The liquor store suite
A wine-lover’s dance through the aisles
By Tim Protzman email@example.com
Ever take a wrong turn in a strange city and end up in a dicey neighborhood?
It happened to me this weekend. My nephew’s 14. A big 14, six feet two inches and 176 pounds. He and his girlfriend were working this holiday craft fair at their church and she was assigned to the nursery. They called me up and said, come by and get some cheap stuff for our relatives. I popped my head into the room where they were working and … it was just like that wrong turn in Boston, only no boarded-up cars or burned-out buildings. Just babies. Acres of toddlers, a newborn and his mom, crawlers, talkers, teethers and one six-year-old who wanted someone, anyone, to help him make the International Lego Space Station.
Babies are very wary of me. They kinda just stare and watch. The babies were getting restless and, honestly, a little smelly. Then Sydney, my nephew’s girlfriend, walked over and switched off the lights and plugged in the Christmas tree. All the little eyes widened in awe. The tree twinkled. The babies were mesmerized. It’s a look I know. I get it when I walk into the wine section of a liquor store.
I think we all have the dream of being locked in a toy or candy or video game store. Mine goes something like this:
I go shopping on Saturday. I walk into the store and head past the Parrot Bay Rum display. I go into the bathroom to wash my soiled hands before I touch any of the bottles. I see 12 back issues of Wine Enthusiast magazine in the stall. I slip in and start to read. I grow sleepy. When I wake up everything is dark. I feel my way out and turn on the lights. A magical sight awaits me. Nobody around and all the doors locked. The employee time clock says 11:37 p.m. The store won’t open ’til Monday morning. I look for a corkscrew, secretly hoping they won’t have any left and I’ll have to use the cavalry saber conveniently tucked in the utility closet.
It’s late, I’m hungry. I lay out a spread from the break room. Durkee potato sticks in a can. A half-eaten Domino’s Pizza. A five-pound wedge of Saint Andre cheese. Six wintergreen Lifesavers. An entire roast duckling, Szechuan style.
Choosing the smoked salmon on toast points and a truffle risotto left by the nice checkout lady, I place the food in a shopping cart and begin the pairing.
Since it’s a dream, I won’t feel guilty for only taking a few sips out of each bottle. One must pace oneself.
Soon I’m in the Californian section. I know it’s Californian because there are avocado trees growing in the jug wine area. I grab some sparkling wines to go with the salmon.
A dark bottle with a single letter on it catches my eye.
J Brut Rose ($31.99) — a blend of mostly pinot noir with a healthy portion of chardonnay and a touch of pinot meunier. I hit the bottle with the saber just below the cork. It explodes, but miraculously some wine lands in my flute-shaped champagne glass. I taste, and ahh!...Yummy! Then I get on the loudspeaker and announce, “Clean-up, aisle 12.”
On the way out I grab Gruet, from New Mexico. At $14.99 for the rose or the regular, it’s a real value.
Now I’m on to reds — the ’03 Dominus ($99.99), the Bacio Divino Napa Red ($69.99) a syrah cabernet blend, the Far Niente cabernet sauvignon ($119.99) and the St. Supery cabernet ($19.99).
Stopping at an end-cap display I taste, swirl and spit the Grayson Cellars Paso Robles Merlot ($8.99), non-tannic and rich. A good buy. I’m a sucker for any wine from Paso Robles.
I decide to taste as many whites as possible, but not anything I had before. The Hopler Trockenbeerenauslese ($39.99) for a half bottle is pricey, but this sweet dessert wine is made from the shriveled and dried grapes that have been botrytised, or half rotted. This concentrates the juice and sugar. The Hopler, from Austria, goes well with one of the Lifesavers.
I wash it down with 2004 St Aubin Pouilly Fuisse ($13.99) a mineral-ly little chardonnay from the Macon region of Burgundy. I follow it up with a Ladoucette Pouilly Fume from the Loire ($32.99), just to be confusing. A Pouilly Fume is made from the rougher sauvignon blanc grapes.
Following a trail of Spaghetti-O’s to the Italian section I begin pulling corks. Italian wines are for the most part undervalued so I concentrate on value and affordability.
A Mano Fiano-Greco ($11.99) from Puglia has hints of peach and lemon water. Made from Greco di Tufo and Fiano grapes by an Italian and a Californian wine maker on the heel of Italy.
Bollini Reserve Pinot Grigio (13.99), a reserve white at discount value prices.
Pietrafitta Chianti Colli Senesi ($9.99) — not a stunner, just a good everyday red. And Sassicaia ($119.99), the premium super Tuscan.
I was about to try the Kanu Chenin Blanc ($10.99) from South Africa’s Stellenbosch region when I was rudely brought back to reality by a fight over Legos. As my nephew intervened Sydney handed me a hungry seven-month-old who was guzzling a bottle. He reminded me of me. Soon we were playing and I was zooming him through the air! Until he spewed all over my gabardine slacks. (Boy this kid is just like me!) Apparently babies, unlike good martinis, should be stirred but never shaken.
Oh well, clean-up on aisle 12!