Finding the star among the shiraz
By Tim Protzman firstname.lastname@example.org
All I want for Christmas is Chateau Lafite.
And a Mercedes McLaren. I’m sick of driving a car that even Amish people laugh at. And I want a Swiss watch. And a vacation in the sun. But since I’m not getting any of those (been naughty) I’ll settle for a good inexpensive wine that makes me smile when I sip it. Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about what other people drink.
It started when I read a wine blog. I read other people’s wine writing every week. This one was in the New York Times. The writer is Eric Asimov and I think he’s the nephew of the science fiction writer. His column always starts with stuff like, “Last week I was in Burgundy…’ and “When decanting a 50-year-old Bordeaux…” Things that I probably will never do. But the good thing about a wine blog is that the regular people get to post comments.
The one that stood out was from a wine rep — a guy who sells wine to retail stores and restaurants. He was writing about pinot noir, Burgundy, actually, and his comment was, “I had to kiss a lot of frogs to find a few princes.” That line was so pure and true that it gave me the will to try more wine. It wasn’t just me; everyone who drinks wine must feel that way sometime. And it made me want to know what they’re tasting.
Do most people slog through the wine trenches and occasionally find a buried treasure? Or do they have this uncanny knack of soaring from mountaintop to sunny meadow, only occasionally experiencing a rough landing?
The answer is both. If money is no object then bad wine be banished. However, most people’s yearly wine budget is like $1,168 not $44,000. And most people find a wine they like and stick with it. I have vowed to never drink the same wine twice. I explore and send back my favorites for you to enjoy.
And like a good detective I run down all leads. The most frustrating thing about this is when someone says to me, “I had the best wine last night!”
“Yeah, what was it?” I ask with anticipation.
And then they don’t remember. They’ll say, “I don’t remember the name but it was from Australia. Does that help?”
Sure it helps. There are only 4,281 different wines from Down Under. I’ll check them out tonight.
One of the easiest ways of checking out what other wine fans are drinking is to look at the bestselling lists available on line. The New Hampshire Liquor Commission posts online compilation of the bestselling wines from the previous 12 months. Consistently on top of the list is Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay.
I like this wine because it’s affordable at $11.99 and it tastes good. Lemon hints, cream, oak and a touch of vanilla. I recently tasted several other Kendall-Jackson wines and was very surprised by the quality and flavor. Why? Because I view this winery as more of a factory than a place where artisans work. And it shows that just because they make a huge amount of wine they don’t leave out the pride and a touch of love for the grape.
Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon ($14.99). This 2003 vintage was nice. It wasn’t very layered, but there was nascent structure and outstanding flavor. Plum, elderberry, grape and tobacco. This is one wine I’d try again.
Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Syrah ($13.99). This was the most interesting Kendall-Jackson. Deep flavors, spice and tang. Fun to drink and tasting not of metal vats in a California warehouse, but sunny fields and great stone cellars in the Rhone Valley. Perfect wine to bring to a party where people know a little bit about wine. They’ll be impressed.
Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Pinot Noir ($14.99). Here’s a perfect example of the heartbreak of pinot. This was a cut below the other two. Tannic in a sour way, like bad Chinese sweet and sour soup. At least this shows that even a huge wine factory like Kendall-Jackson depends on the whims of Bacchus for a great harvest.
Here are some other wines I’d drink again:
• Cape Mentelle Cabernet Merlot Blend ($13.99)
• Juan Gill From Jumilla, Spain ($15.99)
• Clos du Val Merlot from California ($26.99)
• Domaine Leroy Nuits-Saint-Georges- “Aux Allots” ( $29.99)
• Laetitia Pinot Noir ($18.99)
If you usually drink the same wine over and over, this week try something different. Tell the wine clerk what you like and ask her to help you find an alternative. If it turns out to be a frog, then you’ve reinforced your favorite wine choice. But if it turns into a prince, then you know why we drink wine.
Tell Tim your wine stories. You can reach him at