November 15, 2007


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Drinks with Diwali
Gewurtz, zin, malbec and more
By Tim Protzman

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.

11/8/2007 Candy Corn hangover

11/1/2007 Drinks with History Channel
10/25/2007 Schooled in Shiraz
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