January 11, 2007


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Got milk?

Burning down the tree
A bonfire of reds, whites and evergreens (and e-mails)
By Tim Protzman tprotzman@sbcglobal.net

One of my favorite after-holiday traditions was the burning of the Christmas trees.

The pile started to grow after New Year’s. By Three Kings Day it was four and five trees high. In cold weather, residents dragged their trees out on the ice; in warmer times they piled them on the lake shore. The lake was left over from before World War II, when the community was a summer resort for rich people. In my day (30 years ago) all the cottages had been converted to year-round homes. They were not luxurious and some of the town’s poorest and most eccentric lived there, but, boy, did they know how to celebrate!

Kids would ride snowmobiles and lasso the trees and drag them to the lake. Cars would fill the parking lot next to the strip of sand that served as a beach. The first row would leave their headlights on. Someone would crank up a radio. The older ladies would set up a table of food. A coffee urn, marshmallows, hot dogs and a big casserole of creamed chicken — the kind that goes into a pot pie, but without the crust. This was Mrs. B’s specialty. Whether it was a baptism, confirmation, wedding, graduation or funeral she baked a huge porcelain-lined cooker full of creamed chicken with toasted white bread cubes on top as garnish/extender. Mrs. B had eight kids.

On the night of the fire, members of the volunteer fire company would join in, and someone, usually Warren Pease (I swear that’s his name) would start the blaze with a charcoal lighter and a blow torch. Once the blaze was going people would ice skate, watch the fire or sneak off to have a cigarette and kiss their girlfriends. It was a happy innocent time when kids were naughty, not malicious, and the neighborhood mothers would scream at you if you did something wrong like they were screaming at their own kids and your mother would back them to the hilt.

It’s been 17 years since the last bonfire. First, Environmental Protection squelched the on-the-ice fire. Bad for the lake. Then the neighborhood changed. The land got too valuable and the town got too toney. Today most of the cottages are gone, replaced by half-million-dollars homes whose residents don’t want their views spoiled by a pile of burnt-out trees. No skating anymore either; the insurance is too high.

This year, in honor of those old Secret Lake winter bonfires, I’ll make a symbolic bonfire of the old e-mails in my Inbox.

First, for Mike: I do recycle plastic bottles from time to time, but if it’s between 12 glass wine bottles and a Joy Dishwashing Liquid container, the glass gets top priority.

Lisa: what wine did you finally get?

Vicki: Your e-mail got dragged to the curb, not because of your wine, but because it was so poorly written and formatted. Presentation counts. I once lost out in the final round of interviews because I’d misspelled my name on my résumé. Thoroughness counts.

Blythe: I’d love to taste wine with the winemaker, but a lunchtime meeting won’t work. I have a day job and they frown on my operating heavy machinery after imbibing.

Vincent: I’ll get around to you one day. Meanwhile I’m intrigued by your novelty and gift wine bags. I love the idea of having a wine bag with “Warning: Re-Gifted Wine Inside” or “Alcohol … It’s Cheaper than Therapy” written on the side. (Visit www.winebagwizards.com to see the full product line.)

And that girl from Switzerland: Was your name Heidi? Did you send your Hooksett friends that case of wine? I guess I’ll never know.

Here are the wines I tasted and dragged to the lake over the holidays.

Calera Vineyards 2000 Mills Vineyard Mt Harlan Pinot Noir, $37.99. Even though we know the exact longitude and latitude where the grapes were grown, they died in vain. Too young for a “dumb” period and too old to be called impudent, this wine was a disappointment for its lack of fruit, structure and bouquet.

2000 La Tour l’Aspic, $22.99. A vin ordinaire from Pauillac with no outstanding features.

2003 Smoking Loon Syrah, $7.99. The best of a very mediocre run of wines. From California.

Louis Latour 2003 Pinot Noir. Like the Giants, it starts off heading toward the end zone but never gets there. Unfortunately for this wine there’s no wildcard.

2002 Sanford Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir, $35.69. Underpowered like one of those kit cars with the Mini Cooper engine.

Terra Unica 1998 Reserva, $9.99. From the Manchuela region next to the hot, hot Jumilla region. Nuanced with cinnamon, tar and dried cranberry flavors. Had this on Christmas.

2004 Nine Stone Australian Shiraz, $9.99. This one restored my faith in Oz wine. Deep flavored but one-dimensional with peat, blackberry, smoke and cassis flavors.

1995 A. F. Gros Vosne-Romanee, $44.95. Took this to a dinner party and was humiliated. Limited depth, nearly flavorless with an annoying tannic edge. From Burgundy. The name sums it up.

2003 Costa De Oro Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir, $24.99. Tannins like cotton balls, fruit backwards to not at all. Like drinking watered grape juice. California.

Benzinger 2001 California Merlot, $15.49. A pleasure to sip even though it had some flaws like not enough structure. Great fruit, harmonious tannins and nice bouquet.

Joseph Drouhin Nouveau Beaujolais, $11.99. Made from gamay grapes grown in the Beaujolais region of Burgundy, this wine is mostly a fun, fruity little quaff with no structure or aging capability, but a pleasant refreshing flavor.

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

1/4/2007 New Year's hangover

12/28/2006 Sins of the vine
12/21/2006 Kissing frogs
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
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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
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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

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