Drinks with Diwali
Gewurtz, zin, malbec and more
By Tim Protzman email@example.com
A few years ago at a pinotage tasting I was talking with a restaurant owner who looked forward to the holiday season.
He was from Boston and the end of the year was bonus season for the “bonzen” in the financial industry. He said it was a way to sell some of the older, more expensive, well-known, but not necessarily greatest vintage bottles that were hanging around his cellar. The “bonus day” lunch or dinner is often marked by expensive consumables, like Sterlet caviar and Kobe beef steaks. And while these wizards of Wall Street may know their “spiders” (a stock derivative based on the Standard & Poor 500 Index), they don’t always know that the 1964 Chateau Ferriere is infinitely better than the 1965. They often just bought the most expensive wines on the list. That and having had a few expensive martinis made with Boomsma Oude Dutch gin made for some real cellar clean-out opportunities. He’d often sell a superior vintage with the sale hook, “And I’ll take 20 percent off the 1972 if you buy the magnum.”
No wonder he has a house in Bermuda. Much more genuine was Hrishikesh, the chef/owner of a very good Indian restaurant. He doesn’t need to lure traders inside, ’cause he celebrates Diwali.
When I was in seventh grade Miss Margolis traveled to India on a fellowship or something and came back to school just in time to throw a Diwali celebration. Diwali is the festival of lights that commemorates the return of a king from exile in the forest. It’s a happy time celebrated with fireworks and twinkling lights. Miss Margolis unfortunately choose to go authentic and gave us all little plastic derringer squirt guns filled with water that had been lightly dyed with food coloring. Diwali is celebrated by more than a billion people, but each region and even village puts its own twist on it. One that Miss Margolis picked up was squirting colored water, which left small but noticeable stains on our clothes. The poor girls were the targets of caddish seventh grade boy behavior and the boys had a hoot with the more vibrant colors in the showers after PE class. The mothers were furious, but it all came out in the wash.
So this year I celebrated Diwali (which was Friday, Nov. 9) again at Hrishikesh’s Indian restaurant where he offered a feast complete with wine pairings. He’s suggested zinfandel, primitivo, malbec, riesling, pinot blanc, viognier and gewürztraminer.
Tasted a slew of wine this week and most of it was nice, and there were a couple goods and one near great.
• 1996 Casina Fontana Barolo ($37.99) From Piedmonte, Italy. Very feminine and subtle with a tannic frame and little fat or lushness. Enjoyable but like a Diwali firecracker that didn’t go off with a full bang, just a whistle. I’d taste this wine again, but wouldn’t buy it.
• 2003 Produttori del Barbaresco ($14.99). A nebbiolo from the Cuneo district of Piedmonte, an area famous for white truffles. I loved the price, I loved the bracing tannins, but this wine was singular and a one-joke comedian. I would buy it again because it was on the fence between memorable and forgettable, and since 65 percent of what I taste is forgettable, on the fence ain’t that bad.
• 2006 Le Silex Sancerre ($22.99) Le Silex means flint and that’s supposed to be the mineral in the wine and soil. I thought it sweet and a bit watery. Wouldn’t buy again, but it was pleasant enough to sip. I really like that more Sancerre and other Loires are more available today.
• 2000 Damilano Barolo ($29.99) An incredible wine that bears buying again. Hints of cranberry Jello shots, dried raisins, sour cherries and meat juice. A deep and moving wine with nose, depth and flavor — at half the cost of its single-vineyard older brothers like Cannubi and Liste. Best of the week.
• 2003 Chateau Reysson ($17.99) from Haut Medoc. Baked in the last French heatwave and ready now. It was a delicious, low-cost way to taste what a real Bordeaux can be. Licorice, crab apple juice, chocolate, Worcestershire sauce, with a faint smell of Band-aids and hay. I would buy this again without hesitation.
• 2004 Emilio Moro Ribera Del Duero ($24.88) Poor Emilio, he was my favorite Spanish wine maker, but it seems there’s just so much new talent out there that like Carlos Santana he’s relegated to smaller venue clubs, fairs and casinos.
• 2004 Costa De Oro Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir ($19.99) From Gold Coast Vineyard. This wine’s a perfect example of Central Coast pinot with white grape and raspberry fruit flavors. This is one of the few wines I taste over and over again, even though I try to drink something new all the time.