October 18, 2007


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Spooky wines
Start the holiday drinking with Halloween
By Tim Protzman tprotzman@sbcglobal.net

It must be that time of year — the holidays. How did I know? I got my Kendall-Jackson calendar!

They send out this great calendar every year with these superb photographs by their P.R. person, George Rose. I love and treasure the calendar, even though last year’s had the full moon dates wrong. This year it was the first thing I checked, and they got it right. There’s a little Druid in me that really wants to know when that full moon’s scheduled, and now, thanks to Kendall-Jackson, it’s beautifully ensconced at my fingertips under a harmonious and eye-pleasing photo of vineyards and hills.

The calendar got me thinking about Kendall-Jackson wines. They seem to be the Toyota Corollas of wines. But there’s more to them. Yes, Kendall-Jackson Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay ($10.99) is the best-selling wine in the state for the umpteenth month in row, but they have quite a few more exotic models.

The next level up is the Grand Reserve and the price difference is not that much. We’re talking in the $20 range. Their top of the line Stature Meritage Red Wine ($69.99), which I’ve had once and found delicious, would be a wonderful celebration wine. It’s rare — 244 cases or 2,928 bottles produced for the 2002 release, versus more than 100,000 for the Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay. What I’d like to try, but can’t find are the Highland Estates single vineyard series. These wines, which range from $25 to $60, come in chardonnay, pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon, merlot and syrah and are indicative of the terroir (dirt and weather) of the vineyards the grapes come from. Maybe for Christmas. Kendall-Jackson’s big on holidays and they start early. They host a tomato festival in September that sells out. I’d hoped it was a little like the old Kennebunkport Dump Festival, with tomato parades and tomato floats, fried dough and the crowning of the Tomato Queen and Mr. Beefsteak, but it’s more like a Williams-Sonoma commercial with verjus demi-glace substituting for the fried dough.

All this holiday talk started when I got an e-mail request for some suggestions on stocking up for the holidays. Julie wants me to help her select a few bottles. Some would be inexpensive; some would be in the $20 range. She wants to have 12 to 16 bottles on hand before the holidays, so she can concentrate on getting her cards out and wrapping gifts. I suggested she eliminate the cards, stock up on booze and invite her friends over for a drink. Even if they don’t come you can down a bottle of Il Bastardo Sangiovese ($6.99), get on the phone and drunk dial your peeps to wish them a happy holiday.

I use Halloween to get a jump on my holiday drinking. Here are some suggestions:

• French wine from Cahors. Often called “the Black Wine” because it’s dark and thick and often fierce like Edward The Black Prince. It was thought in the Middle Ages that Cahors wine cured stomach ills and it was favored by the French Court. But the dirty secret is it’s Malbec! Just a little different from the Argentinean version, more rustic, more everyday. Big plus is Cahors is usually cheap.
• Rousanne — the other white grape. With a touch of sweetness and a firm lemony structure this wine’s been cropping up in California in wonderfully crafted, much less expensive versions of its Northern Rhone Valley cousin. Also produed in Washington state.
• Carmenere — I used to watch birds and the hooded phalarope was a “life bird” I drove miles to see. Carmenere is a French grape, used for mixing, that’s excelled in Chile. Concho Y Toro does a good carmenere and the State stores have a good selection, but like the phalarope it’s rare. The treat is this wine tastes like a shiraz/merlot hybrid with firm but not bossy tannins and subdued fruit. Nobody will ever complain that carmenere’s a fruit bomb.

This week’s wines:
• Here’s a scary one for Halloween — 2004 Torreon de Paredes Cabernet Sauvignon ($6.99). From Argentina. My son bought this one and it intrigued me. Until I tasted it. Flea Dip!! I got him to explain the purchasing rationale and he said: “Good price, nice label, cabernet…” If only those things translated into the crush.
• 2005 Vampire Romanian Chardonnay ($7.99) I never buy European wine with the varietal name on the label because I think I know everything and I even know that Barolo is nebbiolo and Chianti is sangiovese. But this stuff was good! Sweet and peachy, creamy with a grassy herbal finish and a lavender aftertaste.
• 2003 Hommage Vin de pays des Cevennes ($12.99). Means wine from the country of Cevennes. A tannicy, finicky syrah from the foothills of the Cevennes Mountains, just west of the Southern Rhone Valley. Not bad, wouldn’t drink again unless I was trapped in a house with Michael Myers!
• 2005 Jospeh Drouhin Chorey-les-Beaune ($26.49). Another cranky Burgundy that reminds me of a maiden aunt who wears Youth Dew Body powder to disguise her truffle-like smell. Maybe it will improve with age, but like you’re prison inmate uncle, nobody wants to wait around for him..

10/11/2007 Location, location, location

10/04/2007 Shiraz history
9/27/2007 Ingenious appellation
9/20/2007 Small world of wines
9/13/2007 How not to get screwed
9/6/2007 Wine lover's shopping trip
8/30/2007 Bottle surfing
8/23/2007 Lobster goes red
8/16/2007 Emotional tasting notes
8/9/2007 Stop, wine thief
8/2/2007 Be your own sommelier
7/26/2007 You do know your wine
7/19/2007 Booze free association
7/12/2007 Raiders of the sidewalk
7/5/2007 A sustainable buzz
6/28/2007 We are the merlot
6/21/2007 Forgot Dad? Bring booze.
6/14/2007 Jack & Jill and a pail of wine
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