September 21, 2006


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Got milk?

Toast to a turkey
On foliage, loss and a good bottle
By Tim Protzman

Living in the country has many advantages.

Turkey rush hour isn’t one of them.

Every day at about 8:20 a.m. while I’m heading toward work a flock of wild turkeys runs in front of my car. They trot across the road barely looking at the fast-moving cars, causing drivers to brake, stop and sometimes honk. It wouldn’t be so bad except that the same thing happens in reverse at quarter to 6 every evening. Where do these turkeys go? Do they have turkey jobs they’re commuting to? Or do they just go someplace during the day and come back at night?

At least they’re jet black and I can see them against the changing foliage. And how come I don’t see them in the winter?

Each evening as I brake for the birds I marvel at their form and beauty and, guiltily, I wonder at what they’d taste like if I accidentally ran over one. It’s almost happened once. A big tom just ran out and stood there. I stopped in time but in those slow motion moments before I came to a halt, I had one disjointed thought. Zinfandel. That’s what I’d serve for the memorial service if turkey and car did collide. It’s easy to drink, has a higher alcohol content suitable for mourning and would complement the gaminess of the wild fowl.

It’s a wine fan’s curse to constantly pair.

One of the more shameful thoughts I had about wine has to do with that darkest day, Sept. 11, 2001. I admit that amongst the horror and sadness, pain, loss, tragedy, heroism, fear, grief, healing and rebirth I thought about the wine at Windows on the World — the restaurant at the top of tower one of the World Trade Center. I know that wine and a lost wine cellar seems so trivial it borders on the obscene when compared to the human cost of the attack.

But, a good friend gave me another perspective. A few weeks after her mother died of cancer, she felt a profound sadness for her mother’s lost recipes. Recipes she’d never taste again. After that I felt less guilty about my thinking. It wasn’t irreverent; it was just a single thought, a tiny brush stroke on the colossal canvas that is 9/11. And with the passing of the 5th anniversary, I feel my mourning period coming to a close.

This time of year helps too. The beautiful foliage in its time of change paints my travels in vibrant colors. Every day there are new hues on the trees. I was doing a travel piece on prep schools when I came across one ancient New Hampshire school that holds a Foliage Day, every year. This is according to one of their alumni. On a sunny day, midweek or even a Friday, when the leaves are in full bloom, the administration proclaims Foliage Day; giving the students the day off with the express purpose of getting out and enjoying nature’s changing colors. Who says college prep schools are all about overachieving?

We tried two wines this week and supposedly they’re related. The first wine we sampled was the flagship of Italian pinot grigios, Santa Margherita. This wine seems to cost the same price everywhere and I think it’s due to its tremendous popularity. I haven’t found it for less than $21.99. Pinot grigio comes from the top of Italy’s boot, on the back side, above the heel, and just below the knee. It’s a little cooler there and the pinot grigio or pinot gris grape (they’re the same thing) grows well in a cooler climate. Experts think this pinot grigio is a mutant clone (sounds scary) of the regal pinot noir grape.

In fact, pinot grigio used to be darker, almost like rosé, until the people at Santa Margherita started to remove the darker skins right after the crush and that resulted in a light-bodied white wine. Most pinot grigios come from Veneto, Friuli Venezia Giulia and Trentino Alto Adige. The sub region where Santa Margherita is grown is called the Valdadige and it’s part of Trentino Alto Adige.

We liked the Santa Margherita because it displayed lemon notes and sunny flavors with a hint of peach and watercress. It wasn’t the best white wine we’ve tasted, but it was honest and authentic. It paired particularly well with gourmet hotdogs and homemade chili. Not every wine requires a seven-course meal with it. As an alternative to pinot grigio look for a pinot gris from Oregon’s Willamette Valley. They’re lush, rich and have a sweet tooth that the Italians don’t.

The second wine we tasted was a 2002 Mendelson Pinot Noir for $37.99. Tasting this wine was like finding out your ex-girlfriend left her job in the fashion industry to become an oil wildcatter. Flannel, work boots and all. The French have described Burgundies, which are often pinot noir’s highest form of expression, as a little on the feminine side, as opposed to the more masculine Bordeaux. The wine was big, fruity and loud. It had all the femininity of Ethel Merman in Annie Get Your Gun!

We didn’t hate it, we just thought it was cross-dressing as a zinfandel. The plum notes were interesting. There was cassis and gentle spices. We just thought it should have been more like a pinot noir. But that’s the interesting part about wine. You take these little round grapes and tweak them any way you want for some surprising results. Enjoyed it, but wouldn’t buy it again. I just think when you pay nearly $40 bucks for a bottle of pinot, it should resemble most of the other pinots on the shelf.

Tell Tim your wine stories. You can reach him at

Comments? Thoughts? Discuss this article and more at

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