The trouble with reds
In wine or sheets, red is too much fun
By Tim Protzman firstname.lastname@example.org
Is there a moment when a girl becomes a woman? Or is it a gradual process that happens gently over time?
Some would say that getting a driver’s license is the only true rite of passage for Americans. But for my daughter and me, it was going off to college. Her going off to college. As proud as we are, we still have trouble letting go. So when she came home for the first time we lent her our cars, gave her some money and went shopping.
We were looking for sheets. She had successfully negotiated a dorm room change, upgrading from a crowded triple to a single. She found that if she took the bunk beds down and placed them side by side she’d have an almost king-sized bed. And she needed the proper size sheets.
We went to Wal-Mart. I know, I know, I’ve heard all the stories about how it drives the Mom-and-Pops out and how its Third World suppliers work under less than desirable conditions, but it truly offers a choice array of goods and low prices. And if 10,000 Villages offered as many products at even slightly higher prices I’d shop there. Wal-Mart is like those big, big liquor stores — they’re crowded but they offer a large selection, especially when it comes to wine. At the smaller wine shops, the owners or managers sometimes specialize in certain types of wine. You can have one where riesling is the specialty. You can have onewhere the owner loves obscure, seldom-seen Australian wines. At the bigger shops volume is important and they might not have the patience to hand-sell a specialty wine. So the tried and true movers are what they offer.
We ended up in the linen section where the bed sets consisting of sheet, fitted bottom sheet and two pillow cases cost about $44.99 apiece. This was a little too expensive. My ex-wife decided that she loves the quilted sets, all gingham and cotton ruffles. My daughter found a bright red set that was the cheapest at only $17. Yay for falling prices! But my ex-wife was adamantly against red. Red was the color of “professional girls.” Red was for harlots. Red means cheap and easy. I was only concerned about the cheap. Soon a fight broke out. What is it about mothers and daughters that their tastes must be diametrically opposed to one another?
But as my daughter has now reached the aged of maturity we came to a decision; we avoided the strumpety red, bypassed the $26 burgundy that bespoke of luscious old wines aging in French cellars, and settled on navy blue for $24. This and the beige cotton bedspread made a fine choice and even the sales associate, who I drew in during the hottest phase of the red sheet argument, agreed it was stylish. (You can say all you want about Wal-Mart associates but this one was smart enough to respond to my question “Do you think this shade of red for a college student’s bed is too cheap and tawdry looking?” thusly — “Sir, I just don’t make enough money to get involved in a matter this explosive.”)
On the way home the red sheets preyed on my mind. The burgundy made me thirsty. I’d had a bad case of bronchitis and it greatly reduced my sense of taste and my desire to sip wine or beer or vodka or malt liquor or pisco. But the sheets and the fight and the maturity of all parties, including the Solomon-like Wal-Mart associate, gave me a healthy glow and I wanted a glass of wine. Red wine.
One of my favorite shops is owned by an Indian family. They always have a small, but eclectic offering. They suggested a Spanish wine from the province of Jumilla in southeast Spain. It was a rich deep red called 2004 Altos De Luzon. Comprised of 50 percent mourvedre, 25 percent tempranillo and 25 percent cabernet sauvignon, it tasted of plum and chocolate, with deep tones of grape and brandied cherry. It cost $16.99 and was worth every penny. What it wasn’t was subtle. Like red sheets in a college dorm this wine said “drink me for fun, drink me every day. I am what I am and this is what I’ll be. Unpretentious, fun and without great structure. I was made for momentary pleasure, you need not wait for me to reach some rite of passage. I am yours now.”
And with that simplicity 2004 Altos De Luzon became one of the outstanding wines I’ve tasted in 2006.
Now go back to the Wal-Mart sheet debate. Imagine if the associate had put her two cents in. Now transfer that to a slightly larger wine shop where not one but two sales associates helped me select the perfect wine. I’ve reached a point in my wine career where I rarely choose my own wine; instead I tell the clerk which varietal I’m in the mood for and they set me up. After several attempts at pinot noirs (too pricey, too new, too ordinary, I don’t like the label…) we settled on 2004 Domaine Chandon from the Carneros region of California. Lately I’ve been running into pinots that seem a bit like other varietals, some unpleasantly so. This one was good with dried cherry flavors, a strong structure with a definite backbone and a nice acidic bite. But it wasn’t a typical pinot. While it was a good wine it had syrah-esque flavor on first sip. That threw me until the subtle pinot noir characteristics came through on the finish. While I thoroughly enjoyed this wine I hope it doesn’t foreshadow a trend where we morph
all the wonderfully different varietal characteristics into a single uber wine.
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