August 16, 2007


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Emotional tasting notes
Forget the flavors how did the wine feel?
By Tim Protzman

Sometimes when I go to an art museum, I see a painting so beautiful I want to be in it.

That happens with wine too.

It’s one of the joys of loving wine. There’s a place where the earth and sky come together and create fruit of the vine so rich and wonderful that you imagine the vineyard in every detail. For a moment you’re there. A Tuscan hill. A California ranch. On a wide plain at dawn with fog, the Andes a faint purple on the horizon.

This week I had that moment, twice. The thing is sometimes when I read a wine column I want just the list. A list of recommendations, an all-points bulletin to be on the lookout for these wines. And sometimes I want a little back story. But only if it’s interesting. There’s not much back story except I once stood in front of a Monet at the Currier for 20 minutes trying to get myself to actually smell the French bread baking. And I drank a wine this week that took me to a cool limestone cellar in Burgundy, which was strange since the wine was sauvignon blanc from Australia. But all my tastes weren’t French. Just the other night I ate ravioli out of the can. And it wasn’t Chef Boyardee either. It was Price Slasher. Just so you don’t think I’m all fancy and stuff. And the power of sense has always triggered emotion.

So rather than describing the taste of the wine — elderberry, hawthorne, scallops served on rippled mesquite potato chips — I charted my emotional reaction to each wine and the thoughts that crossed my mind as I sipped. And I cheated by starting on my second glass, not the first.

There was a new wine from western Australia’s Margaret River Region at my wine shop. The producer was Clairault Vineyards, a small family-owned winery in the Wilyabrup district. The wine was tight when I opened it and I had it in the refrigerator overnight and pulled it out about 20 minutes before I drank it. It had nice fruit and a great finish. Most $20 whites don’t have huge structure, which makes a pleasing finish more important. There was pineapple, melon, vanilla yogurt and lemon sugar flavors. My thoughts?

“Why don’t I drink more whites?”

“Margaret River looks like a cross between Florida and Devon, England.”

“There’s gotta be stuff in the soil. Wine wouldn’t do good in the topsoil that comes in a bag from Home Depot.”

“Would it taste like Home Depot?”

“Who ate the last Dove Bar!!!”

“I’m in a limestone cellar seven feet under the cobblestone street of Saint Roman, Cotes du Beaune. There’s this older French gentleman. He’s wearing his army medals. The cheese has been sitting out all night. Now a cat just walked on it. What’s that smell? The cheese? Monsieur? Oh, it’s me. Do I detect a hinty little flavor note of Crenshaw Melon? What ever happened to Marshall Crenshaw? Flavor Flav is the same age as me…old fart.”

2004 Clairault Margaret River Sauvignon Blanc ($17.49). One white I’d buy again and again.

There was a tough little wine that we picked up for $8.99 for a cookout. We never finished it and we left the bottle there. I tried researching it but I got no hits on the Web. It was a Catalayud and a tannic Grenache bomb. Was it Yaza? Or Waza?

Emotions felt while drinking — sadness that the new price floor for decent-tasting wine is $22.59.

With so much inexpensive wine around, should some of it be good? Still searching.

2003 Chateau Fage ($10.99) from Graves de Vayres in Bordeaux. Tight and closed. Would not try this wine again.

Thoughts while sipping:

“The Baron Rothschild died on a hunting trip in Austria at age 90! Why do painters and wine makers live so long? Austrian wine is nice, but hard to find.”

2004 Monasterio de Santa Ana ($11.49). A little wine from Jumilla. Mostly monastrell (mourvedre) grapes and quite unruly.

“Never buy wine named after a Mexican dictator. Pass on the Brunello di Mussolini too.”

2003 Masi Campofiorin Ripasso ($14.99). From the Veneto region in Italy. Recommended to me by Brett, who usually drinks vodka. Not much depth but nice fruit and good tannins to balance it. Would drink this one again. Would buy it again too. Thoughts while chugging:

“Ripasso means slightly dried, like cranberries”

“Brett’s blonde highlights don’t work.”

“I’m so smart I can read the Latin motto on the bottle; Nectar Angelorum Hominibus – Angel’s nectar on a homey minibus.”

2003 Chateau Duclaux Chateauneuf du Pape ($28.50). Delicious. Structure, balance, smoke, spice and fruit in a wondrous blend. One of the best Chateauneufs or Rhones I‘ve had in a long time and it’s way cheaper that the brand names.

“I wish I was that hermit that lived in the hermitage in the Rhone valley. I’d come out at night and eat the grapes and then sneak into the cellar and drink from the casks.”

“I don’t care what the critics say, I liked I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry”