January 24, 2008


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A drink to them
Remembering the stars (and yourself)
By Tim Protzman†tprotzman@sbcglobal.net

Recently I was watching the news and they said a young Hollywood actor was found dead.

I was having a glass of wine, the 2000 Calera Mount Harlan Pinot Noir ($29.99). The wine was good, with a bit of tannin that the wine clerk said would fade after three more years of ageing or 30 minutes of exposure to the air. I tasted blueberry notes and grape Kool-Aid and a wonderful, earthy richness. I wasnít the best pinot ever, but Brad Renfro wasnít the greatest actor ever. He was a great character actor and he was believable on screen in Ghost World and Bully.

The sad event reminded me of another actor, River Phoenix, and I remembered I was having lunch when I heard that news. It was a weekend and I was having a glass of wine. It was a B. R. Cohn Chardonnay, which at that time I thought was rich and supple.

Then a few years later I was at work. I was not having a glass of wine. That time it was Kurt Cobain. That night I opened a Chateau Ste. Michelle Columbia Valley Gewurztraminer, which was slightly sweet and paired well with spicy chicken in garlic sauce. The wine runs $9.99 a bottle and I like the price and the taste because itís a welcome change from chardonnay, pinot grigio and sauvignon blanc. Itís the one wine I always have people who say they donít like wine try. Six out of ten will love it and the other four will say itís too sweet. But with spicy Asian food (especially chicken and duck) it sings.

I canít remember if I drank wine when Jerry Garcia died. I probably didnít, because Iíd recall it. Jerry seems bigger in death then the rest. Heís got his own clothing line and sunglasses and neck ties and wine. Itís actually a collaboration with Clos du Bois, but the J. Garcia Sonoma Merlot was nice. Honest merlot with a tannic backbone that kind of dominates but doesnít overwhelm. Dry, very dry with violet scents.

Not all celebrity deaths were accompanied by a glass of wine. Anna Nicole Smith and her son were dry affairs. Frank Sinatra was too, because the last episode of Seinfeld was on. And Pakistan tested the A-bomb that day too.

What kind of wine would you want your friends to mark your passing with? I used to think it was Silver Oak. It could still be Silver Oak, but not the 2001 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, which I tasted recently. The Napa Valley, which is $45 more per bottle ($58.99 vs. $105.00), was far more delicious than the Alexander Valley. It could be that the wine, now no longer a toddler but a strapping 6-year-old, was going through an awkward phase, but I suspect itís that the Napa Valley is superior to the Sonoma Valleyís Alexander Valley sub appellation. So Iíd serve the Napa. Or a nice Bordeaux. And if I knew my time was up Iíd drink a Chateau Mouton Rothschild, any vintage, and finish off with a nice glass of Krug Brut Champagne Vintage 1995. I hope I have $229 in my pocket when facing the Grim Reaper.

Thereís a new wine-tasting study out that says when people are told theyíre drinking an expensive wine they tend to rate it higher, even if itís not. Some of the people in this study were told that a $5 wine cost $90. And they rated it higher. But when they werenít told the price, they were able to objectively rate the wine according to its merits.

I can see how this would happen. I once rode in a Bentley. Okay, it was an older Bentley and it was a limo for hire, but I remember the ride as bumpy and the seats as hard. And true wine lovers and people familiar with wine probably wonít be fooled by the fake price ploy. Most wine fans know all too familiarly that price is only a mediocre barometer of quality and taste. Theyíre disappointed on a daily basis. But those are a special breed. The Public, who usually order their wine by the glass and varietal, probably havenít tasted $90 wine, so when they get a chance to sip this ďnectar of the godsĒ they become reverential and worshippy. Stop!

Even among the most high-priced and exotic cars, there are a few high maintenance lemons. Ask anyone who owns a Lamborghini what it takes to keep it running. Thereís a ton of high-priced dog wines. Wines that rely on the glory of past vintages. Wines that come from noble estates whose winemakers have grown flabby and jaded. But thatís what makes wine so much fun. The seeking. The search for that grail wine that costs $23.49 and puts a 1947 Chateau Ausone to shame. Itís out there. It could be cellared already. It could still be on the vine. But if you enjoy wine, Iíll guarantee you will find it and youíll swoon with oenophile delights.

Hereís a wine that, while it may not be a grail, like life, is pretty good and raised me to a new level of wine-awareness:

2005 Joseph Phelps Cabernet Sauvignon ($41.99). Deep and layered with a great finish. Touch of plum fruit flavors, a hint of tar, tobacco and chocolate and a grassy French finish.

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1/10/2008 Wishes and predictions
1/3/2008 Bit of bubbly
12/27/2007 Drinking blind
12/20/2007 Not fighting for the right
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
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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
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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
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06/15/2006 A summer of beer and fried clams
06/08/2006 Keep your cool, fool
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05/18/2006 Big fat greek wine tasting
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03/23/2006 A life of good wine
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03/02/2006 The taste of sibling rivalry
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02/16/2006 Love and vine
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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
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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)
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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
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Wine Between The Season
Wine for the NASCAR set
Wine is in at the Inn
Wineíll make you crazy
Wine Works With Red Sauce