September 14, 2006


   Home Page

 News & Features


 Columns & Opinions

   Publisher's Note





 Pop Culture



   Video Games
   CD Reviews




   Grazing Guide



   Music Roundup

   Live Music/DJs

   MP3 & Podcasts





 Find A Hippo




   View Classified Ads

   Place a Classified Ad




 Contact Us

   Hippo Staff

   How to Reach The Hippo

 Past Issues

   Browse by Cover

Got milk?

Wine for life
A glass (or bottle) is more than just its varietal
By Tim Protzman

Who invented writing? Who scratched the first symbol in the cave floor dirt?

I’m asking this question because my winedrinking career has this watershed place in it, where I actually stopped just drinking wine and started to write about it. First it was just the producer name, varietal grape, region where the wine was grown, price and finally, what I thought about the wine. But it was a big leap forward, just like that ancient one where mankind moved from writing in pictures to writing in symbols and letters.

Today, I’m no longer content with the name, price, vineyard and critique formula. I want the back story. Maybe if I traveled to the farthest wine regions of the world and met the winemakers in their natural habitat I’d have a more extensive back story on the wines themselves, but I, like most wine drinkers, will probably never travel to the world’s most exotic vineyards. The steep, rocky slopes of the Rhone Valley, the lush sunny fields of the McLaren Vale and the majestic terraced riverside vineyards of the Rhinegau constantly beckon, but never seem to get any closer from year to year.

So the back story you get is not about the life of the wine, but about life itself, which happens to include wine. Wine as a beverage — what’s it taste like? Wine as social lubricant – what do you think of it? Sit and have a glass with us! And wine as a part of life, not wine as the source of life.

Life can be sublime or dull or challenging or sad or mean or fulfilling. Sometimes a glass of wine will enhance the joy or take the sting out of the sorrows. Sometimes a glass of wine sipped on the front porch on a fall evening will help put everything in perspective. It explains your place in the world and just how small you really are.

This week has been full of little triumphs and failures, most of which won’t matter three or four years from now, but each represents an archetypal passage the fits into the human experience and lends itself to that glass of wine.

Last Tuesday, I heard a funny story over a glass of Belmondo Pinot Grigio ($7.99 per bottle, retail). It was a light wine with a tart edge to it that was perfect for the bitchy little story Toddie, a famed restaurant critic, told me about a very rich and very eccentric family, whose thrice married daughter bought a candy shop on Cape Cod, renamed it The Chatham Nougat Chew Chew and couldn’t keep any staff for very long because she insisted they wear yellow gingham jumpers with bows and puffy sleeves. The wine and conversation were light and the faint lemon verbena tartness accompanied the foibles of the born rich and their somewhat skewed view of life.

On Wednesday, one of my cars broke down. This is nothing new for me because I had a nice, clean used Camry which I turned over to my daughter, when she got her license. I took over the old family wreck, a 1992 Ford Taurus. Originally owned by my ex-wife’s boyfriend, it had passed from him to her to my son (briefly) and almost to my daughter. Out of safety concerns I switched off with her and the thing finally broke down. I’m used to having a car just break down and not run. Stop dead in its tracks. But this car went postal. The motor mount came loose and banged up through the hood. The engine revved hard and took off at an ever increasing speed until I was able to ram it to a stop against the curb in a supermarket parking lot, which slowed it down enough so I could slam it into neutral. Finally it stopped moving but until I could get the ignition shut off it ran faster and faster like a small jet ready to take off. I abandoned it temporarily and took the bus to work. The only good thing about that day was the three bottles of wine waiting for me at home.

They had shown up while I was at work. Two whites and a red from Wattle Creek Vineyards in Sonoma. The red was a mostly syrah blend with tiny, tiny amounts of viognier and petit sirah. That night the Wattle Creek Sauvignon Blanc held sway as I related the “insane car posse” story. We liked the touch of honeydew in the finish and strong grass and sour endive tones on the first sip. The winery, which is now embarking on a major marketing campaign, sent me these wine to taste. The suggested retail cost is $25.99

The next day I read an article by a famous wine writer, Frank Prial, who writes for the New York Times, about Australian wine promoter Len Evans, who died recently. Mr. Prial was reminiscing about Len’s theory of “drinking the best possible wine every day.” He figured someone who was 60 years old had maybe 15 years left, and that equated to about 3,000 bottles of wine between now and eternity. I tried the Wattle Creek Syrah blend, but it wasn’t as full and rich as I’d like, so I opened the Two Hands Gnarly Dudes Shiraz ($28.99). The dudes are just some old vines in the Barossa Valley where the wine is grown. This was a richer, more intense wine to toast the dead dude I just read about. Heavy berry flavors with smoke and cinnamon hints. A fitting wine for a man who drank “only the best.”

Over the weekend I dropped my youngest off at University of Massachusetts for her freshman year. We anticipated a long line at the financial aid office but were pleasantly surprised when we walked into a nearly empty office. Slam bam and she’s processed. Apparently, the epic tragedy my daughter anticipated was resolved when her mother signed a piece of paper. My daughter, ever the pessimist, had planned a backup career as a fashion model, just in case. At a small restaurant on the way home me and the ex shared a bottle of Jade Mountain La Provencale, a red blend of Syrah, Grenache, mourvedre and viognier that had the right sensations of freedom, accomplishment, sadness and a touch of mourning one associates with empty nest syndrome. By the third glass we were well into the celebratory aspects of unshackled parenthood and really grooving on the brandied fruit tones and inky denseness of the concentrated fruit. This was a moment made for wine. Not made by wine because how could a mere bottle contain all the emotion? but rather enhanced and placed in perspective by the act of sitting, sipping and thinking.

Tell Tim your wine stories. You can reach him at

Comments? Thoughts? Discuss this article and more at

09/07/2006 What are Malpeques, Alex?
08/31/2006 Hanging out wines
08/24/2006 Falling into new wine season
08/17/2006 Where has that wine been?
08/10/2006 Bringing out the dead
08/03/2006 The birth of a wine fop
07/27/2006 Slow process of maturation
07/20/2006 The pain of adolescent wines
07/13/2006 Nice day for a white wedding
07/06/2006 Scoring goals with booze
06/29/2006 Beer, it's what's for dinner
06/22/2006 A drink fit for a czar
06/15/2006 A summer of beer and fried clams
06/08/2006 Keep your cool, fool
06/01/2006 The social lubricant
05/25/2006 Water, water everywhere
05/18/2006 Big fat greek wine tasting
05/11/2006 Drinking to the end
05/04/2006 Schooled in the art of wine
04/27/2006 Make a wish
04/20/2006 Immigrant wines
04/13/2006 A pain in the glass
04/06/2006 Got milk?
03/30/2006 Throw a dart and there's wine
03/23/2006 A life of good wine
03/16/2006 Honoring the dead soldiers
03/09/2006 What once was old i new again
03/02/2006 The taste of sibling rivalry
02/23/2006 Wine travels, doesn’t sing
From grape, to barrel to red-tape jungle

02/16/2006 Love and vine
02/09/2006 A dog-drink-dog world
02/02/2006 The winos' mecca
01/26/2006 Date-nite drinks
01/19/2006 Touring eastern wine country
01/12/2006 Wine, Cheese and Granny Smith
01/05/2006 Resolve to try new wines
10 Wines To Get Lucky With

Adventures in and past the Euro-Cave
A Do-It-Yourself Wine Tasting
A Red For Everything
A Red Wth Your Leftovers?
A Tasty Way To Put Wine To The Test
A Year Of Wine
An Around-The-World Holiday
A wine for every holiday

Basking In The Mondavi Light
Behind One Door Is Great Wine
Beware The Hot Bottle
Brandy and the nude beach
Champagne, The Other White Wine
Cheers And Whines Of The Vine
Days of wine and jelly beans
Deep in the heart of Texas
Drinking for your health
Drinking like a newspaperman

Drinking Whites After Labor Day
Finding A Great Medium-Weight Drink (I)
Finding A Great Medium Weight Drink (II)
Gifts for blood, love or money
Grill and sip, sip and sip. Finding the perfect wine for barbecue
Hey baby, stay cool
How The Corleones Saved Wine

In Praise Of An American Wine
In search of the girl next door
Keeping it in the family
Keeping up appearances
Looking back at the heyday of cheap wine
My Big Fat Greek Wine Tasting
The Best Drinks On A Budget
The Highly Drinkable (Mostly) Merlot
The Long, Strange Journey Of Wine
Old French grape in the New World
Olé! to a week in wine
Opening the Parker book

Our French friends — really
Our Northern Neighbor
Poker faces and wine

Presenting A New England Vodka
Presenting The Wines Of Spring
Rewarding Your Support Staff
Schooled In The Art Of Wine
Shopping for Wine Bargains

Sitting By The Fire And Dreaming Of Wine
Slipping A Little Sideways
Spending the holidays in NYC
Spirit World Tales
Springtime calls for wine and ice cream
Sudden ugly mood swings
The new face of fine wines
The wines of fall
Thinking ahead to the holidays
Time To Stay Frosty
Tipples for turkey day
TV worth drinking
What it means to miss N.O.
What To Drink When You Eat Wild
What's Your Wine Sign
White’s OK after Labor Day
Wine Between The Season
Wine for the NASCAR set
Wine is in at the Inn
Wine’ll make you crazy
Wine Works With Red Sauce

Just because it’s healthy doesn’t make it a bad mixer