October 19, 2006

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Got milk?

The trouble with reds
In wine or sheets, red is too much fun
By Tim Protzman tprotzman@sbcglobal.net

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.

Tell Tim your wine stories. You can reach him at tprotzman@sbcglobal.net.


10/12/2006 Making new friends

10/05/2006 TiVo-ing the wine
09/28/2006 From an unknown battle
09/21/2006 Toast to turkey
09/14/2006 Wine for life
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
Gin
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
Mondovino
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