December 21, 2006


   Home Page

 News & Features


 Columns & Opinions

   Publisher's Note





 Pop Culture



   Video Games
   CD Reviews




   Grazing Guide



   Music Roundup

   Live Music/DJs

   MP3 & Podcasts





 Find A Hippo




   View Classified Ads

   Place a Classified Ad




 Contact Us

   Hippo Staff

   How to Reach The Hippo

 Past Issues

   Browse by Cover

Got milk?

Kissing frogs
Finding the star among the shiraz
By Tim Protzman

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

12/14/2006 Wine for horrible friends

12/07/2006 Like dregs in the wine glass
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