January 18, 2007

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Got milk?

Cheating on wine
What happens when a love affair fades?
By Tim Protzman†tprotzman@sbcglobal.net

Most small-town newspapers have a page that reports births, deaths, marriages, engagements and promotions. They chronicle peopleís lives. These are the ordinary people. They committed no crimes and arenít running for office. Iím always impressed by the anniversaries ó the golden 50-year anniversary, the yellow diamond 60th and the platinum 70th. Lots of couples make it to the 50th. A few who were married young get to the 70th. My grandparents were married 67 years, before my grandfather died. I think itís neat, and even right to celebrate these accomplishments, but what the paper doesnít tell you is how. How they got through the hard spots

For the last 16 years Iíve had a relationship with wine. There were good times, when expensive bottles flowed like water. There were times when a $9.99 bottle once a week was all I could afford. But there was always that spark. That softening of the face. That crinkling of the eyes upon first sight. That desire.

Lately Iíve been thinking about leaving wine. Iíve even been cheating on wine. Avoiding the long wooden racks. Sneaking into the beer cooler. And almost getting caught. Coming home from a late night at work with (gasp!!) single-malt whiskey on my breath. Oh, yeah, the wine knew. Didnít say anything, but knew. I felt shame, but it wasnít all my fault. Isnít there a time in every relationship when the grass seems greener? Or maybe itís something small. A little annoying trait or idiosyncrasy that builds up over time and begins to reverberate until you canít stand it any longer. I once was dumped because, on occasion, I chewed my food with my mouth open.

What I want to know is how these couples, these committed couples, got through the hard, dark, tragic or just plain boring times. Did the electricity of early love change to the steady companionship of later years? Did they fall out of love only to be swept back in? Or did their commitment outweigh the annoyances or even occasional hatred?

My roving eye comes from the law of diminishing returns. Iíve been putting more into my relationship with wine than wineís been putting back. Iíve tasted too many mediocre wines that just laid there. Wines that didnít smile when I walked in the room. Wines that skipped the goodbye kiss.

Exactly what was boring about these wines? One, they had no character. They were too removed from their native soil. They retained nothing of their heritage. Two, they were one-dimensional. That first sip was nice but then the flavor didnít evolve. They seemed flat or heavily tannic. And three, probably least important but still a factor, the wines were greatly overpriced. If I spend $24.99 for a bottle, I want something memorable. When I purchase a $9.99 bottle, my expectations are less. This holds true for everything from automobiles ó a Porsche should have more pick-up than a Kia ó to maple syrup ó why spend $8.99 for Grade A Medium Amber if it tastes like those packets you get in a diner?

I contemplated a clean break, a move to a nameless Midwestern city, leaving wine no forwarding address. Then I thought; ďAfter our long affair, could wine and I just be friends?Ē That way I could be less of a wine writer and more of a beverage specialist. Then it happened. Was this the event that rekindles the love? The event that lifts the relationship over the rocky spots and refloats it on the sea of love? Had I stumbled onto the key of all long-term relationships? And is that key patience, perseverance and the remembrance of loving things past?

I was in a store that doesnít have a great wine selection. These stores are the cheapest for spirits, and thatís why I go. I avoid the wine section. Too many questions I donít want to answer. Too many painful memories. I grabbed a six-pack and some vodka. I headed toward the checkout. As I turned the corner I ran right into it! There, sitting on an end cap, away from the wine section, were the first bottles of the 2005 Bordeaux harvest.

I bought two bottles. And, to skip to the end, the spark was back. It wasnít such a great bottle as to qualify as a life-changing experience, except that it changed mine by relighting the flame, but it was good. It had character, terroir and flavor. It spoke of the sun and the gentle estuary breezes of the Gironde. It smiled at me and as I drank the last sip of the first glass I puckered up for a gentle kiss. Does a love restored count as a love lost? Or is it a renewal? Iím such a romantic!

Anyway, here are the wines I tasted this week that recharged my wine batteries.

2005 Chateau Haut Montaud, $9.99. A primarily cabernet sauvignon blend with an appellation control of cru bourgeois and flavor, flavor, flavor and structure. Blackberry, black pepper, grape, plum and cassis flavors. Dry, but not austere. Still tannic but layered around the finish.

2005 Chateau La Rose Tour Blanche, $9.99. Also primarily cabernet sauvignon. The slightly less jack little brother of Haut Montaud. Flavor and structure combined with a nice bouquet.

2004 Hazy Blur, $34.99. This is one of my ďwhen in doubt, strike outĒ wines. Which means if youíre drinking a lot of chardonnay and getting bored, try something different.

This Australian Shiraz from the McLaren Vale was spicy with Tabasco, peat and a little bit of dried citrus flavors. Very smooth with well-tamed tannins and a great finish and fruit flavor.

2004 El Toqui Cabernet Sauvignon, $12.99. A Chilean selection from the Cachapoal Valley. This wineís parent company also makes Chateau Larose-Trintaudon. Inkberry and a slight bouquet of tobacco. Nice, but I wouldnít buy it again.

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


1/11/2007 Burning down the tree

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, doesnít 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
Gin
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
Mondovino
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
Olť! to a week in wine
Opening the Parker book

Our French friends ó 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
Whiteís OK after Labor Day
Wine Between The Season
Wine for the NASCAR set
Wine is in at the Inn
Wineíll make you crazy
Wine Works With Red Sauce

Just because itís healthy doesnít make it a bad mixer