May 3, 2007


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Got milk?

In praise of tastings
How he loves them, Protzman counts the ways
By Tim Protzman

My father’s one of the luckiest people I know.

He bought IBM for $28 a share. He won $7,800 on a scratch-off ticket. And he read his own obituary.

In 1946 he was in the military and stationed aboard a Seventh Fleet ship. It was USS Kearsarge and it was at its home port in Newport News, Virginia. He was supposed to go ashore. He signed up to go ashore, but at the last minute he stayed onboard. The launch boat that took them ashore sank and he was presumed lost with everyone else. Being a gigantic bureaucracy, the Navy checked their list and declared him dead. When he found out he called his parents and began the process of joining the living again. Apparently the Navy didn’t accept his word that he was still alive, they needed proof. It took two weeks. And before it was all cleared up, the government put his obituary in the paper. His parents sent him a clipping. It’s a different world today and as I write this my heart aches for all the military families who receive the same news and it’s not a mistake.

The reason I’m so father-fixated is that he turned 80 last week and we strolled down memory lane. And that got me thinking about a memory lane paved with crushed grapes.

Lately, I’ve been drinking less and tasting more. Less sitting around the table and socializing over a bottle or two, and more little sips and furious note-taking.

Wine tastings are fun. Not just for oenophiles, but for beginners too. Don’t be intimidated; try things. And remember there’s a whole Emperor’s-new-clothes thing about wine. It’s a product. And sometimes it needs to be sold. So what’s a better sales pitch than “If you have to ask about the price you can’t afford it?” Or the ultimate wine snob saying, “Maybe this wine is too nuanced for you to appreciate.” Which means “We know the wine’s bad, but we have to sell it because some dumb ass bought 50 cases and who are you to question me because you never stayed in a hayloft in France and helped bring in the harvest only to have the vineyard master steal your master card and use it to order stuff from Ikea!”

So if you like wine, get as many different free samples as possible. There are wine tastings every week, and if you can’t find any e-mail me or ask your wine merchant. Remember: “Oh, our clientele knows what they want, so we don’t need to hold tastings” means “We’re cheap.”

Soon you’ll have your own grape-strewn memory lane to slip and slide down. Here are some crushed memories from my scrapbook:
• Coming in from skiing and having a cool, crisp glass of jug chardonnay. Buying a pricey Burgundy that was so bad we mixed it with a syrah and called it cabernet.
• Buying a 1994 Dominus, which the clerk rang up wrong and charged only $16 (for a $90 bottle).
• Getting a call from the wine shop to come in and pay the full amount for the 1994 Dominus, ’cause I foolishly paid by check.
• Clos de Vougeot with duck.
• Watching the newest wine rookies consistently pick the best wines at a tasting, even though they never slept in a French hayloft.
• Waiting three years for my ex-girlfriend’s dad to open a 1974 Inglenook Cabernet Sauvignon, only to have it be mediocre.
• Domaine du Pegau Chateauneuf du Pape.
• 1990 Paul Jaboulet Hermitage “La Chapelle.”
• That Spanish wine from the Priorat that wowed everyone at that wine tasting full of snooty people.
• Getting thrown out of a wine tasting for over-pouring 1990 Pol Roger Cuvee Sir Winston Churchill (like, who won’t?) and being handed a tray of scallops and bacon hors d’oeuvres by the caterer who thought I worked for the wine shop and eating them in the car on the way home.
• Thoroughly tasting almost every vodka on the market and finding that Dad’s old favorite brand, Smirnoff, was really good.
• Going out with a noted food critic to a fabulous Indian restaurant and ordering the second-cheapest wine on the list only to have a great $70 St. Joseph substituted for free.
• Simonsig Red Hill Pinotage and Lorraine, whose charms I enjoyed all at the same time.
• Chile, Margaret River, South Africa and Argentina.
• Sending back a bottle of 1995 Pichon Longueville Comtesse De Lalande, but paying for it and negotiating a free bottle of Lynch Bages.
• Watching the kitchen staff taste the rejected 1995 Pichon Longueville Comtesse De Lalande.

And this week’s memories:
• Balinoff Vodka ($18.79). French distilled vodka, great finish and low alcohol afterburn.
• Rouge Chocolate Stout ($5.49). A bitter sweet symphony of hops, wonderfully crafted beer and a dusting of fine powdered cocoa. Could totally replace your evening cup of coffee.

And who says wine’s not topical? Just as the flap over that cranky, mean DJ seems to be dying down my Turkish wine merchants offer me Imus, pronounced “E muss,” a deliciously cheap $4.49 blend of grenache, tempranillo, carignan grapes from the high-altitude Montsant region of Spain. Fruity with low structure that works well because of the well-rounded tannins.

4/26/2007 Invention-tini

4/19/2007 More 'Mas'

4/12/2007 Futures in a bottle
3/29/2007 Uneasy glass of spring
3/22/2007 Chateau de blech
3/8/2007 Finding new beauties
3/1/2007 Infatuation or addiction
2/15/2007 The extraordinary ordinary
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
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