December 7, 2006


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Got milk?

Like dregs in the wine glass
So go the memories of our lives
By Tim Protzman

Thirty years ago my father bought a ski house.

It was on a small Vermont mountain. Every morning we’d walk out to the trail, step into the bindings and head down the hill. If we wanted to ski all day, we’d buy a ticket. If we were feeling lazy, we’d hang in the lodge and drink hot chocolate and wait around ’til half-day passes went on sale.

The ski house wasn’t luxurious, although it had the latest in sculpted multicolored shag carpeting, but it slept about 20 people. The refrigerator was avocado green. The people my dad bought it from left us a popcorn popper. It was a two-piece aluminum construction with a separate heating element in the base. It made the best popcorn I’ve ever tasted. It came with a dog-eared instruction manual which extolled the virtues of heating the corn oil, placing three test kernels in first and waiting for them to pop and then adding 1 and 1/3 cups of popcorn. It would double as a cigarette lighter in a pinch. I loved that popcorn maker, but I loved the telephone more. I remember the day we ordered it.

We called this little phone company in White River Junction.

“I’d like to get phone service for my ski house in Plymouth Union,” my Dad said.

“OK, what’s the address?” The phone man asked.

“There’s no mailing address, but it’s #9 on the Round Top access road.”

“Yup, I know where that is, I’ve done a couple of phones up there. We need someone to let us in to install the instrument.”

“That’s fine, when can you do it?”

“In two weeks… on the 12th.”

“That long? Can’t you do it sooner?”

“Well, if we really push it we can be there on the 11th.”

“Keep it on the 12th, I wouldn’t want to strain your finely tuned machine.”

“What color do you want?”

“What are the choices?”

“Let me see … we got … black and…black?”

“I’ll take the black.”

And with that we had our phone. What they didn’t tell us was that the phone was a “party line.”

For the young, forgetful or uninitiated: a party line was a phone line shared by two, three or even four different households. You’d pick up the phone and if someone was talking on it you’d hang up and wait ’til they were done. That was the theory. In reality it provided hours of eavesdropping fun. The hard part was getting used to your ring tone.

And the ring tones weren’t “Crazy Frog” or And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead. It was one ring, not yours. Two rings, not yours either. Two quick rings and a pause followed by two quick rings and a pause, that’s yours. The reason I’m phone nostalgic is that my own phone and internet access was out of service for a week. And during that time I found my routines sorely tested.

Usually, I get home from work, open the mail and answer my e-mail and post crank messages on my enemies’ blogs. But, without a phone or e-mail I had to turn on the TV during what had been my “quiet hour.”

I found myself watching TV news. Even though I’m old, I have a Gen Y attention span and prefer to get my world and local roundup in quicker sound bites, like off Drudge Report. I rarely have the patience to sit through the news. Especially now when each report seems scarier than the next. But I also have the perspective of history. I’ve lived through assassinations, wars, recessions, inflation, layoffs, rising deficits, hostage takings, hijackings and thousands of bombings. I saw Watergate and Monicagate.

And I also like wine. I once went to a wine tasting where this jet-setting wine importer told this story of a small vineyard in Australia. They had put hundreds of thousands of dollars into irrigation systems, French clone rootstock and fermentation tanks. The first grape crop survived insects, a minor drought and heavy rain leading up to the harvest. But they brought it in. They crushed and fermented and took it from vat to vat to barrel where it sat for two months. Then on the appointed day, the winemaker took a long glass pipette (which is also called a wine thief) and dipped it into a barrel where wooden cork in the top had been removed. He watched intently as the purple liquid filled the tube. He put it into a wine glass. He held it to the light. He sniffed it. And finally he tasted. He chewed it and swished it. Then he spit. Every eye was on him. The tension was palpable.

“There’s always next year,” he said. And then he left.

Hard times, bad news, world catastrophes and poor vintages don’t last forever. There’s always next year.

Even without e-mail I managed to taste quite a few wines last week. Most were forgettable, but some showed promise.

Stag’s Leap Merlot 2002 ($25.99, California) Even though this was supposed to be an excellent vintage this wine tasted raisiny and alcoholic. It had a pleasant port-like flavor, but it wasn’t a merlot I’d be able to pick out of a lineup.

Guenoc ($11 - $14, California) I tasted the chardonnay, the syrah and the cabernet sauvignon. And I’m not enthralled.

Domaine Mongeard-Mugneret 2004 ($16.99, Burgundy) A welcome treat during a run of mediocre tasting. This wine had raspberry and cherry fruit with a youthful structure. One of the few wine I’ve tasted in the last week that I’d buy a second time.

Vosne Romanee “Chaumes” Jean Tardy 1996( $54.99) Mean, tannic and maybe in an awkward phase.

2000 Chevalier Rauzan-Gassies ($22.99) Scary and tough. Drinking this wine is like running into a tough in a dark alley.

Tell Tim your wine stories. You can reach him at

11/30/2006 Gift of calmer shopping

11/23/2006 YouTube for YouWine
11/16/2006 Welcome to wine
11/9/2006 Fine art, supermarket wine
11/2/2006 The geography of grapes
10/26/2006 Please continue to hold
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
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
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