Schooled in shiraz
Wine makes learning fun
By Tim Protzman email@example.com
Sometimes I feel like a voice crying in the wilderness. Then a ray of light falls and I realize that all is not for naught.
If you’ve ever been in the newspaper business you know that all the work you do, all the editing and writing and research eventually ends up in the recycling bin. I once had a woman tell me she loves the Hippo because it was the perfect size drop cloth for re-potting her African violets. So sometimes we get a little down. But last week I got an e-mail from a gentleman that cheered me up. And he had a CSW after his name. I checked and he’s either a Certified Social Worker or a Certified Specialist of Wine. I’m hoping he’s both. I could use a good social worker who not only helps me with my life problems but can recommend a good bottle to go with them. Like a kicky little sauvignon blanc to go with my co-dependency issues.
This gentleman pointed out the true and non-romantic origins of syrah/shiraz. It never came from Iran as I related in an earlier column. It’s French! And a cross of the Dureza and Monduese grapes. He suggested perhaps a bird ate some seeds and magically produced the shiraz grape in its tummy. I think it was maybe a little human tinkering. A Dureza vine grafted onto a Monduese rootstock that produced one of the noblest grapes around.
He also said that he believes wonderfully spicy and fragrant syrah will soon come pouring out of Washington State’s Columbia Valley. I shall be on the lookout for those “American Rhones.”
And to put my two cents in, why stop at the Columbia Valley? It should spread to the Walla Walla and Yakima areas. And if we get world-class syrah from Washington, will Idaho, with its brand new Snake River Valley American Viticutural Area, produce honest and rustic peasant wine and be the Languedoc Roussillon of Washington’s Rhone? Let’s hope so and thank you to that really smart wine social worker. I know more about wine than 97 percent of the American population. But the people who know more than 98 percent of the American population know 10 times more than me. So thanks, everyone, for teaching me.
I like wine and I like to learn about wine, especially when it comes from a humble wine lover. Nobody wants to be browbeaten by an insane wine didact. I once went to a store for a tasting and every statement I made was refuted. I felt like I was buying a used car instead of a bottle of cabernet. And the big blowhard owner just kept showing me who was smarter. I finally asked if a $52 of Spanish wine from the Priorat region would make good sangria. He was horrified. He almost didn’t let me buy it. So remember it’s only wine; lighten up. Not everyone’s as passionate as you. And when you do correct someone do it as gently and with as much class as the Specialist of Social Wine Work — he made learning fun!
Here’s what I swilled this week:
• Twisted Tea ($5.99) Comes in a six pack like beer, tastes like iced tea, has a kick, but it’s lighter than a Long Island Iced Tea cocktail. The Nestea version of a wine cooler. Pleasant I’d drink it again.
• City Brewing Beer ($3.99) From La Crosse, Wisc. You know why I bought this … because it’s cheap, cheap, cheap. What I didn’t expect was it was so good. I liked the Lager, Honey Wheat and Festbier, but the Pale Ale was a little skunky. Would I buy it again?…hell, yeah — I’m thinking of marrying it!
• 2005 Calina Carmenere Reserve ($8.99) From Chile’s Maule Valley. Think of luscious, rich zinfandel with a plumy fruit finish that’s balanced and non-tannic. Not a fruit bomb, but fruity. Best $8.99 wine I’ve had in years.
• 2001 Cuvee Vincila Domaine Montvac Vacqueyras ($19.99) Outstandingly good wine from the Southern Rhone. Cassis, licorice, violets, and those snowdrop non-pareil candies you get at the movies. This wine should be bought by the case and cellared and opened every year to see how it progresses.
• 2005 Morgan Vineyards Twelve Clone Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir ($22.89) Nice, but tannic. Juicy but incomplete. Californian in structure, but a little too much like a boxed wine with a name like “Calabasas Choo Choo.” Would not purchase this wine again.
• 2004 Plan Pegau ($14.99). From the Rhone. Why, why, why? You had the pedigree (made at the incomparable Domaine de Pegau, one of the finest producers in the valley), you had the vintage — 2005 is being promoted as one of the greatest vintages of the century (but so is 2007 now), but it failed to excite. Watery and thin, with a tannic mean streak and none of the fruit/spice/herb element of the Pegau Chateauneuf de Pape. Good grapes that died in vain.
• 2005 Chateau Clos de la Chesnaie Lalande de Pomerol ($14.99) Closed and tannic with perhaps promise to come. This wine was young and rambunctious, but it did have all the elements of a nice Bordeaux, except taste. I wouldn’t buy a case of this, but I would put a bottle away for at least five years to see if it developed.