A drink to them
Remembering the stars (and yourself)
By Tim Protzman†email@example.com
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.