June 14, 2007


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Got milk?

Jack & Jill and a pail of wine
Wedding season means open bars
By Tim Protzman tprotzman@sbcglobal.net

Sometime in late April it slips in and wreaks havoc with your free time — yard work and watching sports on TV.

That’s the man’s point of view. To women, it’s gossamer and silk. A romantic time where even the humblest and most lowborn can feel like a princess. Wine-lovers view it as a chance to sample free wine chosen by someone other than themselves. I call it “the best of wines, the worst of wines.”

And I’m talking about wedding season.  

My first wedding was in 1972. I was in eighth grade and it was my uncle’s. There weren’t any flower girls or ring bearers, just a band, an open bar (my family’s a lot like me) and some overcooked chicken. I remember my cousin and me sneaking off to smoke cigarettes in the attic.  

This weekend, the cycle of life turned and I went to a shower for the first one of my friend’s children to get married. The cycle goes like this: your parents go to a wedding, you go with your parents, you go alone to a  wedding, you go to your children’s and friends’ children’s weddings and then you go to your grandchildren’s weddings. At the beginning of the cycle, you hit the bar. At the end, you waylay the waitress passing a tray of crab cakes, complain that they’re too spicy and try to stay awake long enough to eat the cake.  

The wedding shower has two possible origins. The first dates from medieval times when the bride was ritualistically bathed as a symbol of her purity. Bathing wasn’t that popular in the Dark Ages and it was probably very traumatic for her. Filth was in back then.  

The second, more plausible, explanation is that the shower was a quick way to raise cash for the dowry that was required by the groom’s family. Then about 30 years ago the Jack & Jill came into being. This party combined the sedate Bridal Shower and the bacchanalian Bachelor Party with disastrous results. Men where forced to ohh and aah over tea sets and bath towels, and women were forced to do shots of Rumplemintz.  

This weekend I went to a Jack and Jill. (Can we please change the name to Harry & Sally or Jack and Diane?) It was Hawaiian-themed and it was terrible. The old people (my age) complained about the Kanye West songs. The youngsters made faces at the Rolling Stones tunes and 5th Dimension singing “Wedding Bell Blues.” And I complained about the wine.  

The two best wedding wines I ever had were a Chateau Fortia and a Wycliff sparkling wine, a méthode champenoise wine from California. They were at both ends of the price and pedigree spectrum and both were delicious.  

The Chateau Fortia was served at a reception at the Castle Hill Inn in Newport, R.I. It was 1997. The couple who married are now divorced. The bridesmaids wore similar but not matching dresses. I remember lamb chops with little chef hats on the end, freesia bouquets and a jazz ensemble. The wine was a 1978 Chateauneuf-du-Pape. Deep, spicy, thrilling. I had to sneak into the kitchen and slip the waitress a 20 to get a second glass. Actually, it was about a third of an open bottle, but it was great, even though I had to drink it near the dumpster. Today it retails for about $150 a bottle.   

The Wycliff was easier to get and was a sweet, crisp champagne that had fruit, backbone and a pleasant, light finish. I gave the waiter three bucks and a winning scratch-off ticket ($1) and he kept the bottles coming.

This weekend’s coed event started with much promise. Cases of beer and wine on ice. Shrimp and scallops. Homemade desserts.  

But the first wine I tried was a vicious little pinot noir from southern France. This wine was tannic and mean. No fruit, only an astringent taste that was like unsweetened grape juice and vinegar. It was from the Vins du Pay D’Oc Region, which really means anywhere in southern France, but usually not any place where good grapes grow. If you look at the map it’s on the coast between Montpellier and the Spanish border.  

Then some idiot bought four boxes of Trove — Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Pinot Grigio. This boxed wine was the equivalent of boxed airplane food before the airlines got too cheap to feed you anything more than a bag of peanuts.

The only decent wine was a cube of Black Box Chardonnay. And the whole evening just points out what’s wrong with wine. They had six or seven choices and only one was good.  

Life is too short to drink crappy wine.  

If you want to serve wine at your wedding — and it’s perfectly OK not to — get some advice so you don’t ply your guests with something that could double as antifreeze. E-mail me.  

The evening finally ended, but not before the hostess’s drunken niece fell and rolled down a drainage culvert in the parking lot. She was fine, but her palm tree party favor was destroyed. Maybe that’s why they call it a Jack & Jill?  

Here are this week’s wines.  

Sella & Mosca 2003 Cannonau di Sardegna, $11.99. Bought this wine because it was from Sardinia. Tannic and tight. Not rustic or full of regional character. Disappointing. 

Masion Champy Saint-Aubin Premiere Cru white Burgundy 2002, $24.49. Very elegant and crisp with a touch of minerals and lemon zest, bok choyand apple hints. Nice finish. One complaint: good first taste, nice finish, watery middle.

Chateau Ferran 2003 Pessac-Leognan, $18.45. Expected much more from this, but it did have the classic dry cab/merlot/cab franc finish.  

J 2005 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, $26.44. The best of all. If I married this wine I probably wouldn’t divorce it, although I would seriously consider having an affair to bring some variety into my life.

6/7/2007 Our lady of the Rioja

5/24/2007 Breaking the fast
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, 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