November 22, 2007


   Home Page

 News & Features


 Columns & Opinions

   Publisher's Note





 Pop Culture



   Video Games
   CD Reviews




   Grazing Guide



   Music Roundup

   Live Music/DJs

   MP3 & Podcasts





 Find A Hippo




   View Classified Ads

   Place a Classified Ad




 Contact Us

   Hippo Staff

   How to Reach The Hippo

 Past Issues

   Browse by Cover

Thanks for Napa cabs
A simple wine is OK
By Tim Protzman

Thanksgiving brings out the worst in me.

I haunt wine shops looking for that special bottle that will blow everyone away and make the turkey crawl back into the roaster with shame. Yes, I am a wine showoff.

But this year I’ll be different.

No more fancy wine grown in the in the foothills of Dolomite Alps where the rain washes gravel soil into the vineyards, infusing the wine with a flinty taste of aluminum storm doors and green apple lollipops. I’m going bring a plain old-fashioned favorite, like a Californian cabernet made from canned grapes or a Chilean merlot that’s fruity and saucy to counterbalance the dry and doughy sawdust stuffing with oysters and white truffles. Keep it simple. Or I could go in a whole different direction. Maybe a classic heritage wine like a Stone Hill Pink Catawba for $6.99. Catawba wines were popular about 150 years ago and graced many a rural American Thanksgiving table. It’s a sweet grape, but the Stone Hill version is drier than the homemade stuff. Stone Hill is one of the new breed of American wineries that have sprung up in almost every state. Stone Hill is in Missouri, which has a great wine tradition and used to supply New Orleans with rural plonk back in the steamboat days. Maybe even Mark Twain drank some and threw the bottle overboard into the muddy Mississip.

So this year we’re going to have the basics. A Napa cab or merlot, no cult wines. A Chilean merlot or pinot noir, under $17.99 if you please. A Barolo — yes, I know it’s pricey and snobbish, but it’s so damn good and even the bad ones are better than some of the French stuff out there. A Bishop’s Orchards Sparkling Cranberry Wine. It’s going to be either fantastic or weirdly awful.

And now’s the time to begin making your own homemade cranberry wine for next year. The recipe calls for 3 pounds of cranberries, 1 pound of raisins, pectic enzyme, 3 pounds of sugar and yeast and nutrients and a bunch of stuff you’d get at a winemaking shop. The last line was “The wine will be at its best if you let it sit in the bottle for a year and a half.” So circle Thanksgiving 2009 if you’re doing a homemade cranberry wine.

If you must bring French wine to Thanksgiving let it be Beaujolais, even the nouveau kind. It’s basic and fruity and not tannic. This will please the beer drinkers. My worst Thanksgiving showoff wine was a 1981 red Chassagne Montrachet that was marked down from $29.99 to $18.61. I asked why it was $18.61 and not $18.99 and the clerk told me it was because that’s the lowest price allowed by law and the owner liked it because he’s a Civil War re-enactor and that’s when the Civil War started. The wine was dense and sulfuric. It smelled like diesel bus exhaust. Flecks of sediment coated the glass. The color was brick red, the right color for a 12-year-old-wine, but that was the only thing right about it. Even the dog — Cuddles, I believe his name was — wouldn’t drink it and he was a real booze hound, having been fed a teaspoon of beer, licked some White Russian off a swizzle stick and polished off a bowl of rum raisin ice cream. He just sniffed at it. We dumped it out and smashed the bottle.

Maybe this year I’ll bring dessert instead of wine or a port or Madeira. Or that Domaine Chandon Pinot Meunier for $29.49, a red wine made from the grape they blend with pinot noir and chardonnay to make Champagne. But that would be showing off.

Here’s the stuff I drank recently:
• 2004 Chateau Flaugergues Cuvee Colbert ($21.89) From Languedoc. Jammy and dense with an astringent backbone of unpolished tannins. Nice but I expected more. It’s a Rhone style but not really.
• 2004 Tupun Don Manuel Malbec ($12.99) From the Valley of Tupungalto! Ho, Ho, Ho! Green Giant. Nice wine. Really dry for a malbec, but structured and tasty. This wine came from a wine club and it blew the Cuvee Colbert away in a side-by-side tasting. Would buy any wine from the Valley of Tupungalto in Chile.
• 2005 Chateau Malmaison ($22.99) From the vintage of the millennium, yet another over-the-top wine that shouts in a voice so shrill it shatters glass in the dishwasher. Very dry and merlot-y with plum and dark chocolate fruit notes. Not a lot of structure, but a nascent hint of that unmistakable Bordeaux flavor.
• 2004 Albert Bichot Bourgogne ($17.99) Too closed up. This wine was downright mean. Not a lot of fruit or structure. Pleasant to drink but not a heavyweight contender. Made from old vines, possibly past their prime.
• 2003 Domaine des Amouriers Vacqueyras ($27.55) Black pepper, red pepper and wasabi heat. Not enough fruit, too much spice and an undisguised alcohol finish. Not looking forward to another round of this one.

11/15/2007 Drinks with Diwali

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