percent Petite Verdot, 10 percent Cabernet Franc and 9 percent Malbec from 100 percent Napa grapes.

On the way home, we stopped at the cemetery to pay our repects to Justin’s teammate. We got out of the car and walked to the grave. It was quiet, which was nice, except for this little “thfft” sound that we couldn’t place. We heard it two, three, four times, then Justin said, “I think someones’s shooting paintballs at us!”

When he said that I immediately knew he was right. But from where? We walked toward the car and Kathy, Justin’s wife ,quietly said;

“Don’t look but there’s someone behind those arbor vitaes.”

When we finally managed to glance surreptitiously in that direction we saw that someone was stalking us, about 200 feet away screened by a row of trees that separates one part of the graveyard from the other. And as we walked quick, not ran, we heard the now unmistakable “thfft” sound.

Thankfully, the guy who was shooting at us was a terrible shot. But as we neared the car one yellow paintball just missed Kathy and splattered on the trunk. Justin was mad. He looked around and found an old dead geranium in a plastic pot that had decorated someone's grave, last summer. He picked it up and with his former high school tight end throwing arm heaved the pot, rootbound plant and dirt right at the gunman’s head. It connected and we ran, not walked, to the car in a hail of thfft, thfft, thfft paintballs. That night we didn’t feel our age.

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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