September 28, 2006


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Got milk?

From an unknown bottle
Answering the call of strange wines
By Tim Protzman

The good thing about caller ID is it lets you know who’s on the other end of the phone before you pick up.

This allows you to adjust your voice to match the expectations of caller. For my father, I use my “life couldn’t be better” voice. For my daughter, I use my “I’m too broke to send more than 20 bucks” voice.

The drawback of caller ID is when you see some number on there that you don’t recognize. I mean what’s the etiquette? Do you have the right to call back and ask something like this:

“Hi, your number’s on my caller ID and I just wondered what you wanted because I’m so curious that it borders on the paranoid.”

Or do you let it go? Generally, I do the latter. After all even in these days of podcasts and text messages there’s still the old-fashioned wrong number. So it surprised me the other day when I got a call from “Superior Court.” The gentleman on the other end of the phone said, “You’ve missed your assigned day of jury duty, and we want to reschedule you.”

I was shocked. I had been called for jury duty, but had been ruled out during the voir dire.

Apparently it would have to be a pretty strange case for me to be called to sit on a “jury of your peers.” I found the whole thing strange, especially when he asked me where I worked so he could put me on a work waiver. I unfortunately told him.

Going on the Federal District Court Web site I learned the whole thing was a scam. Notices of jury duty are sent through the mail. When I called the court clerk, she told me that it was part of an identity theft ring. I told her that I wasn’t worried because if some criminal appropriated my identity and used it to open credit card accounts I would know instantly because my FICO credit score would go up. From negative numbers to the 300 range. It feels good to be bulletproof.

It’s too bad there’s not some kind of caller ID for wine that would let you know how it tastes before you buy it. This little gadget would help me out in the pinot department, where I’ve encountered some strange tastes lately. It started at this wine dinner I didn’t want to go to. First, there was this big project due at work and no matter how good I did my work my boss was sure to change it. So I tried to beg off, but the more I whined, the more the hostesses pleaded and I ended up going.

The premise was to pair wines with spicy foods. Indian, Sumatran, Thai and Malay dishes crowded the menu. There was even a spice test, in which 36 bowls of different spices were passed around and we tried to identify them. There were exotics like dried onion seed and fenugreek. The food was paired with two outstanding rieslings, one domestic and one imported. My favorite by a nose was the Chateau Ste. Michelle Eroica Riesling from the 2004 vintage. Eroica is created by a partnership of German winemaker Dr. Loosen and Chateau Ste Michelle, the biggest Washington State wine producers. The grapes come from the Yakima Valley in south central Washington State. The wine’s priced at $18.99. It has a honeysuckle aroma with melon, pineapple, vanilla and honey taste notes and it went very well with the crab and cilantro appetizer. I thought the Eroica was one of the better whites I’ve tasted this year. And Eroica means heroic, not erotic, which was a bit of a disappointment for me because the sweet tones and low alcoho
l reminded me of tiny kisses. This is one wine that wine caller ID would go perfect with, because it’s not something I personally would purchase on a trip to the wine store. Until now.

The second riesling was a German import. St.Urban-Hof is a producer in the Mosel wine region, which is often seen on the bottle as Mosel-Saar-Ruwer. German wines are categorized by their sugar content and ripeness. This wine had more mineral flavors and was a bit more tannic, which should guarantee long aging. The wine runs $15.49 and is a definite treat.

The other wine worth mentioning was a 2003 Ridge Lytton Springs Zinfandel. This is an old friend of mine who’s been less approachable and sometimes unrecognizable this century. The earlier, softer versions were some of the first reds I ever liked. From 1998 to 2003 I was a bit ashamed of this wine. It had been my favorite. But the 2003 made it all better. Luscious cherry notes. Cassis. No alcoholic afterburn and a structured finish that let you know the tannins were there, but not a threat. This wine is back on my list.

• Wine of the week: 2004 Logan Pinot Noir Sleepy Hollow Vineyard, $19.99, from the very excellent Talbot Vineyards on California’s Central Coast. The Sleepy Hollow Vineyard is in the Santa Lucia Highlands outside of Carmel and Monterey, California. This wine had the most amazing sour cherry flavor to it, but that being said, I didn’t totally enjoy it. It seemed young, not mature, not ready. I liked that it wasn’t just homogenized grape juice, but I questioned why it was so forceful. But I’d rather taste something natural and indicative of the vineyard where it was grown than some cookie cutter wine.

Tell Tim your wine stories. You can reach him at

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Looking back at the heyday of cheap wine
My Big Fat Greek Wine Tasting
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The Long, Strange Journey Of Wine
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What it means to miss N.O.
What To Drink When You Eat Wild
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