October 25, 2007


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Schooled in shiraz
Wine makes learning fun
By Tim Protzman tprotzman@sbcglobal.net

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.

10/18/2007 Spooky wines

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