June 7, 2007

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Got milk?

Our lady of the Rioja
When saints canít protect you, bring tannins
By Tim Protzman†tprotzman@sbcglobal.net

If this werenít so strange, it probably wouldnít have happened to me, because I have a knack for taking the road less traveled right to the land of the strange.

It started with pizza. Innocent pizza.

We visited my daughter at college and took her out to dinner at a pizza place. Itís more than 70 years old and is painted with Depression-era murals that need a good cleaning. These arenít the regular pizza house murals. There were no scenes of Pompeii, Coliseum, the Acropolis or the Leaning Tower of Pisa. These were murals of gauchos, those Argentinean cattle wranglers, the cowboys of the pampas. The menu explained that the original owner had spent her childhood in Argentina, which has quite a large population of Italian ancestry. After she married, they emigrated to America and opened a pizza shop. The mural immortalized her childhood homeland and its gauchos. The menu also explained that in the corner above the cash register is a depiction of Saint Anthony the Abbot, the patron saint of Naples, Italy and pizza makers.

Iíve always had the greatest respect for people of faith. People whose lives are dedicated to helping others. People whoíve suffered and died for their faith. People to whom others look for their intercessional powers. But my daughter had her laptop with her so we fired it up and went to the Catholic Forum online, which has an extensive listing of saints and their patronages.

This turned up conflicting information. Naples has many patron saints, including Saint Gennaro, who has his own street festival in Little Italy on the Lower East Side. Heís also known as St. Januarius, who was martyred for his faith in 305 AD.

Saint Anthony the Abbott, in addition to being one of the patron saints of Naples, is also the patron saint against†pestilence and, according to the Web site, the patron saint of amputees, animals, basket makers, basket weavers, brush makers, Burgio in Sicily, butchers, Canas in Brazil, cemetery workers, domestic animals, eczema, epilepsy, epileptics, ergotism, erysipelas, gravediggers, graveyards, hermits, hogs, hospitallers, monks, Mook in Netherlands, pigs, relief from pestilence, St. Anthonyís fire, skin diseases, skin rashes, swine and swinherds.

This laundry list of patronage caused me to laugh out loud. Not at the saint himself or his piety or the Catholic religion, but at the juxtaposition of brush-making and eczema, swine and erysipelas (a medical term for red skin).

As soon as my blasphemous laughter stopped I was severely wounded on the roof of my mouth by an extra sharp pizza crust I was eating. It bled so much that it covered my lips and my ex-wife accused me of getting into her lipstick again. (It was the ďagainĒ part that turned the most heads in the nearly packed pizza house.)

But she did have a point. I left the table and smoked a cigarette outside, away from the stern gaze of St. Anthony the Abbott, who Iíll never sass or tease or in any way disrespect again.

It took 90 minutes, a styptic pencil, an application of liquid band-aids and a cup of tea to stanch the blood flow. The tannins in the tea have a natural clotting effect. There is no patron of tea, but Saint Rene Goupil, the patron saint of anesthesiologists, used a pine needle tea to cure scurvy.

The next day I paid some bills. Being cheap I pay the ones I canít pay online or over the phone at a dry cleanerís thatís set up for Western Union and bill-paying. This way I donít need a stamp. I was cranky. I hadnít eaten all day. I was in line and the roof of my mouth hurt.

This dry cleanerís smells of naphthalene but has the most amazing geraniums in the window year-round. It also has a gumball machine. And a machine that dispenses jujubes and M&Mís. Today it had a new addition. The fake spiders, rings and little green army men with parachutes in those round plastic display balls were gone. In their place were plastic saints! In those round plastic display balls. The Blessed Mother, Saint Francis, Saint Christopher and Saint Juan Diego, an Aztec who converted to Christianity and was canonized in 2002.

I asked the lady who takes my bills about the saints. But she was Lutheran and didnít know. She did say they were selling quicker than the fake snakes and spiders ever did. This gave me hope. Spirituality was alive and well. People actually did care about more than just their comforts. It might have been a coincidence or a fluke, but I saw the sign. I broke a five and bought three saints and took them back to the office and put them on a prominent shelf.

Wine is also a spiritual process. Not drinking it, but the belief that every year the vines will blossom. The berries will come and the harvest will be good. Every vintner must have that faith. And itís no surprise that vineyards, wine makers, wine merchants, vineyard worker and vinegar makers have eight different saints watching over them. Hereís this weekís wine.

Geyser Peak 2005 Sauvignon Blanc ($8.99) Light and a touch watery, with subtle tannins and hints of pineapple, lemon and gooseberry. Patron saint is St. Lawrence.

2005 Scala Dei Negre ($12.49) From Priorat, Spain, this wine is tannic and heavy like purple velvet. Pray to St. Goar that this one will age better and time will tame these prodigal Grenache grapes.

1998 Montecillo Gran Reserve Rioja ($17.99) One of the better reds Iíve tasted in a while. All tempranillo grapes and favored by St. Vincent of Saragossa, native of that region. So nice, Iím getting another bottle!

2003 Chateau Tour de Pressac Saint-Emilion Grand Cru ($26.39) From the very hot summer of 2003. This one may age better but itís a little austere now. St. Walter of Pontnoise watches over this one.


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5/17/2007 What the best bears drink
5/10/2007It's OK to be pink
5/3/2007 In praise of tastings
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, 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