December 20, 2007


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Not fighting for the right
Even with Barolo, sometimes you gotta back down
By Tim Protzman†

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.

12/13/2007 The liquor store suite

11/29/2007 World of drinkin'
11/22/2007 Thanks for the Napa cabs
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, doesnít 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
Olť! to a week in wine
Opening the Parker book

Our French friends ó 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
Whiteís OK after Labor Day
Wine Between The Season
Wine for the NASCAR set
Wine is in at the Inn
Wineíll make you crazy
Wine Works With Red Sauce