October 26, 2006

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Got milk?

Please continue to hold
Looking for a wine with good customer service
By Tim Protzman tprotzman@sbcglobal.net

My family tells me that when I die they’ll make sure that my obituary includes the following: “In addition to everything else, he was a noted crank.”

And if I get any worse, they’ll carve it onto my tombstone.

Maybe it’s my co-dependence or my unshakable sense that people should stick to their word and do their best, but modern life, especially the customer service aspect, brings out the worst in me.

This summer I spent two hours on the phone with a cellular carrier trying to determine if my boss could use her cell phone in Ecuador. After being bounced around for an eternity I received a firm no. I like nos. It’s the maybes I hate. They’re so uncommitted. What made matters worse was that the giant phone company Web site didn’t have any phone numbers listed under “Contact Us,” just e-mail addresses. They’re a phone company, for goodness’ sake. Maybe if they cut out the executive stock option program, they’d be able to afford phones. Or maybe they just don’t care?

At the video store I had the reverse problem. They were too attentive. Just not in helping me find a movie.

After a two-year absence, I recently resumed renting movies again. I don’t know why I stopped renting two years ago (maybe I was cranky?) but when I went back I couldn’t find a single VHS tape in the whole store. Was this a conspiracy against me, or was I just some DVD Rip Van Winkle? Anyway, I bought a cheap DVD player and rented.

This weekend when I went to check my movies out they insisted on updating my account.

“Do you live in an apartment?” they asked.

“Yes” I replied, thinking it was none of their business that at 48 I couldn’t afford a mortgage.

“What number?”

“Why do you need that?”

“We need to update it so we can mail you Special Offers.”

Now most people would cave in and give them the apartment number, intrigued by the promise of vaguely seductive “Special Offers,” but not me. I’m totally against intrusive Homeland Security-esque invasions of my privacy, so I trumped them.

“You just sent me an ‘Any Movie For $1.99 Coupon Card’ good until October 30, 2006 Anno Domini, so I’m getting my ‘Special Offers’ just fine.”

“But the computer won’t let me go forward without the update,” the store associate whined in a desperate tone.

Now it would have been much easier if I just gave him the info. But part of me thought it was none of his business. Another part had a vision of movie rental swat teams surrounding my house.

“We’ve got you surrounded. Throw out your overdue copy of Wedding Crashers and come out with your hands in the air!”

“I really need a number…,” the video clerk begged.

“2,909” I said.

He looked at me with a mixture of relief and skepticism.

Thank God I’m treated better at the wine shops. Mostly.

Once there was a small natural foods co-op that started in the early 1970s. It sold organics and locally fresh products. It got so popular that it moved into a strip mall in the mid 1980s, filling a space vacated by Caldor’s. (remember them?). Then it got bought out by a regional Natural Foods Market chain, which in turn was bought out by an international Organic Products Consortium. Now it’s over 100,000 square feet. And it has a wine section. It had always had a wine section, but the first incarnation sold things like Brother Jim’s Dandelion Wine and mead.

What impressed me about this last incarnation was that they had a special “Parker Room.” Here were all the wines that received over 90 points from Robert Parker, in separate but equal facilities. Also impressive was the customer service. Adam spent a boatload of time showing me his favorite wines, which I mostly nixed with a negative-sounding grunt.

No Jaboulet Croze-Hermitage, too vin ordinaire.

No Shafer … pricey, culty and not Bordeauxian enough.

No Smoking Loon — it reminds me of an old hippy dude I knew once.

Adam steered me toward the Robert Craig 2001 Affinity. It was big, lush and a bit tannic. Cabernet, merlot, cabernet franc and petit verdot. Great year, good price ($26.99).

I enjoyed this wine, but Adam’s verbal build-up was far more appealing than the wine actually was.

More successful was his suggestion of 2004 Cristom Vineyards Mt. Jefferson Cuvee Pinot Noir. This wine is made from Oregon rootstock vines with a few French Dijon clones thrown in. It was Burgundian and Oregonian all at once. Fruit, acid, fruit, acid, with a bit of a rough landing on the finish. It had the most wonderful aroma of dried cherries. It retails for $27.49.

The last wine suggested by Adam was a mouthful in more ways than one. Just saying Milz Trittenheimer Spatlese 2002, Mosel-Saar-Ruwer $25.99 (it’s a riesling) is hard enough. The Milz Trittenheimer is the producer, The Mosel Saar Ruwer is the region and the spatlese means the grapes were late harvested and more juicy and sugary. The wine is light, fresh and crisp with fig and Oreo cookie filling flavors.

As my time with Adam drew to a close I couldn’t help firing off one last cranky barb.

In a store full of vegans, blue staters and liberal Democrats I told him in an overly loud voice: “Thank you so much for all the help, my friends on the Committee to Support President Bush and Bomb North Korea will love this wine.” And yes, I’m used to the stares. Now I gotta go slap around some dumbass clerk who insisted that Monastrell and Mourvedre are two different grapes.

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


10/19/2006 The trouble with reds

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