Not fighting for the right
Even with Barolo, sometimes you gotta back down
By Tim Protzman†firstname.lastname@example.org
Iím not the worldís pickiest eater, but am a real pill on service.
And even though Iíve never reduced any wait staff to tears, Iím sure Iíve ruffled feathers. I donít suffer fools well and it comes across. The latest encounter, which Iíll call the Barolo incident, left me mellow. Number one, it just wasnít worth fighting about, and number two, I needed something to write about. Sometimes writing hurts. Itís frustrating and you feel unfulfilled. And even though I didnít get the wine I wanted during the Barolo incident, I felt satisfied and ó this is a first ó compassion for my wait person that he invested time and energy and didnít make a sale.
It started bad and stayed the same. Another no-frills holiday party with a bad bartender, bad food and watery drinks because the ice was in a plastic pan and was slowly melting. But as bad as the food and drink were, the room was beautifully decorated with garland, twinkle lights and a roaring real wood fire. I love real wood fires during cold weather, but a gas log one will do on chilly spring or fall nights.
We left the party to head to a wine bar. One thing was on my mind. The Barolo. Iíd bragged it up to my friend so much she couldnít wait to try it. I asked the bartender, whose chiseled features and Will Ferrell hairstyle reminded me of a í70s porn star. We asked for the Barolo and off he went.
Five minutes later he came back empty-handed. He had heard the producerís name, but he thought I said merlot. He handed me the wine list and I ordered by number. He left. Ten minutes passed. He came back with three bottles. All were Barolo, none were from the requested producer. I asked how much the 2003 was and he said same price as on the menu.
ďBut itís not the same.Ē I protested.
ďSure it is Ö see, Barolo,Ē he said pointing to the menu.
ďItís not the same producer,Ē I said.
A cranky look came over his face. He thought I was stupid. We just got up and left. Not in a huff. Not angrily. But defeated. Another lost soul with no wine knowledge working in an increasingly complex field.
I could have stayed and negotiated a price break for the offered Barolo. But I just didnít have the fight in me. I could have asked Glori to hand me the Robert Parker Vintage Chart I gave her and checked the wineís pedigree. But at 9 p.m. on a Thursday it seemed too exhausting. And so what? Maybe Iíll go back there and get a really good waiter. Maybe I should have ordered a cocktail. Maybe the bartender could do cool stuff like flip the bottles and set stuff on fire while itís getting poured into the glass. But I didnít find out. Not that night. People my age are past the bang and on to the whimper. And looking back, I felt sorry for him. A few years ago I wouldnít have given up without a fight. After all, getting past no is my specialty. But I didnít want to cause him any more trouble. Must be the season.
My publisher has a lot of wine savvy. Lately heís been exploring Bonarda. Itís not a cave, itís a grape. Actually itís four grapes. And like a sneaky crop of quadruplets they sometimes pose as each other. Bonarda was once thought to be Charbono, a Californian grape that made some tasty jug wine back in the 1970s. But genetic testing found it was derived from Corbeua grapes from the Savoy region of France. In Italy, true Bonarda is known as Bonarda Piedmontese and grows in Piemonte on the Mediterranean. But thereís also a Bonarda Novarese from over near Venice which is really the Uva Rara grape from the Balkans. A Croatina grape in the nearby regions around the Croatian border. They wine thatís making waves today is the Charbono version and thereís a ton of it growing in Argentina and Brazil. My guess is that while it makes good, deep rich wine with a touch of plum and velvet it wonít overtake cabernet, but it will become one of the ďNoble VarietalsĒ like shiraz and merlot and pinot noir.
Here are some Bonardas you can try and find what the buzz is about:
ē Barberis Bonarda Finca La Daniela $13.99
ē Catena Lapata Bonarda Alamos Mendoza $11.99
ē Oltrepo Pavese Bonarda $12.99 This oneís from Italy.
The only one Iíve tried is the Catena from Argentina. While not elegant itís like a rich, hearty peasant stew. The taste is much like a zinfandel, but without the high alcohol thatís crept into them lately. And thereís a touch of clove, raisin and plum with an inky blackberry riles running through it. It finishes with chocolate and a touch of tar.