February 15, 2007

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Got milk?

The extraordinary ordinary
Cheap can be good, pricey can be bad
By Tim Protzman tprotzman@sbcglobal.net

There comes a time in your life when you realize that the most you can be is average, or even ordinary.

I’m there.

And it’s not a bad thing. No more delusions of grandeur about winning American Idol or being made Duke of Normandy for saving the Queen from pirates. When you look around you see harmony and you’re happy living just as you are. Even if the footprints you leave are smaller than Brad’s or Clooney’s or those of the drummer from Fall Out Boy.

This realization is never driven home harder than at the Wine Shop. Just as the average person can’t afford Hermes or Derek Lam designs, there are many wines that are just out of my league. So there’s my niche. I write about wines that are available and reasonably priced for the average wine drinker. I don’t have a cellar. I rarely tour vineyards. Me and my pack of Wine Rookies taste and judge the same wine that you do. Only we taste more and we write about them. We love when we find a beauty. We tell you when we find a dog, a wine so bad it should have a warning label.

And like all us average guys and gals, there’s a lot of average wine out there. My main gripe is that the only way to get a refund on wine is if it’s corked or bad. Corked wine has contaminants in it. It smells musty and sulfuric. What you can’t do — and this is unlike almost any other consumer good — is get a refund or credit on wine that’s just not fun to drink. I wish I had all the money I’ve spent on tannic, mean, watery, vapid, over-oaked, unnatural-tasting, sicky sweet wines that don’t sing to me. In a restaurant they give you some remuneration if the food or service is not good. Why does wine get a pass? If your cable goes out for days on end, you get a credit. Why don’t you get that with wine? I’ve had knowledgeable merchants suggest wines that cost 40 bucks and they still were disappointing.

Todd, my restaurant critic friend who likes but doesn’t love wine, sympathizes. She’s asked for and received numerous check adjustments and free dessert courses to make up for poor food and service. But she never got a dime back on the wine. She once bought a pricey 1988 Château du Tertre Arsac, an underrated fifth-growth Margaux. It was a magnum (1.5 liters) that cost $233. Not a kingly ransom but not exactly a Whopper Combo either. It was horrid, she said. Tannic, inky with sour flavors and lots of sediment.

She had served it at a dinner party and everyone had about two sips before that gave up. So she took it back, or tried to.

“Why is half gone if it was so bad?” the wine shop owner asked.

“I had 10 people over and I poured the first glass and nobody could finish it, so I dumped the glasses down the drain,” my friend said.

The most the owner would offer was a $20 credit on her next purchase. She turned to leave, and she swears it was an accident, but the half-empty bottle slipped to the floor and shattered, spraying wine and glass all over a white cardboard display of cheap rum, her pants and the floor. She just turned, mouthed a quick sorry and walked out. This is the most satisfaction I’ve ever heard anyone get from a wine shop owner. Of course it cost her $10.50 to dry clean her pants, but she got a great story out of it.

I used to feel deceived by the merchant when I tasted bad wine, but so many gallons later I’ve evolved to blaming the wine itself. Here’s this week’s list of suspects with a few angels.

Kyle is a tall, handsome IT salesman who’s our newest wine rookie. Problem is he only drinks whites. He’s got a huge house and he threw a barn-burner of a Super Bowl party. (Why does it have to be on Sunday? Maybe they should give us that Monday off as a national holiday?) One room held a Beer Pong table. In the workout room over-testosteroned guys were sparring with boxing gloves. Three TVs pumped out the game on various sized screens. The grill was going. The pizza boy came twice. And we tasted wine.

• 2005 Edna Valley Chardonnay, San Luis Obispo Valley ($13.49) A touch of oak and vanilla wrapped in a semi-sweet mantle of slightly dense wine. A “B” grade chard for the ordinary Jolene.

• 2004 Canyaka Kavaklidere Emir de Nevsehir ($11.99) Another fun wine from Turkey. Light like a Sauvignon Blanc with a floral bouquet like a Chenin Blanc. C-

• Domaine Moreau & Fils 2004 Chablis Kyle hated it. I like the honesty and mineral flavors it presented. It’s all chardonnay grapes, but Chablis does it with a different twist like Kansas City and North Carolina do on barbecue Sauce. Wouldn’t purchase again unless by the glass. Very drinkable.

• Domaine Mangiat-Poncet Saint-Veran 2004 Saint Veran’s are a rustic but satisfying village wine from Burgundy. Sweet and young drinking, this one had apple, sour grass, pear and light lemon vinegar taste. C grade.

And the winner of the Vince Lombardi Trophy is:

• 2005 Benziger Los Carneros Chardonnay ($13.89) Buttery yet crisp. Lemon zest hints. Floral grace notes. Honeysuckle bouquet. Very Good. Sure to drink again.

And The Bears?

• Fossati 1997 Barolo from Azienda Agricola ($45.49) Here’s one you hope to drop on the way to the checkout counter. Flat and one-dimensional. Tannic with chocolate and pepper flavor notes. Just plain underwhelming.

• 2005 Cloudline Willamette Valley Pinot Noir More like a Zinot Noir (or is it Pinot Zoir), 100 percent pinot that tastes like a cross between Zinfandel and Pinot. Pleasant but a bit preternatural.



2/8/2007 A glass of sweetness

2/1/2007 A glass of sweetness
1/25/2007 Ham it up
1/18/2007 Cheating on wine
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, 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
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
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