August 30, 2007


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Bottle surfing
A concert, a wine ó one of these things is better with age
By Tim Protzman†

Many years ago, I had a wonderful teacher.

She was pretty and smart. She was a little old ó but who isnít a little old to a teenager? She got mad at me one day while we were rehearsing Arsenic and Old Lace. It wasnít furious mad, just a little perturbed. It must have been something about my rakish and careless attitude. But I gently zinged her back with ďOh, now, Miss H. Iím sure you were one of those running topless through the fields of Woodstock.Ē

ďYes, Tim, I was,Ē she answered with a little satisfied smile on her face.

Now, I havenít seen her in years. And the last concert I saw was, well, Mahlerís First Symphony. Unless you count the David Bowie thing where we left after the first set because my date came down with a sudden case of gingivitis. I went to see this rock show last week and now, like my nemeses the wine name forgetter and the non-note taker, I canít remember the name of the band I liked the most.

Iíve been to a lot of concerts. I once got punched in a dumpy New York club by Iggy Pop. (Yes, I was annoying him.) Iíve even been to an outdoor Grateful Dead show (back in í76) where Elvisís motorcade drove by and the crowd went wild and overturned the port-a-potties. Canít remember that show either, except for the poor dude who emerged from one of the overturned potties.

But until last week Iíd never seen crowd surfing or a mosh pit. Oh, I had heard about it, but, itís totally different in person. Bodies rippling across a sea of hands. Heaving bodies slamming one another in a mad pogo-like dance. The flaying arms like windmills in a tornado. Itís overpowering, but seductive, like paying $78.99 for a bottle of the 1994 Les Pagodes de Cos, the second label of Ch‚teau Cos díEstournel, the famed second growth St-Estephe. You want to not do it because of the price, but you know you have to. And I was one of the oldest ones there. I donít care if he has been sitting on the couch playing Madden í08 all summer ó you donít body slam a 280-pound guy and expect not to be slammed back. No, mosh pits are for the young and fully insured.

This week was like a throwback to a different era, like going to your parentsí cellar and digging out your old Gladys Knight & The Pips records. We had a semi-informal tasting of wine, side by side and blind. The Wine Rookies were there. We each brought a bottle of something and had salad. If the wineís good with acidic salad then itíll be wonderful with Braciole díAgnello boned stuffed leg of lamb. Or roasted portobello mushrooms in a mango demi-glaze, for those who donít eat meat. As a palate cleanser we had Vidalia onion and goat cheese flatbread tarts.

Here are the wines we drank:
2005 Domaine Gabriel Billard ďMillianeĒ Bourgogne ($19.99). A simple red Burgundy appellation thatís slim and austere with nice background fruit and the taste of a more expensive Pommard. I felt like Diogenes when he finally found an ďhonestĒ wine. Honest meaning natural, with no fake chemical tastes, and a well-developed tannin that shows the strengths and flaws equally. This wine I would buy again, but Iím on the cusp. Violet sscented, hints of wood dust, Nestlť Quik and diluted apple juice. My choice for first place in the tasting.

1999 Produttore del Barbaresco, Barbaresco ($39.99). From Italyís Piedmonte region and from a co-op of 19 small vineyards. I spent more time researching this wine than I should have. It was tannic and fiery. It should have settled down by now and been out of the awkward stage, but it wasnít. And the search for the producer and the endless jargon on the wine label made the whole thing complex. And I didnít do my homework, because I didnít have the bottle when I was writing up my notes. And the importerís Web site was impossibly slow. I would not buy this wine again. Not because of any confusion, but because I didnít like the taste.

2004 Clairault Margaret River Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot Blend ($18.99). This one was so anticipated. We were cheering it on. But it dropped the ball. I loved the sauvignon blanc from Clairault. Itís one of my top favorites this year. But this was too fruit bomby and one dimensional. I need to try the chardonnay but I would not drink the cab/merlot blend.

2001 Penfolds Magill Estate Shiraz ($29.99). Another one we were rooting for that fumbled on the 15 yard line. Too much raisin flavor, not enough depth and unbalanced tannins. The Magill Estate was the original home of the winery and its founder Dr. Christopher Rawson Penfold, and itís located on the outskirts of Adelaide, South Australia. No future purchase.

2001 Morando Barolo ($24.99). This wine was Squiggyís choice for first place. I thought it was flawed but it opened up and bloomed. Would I buy it again? Yes, reluctantly. This was also the funniest wine because now, that most hip-hop artists, having discovered the joys of ultra premium vodkas and $1,000 dollar rare cognacs, have moved on to pleasure and pain of wine. Young Jeezy sings about Opus One, the Mondavi and Rothschild collaboration from California, and it would not be long before wines like Screaming Eagle, Domaine Drouhin, Dalla Valle and Vosne Romanee end up in lyrics. Not only was this wine super drinkable but itís highly rap-able. Barolo-olo in the baybee strolla. Yeah I know ó stick with my day job.

Oh my God, I just remembered: the band was Of a Revolution!.