November 30, 2006

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Got milk?

Gift of calmer shopping
Wine with your commerce
By Tim Protzman tprotzman@sbcglobal.net

The best thing about Thanksgiving is no matter if you were born in Hyderabad or Tabriz or Mayaguez or Wollongong you eat turkey with stuffing on the fourth Thursday in November. Unless you’re a vegetarian. Then you only eat the stuffing.

The other great thing about Thanksgiving is that the wine rules for that holiday can help you navigate the rest of the season.

Usually it’s de riguer for wine columnists to write about which wine goes with turkey.

The quick answer is a pinot noir or a riesling for white lovers. But since you’ll have eaten your bird and trimmings by the time you read this let’s discuss wines for that other seasonal tradition — holiday shopping.

Black Friday dates back to the 1920s when the stock market was booming and money was rolling in.

Even though most workers had to report to work, workers in the financial district had the day off and they headed up to Fifth Avenue or North State Street in Chicago and treated themselves to a day of shopping. Today almost everybody has the day off and they head out for pre-Christmas bargains. They do this despite having to drive around looking for parking spaces and fighting over things like Tie Me Up Elmo and Totes Doggie Booties. As bad as it is for the customers, it’s worse for those who work in retail. They spend the day, which for Wal-Mart employees starts before 5 a.m., on their feet, helping size 6 people into size 4 frocks because they’re in denial about the triple header of sweet potato, apple and pumpkin pies they ate. It’s a long, long day for the retail folk so be as gentle and as nice as possible.

In honor of these hardworking staff (including the woman who helped me try on 12 different pairs of shoes two years ago, and all I bought was a tube of black shoe polish) here are some wines that’ll help them relax and forget the retail grind at least until they have to drag themselves back to the shopping center:

Domaine Rene Leclerc 2004 Bourgogne, $17.99. This wine comes from Burgundy, which the French call Bourgogne, just to be different. It’s made from the extra grapes that don’t make it into their Premier Crus and some that they purchase. It’s a great way to taste a traditional Burgundy without paying $95 for their 2002 Domaine René Leclerc Griottes-Chambertin Grand Cru, which comes from a single vineyard. But if you’re on commission and Black Friday and Almost as Black Saturday was really good, spring for the Premier Cru. Other pinot noirs for non-commissioned retail workers and people who rear-ended another car in the mall parking lot and have a high deductible are:

Castle Rock 2005 Monterey County Pinot Noir, $12.99. A nice little pinot that has good flavor and is typical of the swarm of great drinking pinots coming out of California’s Central Coast region, which runs south of San Francisco to Ventura County.

Hangtime Arroyo Secco Pinot Noir.Unlike Castle Rock this wine comes from a specific area within the Central Coast. Arroyo Secco is about halfway up the Monterey Valley, just south of the Santa Lucia Highlands. Like the Castle Rock this wine was typical Californian pinot, ready to drink and to be taken at face value.

I really never buy anything online but 56 million Americans do. The Monday following Thanksgiving has the highest single-day total of online purchases. Perhaps it’s due to all the people who are back at work, but not really back into the swing of work. So they Google up presents. This is a great way to shop, unless you have some glitch or problem because most of the customer service centers are on foreign soil. Most are really good. I have a little test for call centers. I ask them what city they’re in. Most answer cheerfully. But there are some who tell me that information is classified. Cut me some slack! I know their general area by their accents, so explain to me what company has a super-secret call center located 100 feet beneath Mount Ausangate in the Peruvian Andes? But I have a way to get back at them. When they ask for my address I say things like: “121 Bluebird Road, Shangri-la, Ohio,” or “I’m between addresses right now; just send it to me care of Superman’s Fortress of Solitude.”

Here are some wines for people who’ve spent the day ordering online and hopefully avoiding call centers located in Tomsk, Siberia.

La Tour de By 2003 Cru Bourgeois from the Medoc. A wine that tells you what city it’s from. And at $18.49 it’s a great way to taste a nice Bordeaux and not spend the money you’d spend on a first, second, third or even fifth growth. Plus, this wine come from the long hot heat wave summer of 2003 and has concentrated fruit and good structure.

2003 Clio for Jumilla, $39.99. This is for all the people who’ve had to deal with one of those secret call centers, where everything is scripted and even though they know the language perfectly, they miss the nuance. $39.99. The bottle said this wine was 20 percent cabernet sauvignon, 20 percent merlot, 20 percent mourvedre, 20 percent grenache and 20 percent syrah. Online it says this wine’s 70 percent Monastrell and 30 percent Cabernet. What gives? This California-style fruit bomb was oppressive and cloying. It shook my honest Spanish farmer beliefs to the core. Overmanipulated and commercial. Like a Moldavian call center that tries to pretend you’re calling Pasadena.

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


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10/19/2006 The trouble with reds
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09/28/2006 From an unknown battle
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09/14/2006 Wine for life
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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
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07/06/2006 Scoring goals with booze
06/29/2006 Beer, it's what's for dinner
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01/05/2006 Resolve to try new wines
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