January 31, 2008


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Warm up with wine
Chase the chill with sake or plums
By Tim Protzman tprotzman@sbcglobal.net

Why does champagne taste better in the winter than in the summer?

I think it’s because we’re generally colder. Our bodies and our homes and the outdoors. Champagne in the summer swelter seems heavy, leaden and cloying. Yes, if it’s chilled thoroughly it can be acceptable, but let’s set it in an emotional framework. You’re at the beach. Slathered in suntan oil. You go into the surf. You’re refreshed. You come out and grab a flute of Domaine Julius Lassalle Brut 1er Cru, chilled ($34.99). The lotion gets on the glass. Sand cakes on the rim. In the searing sun and ocean spray the wine tastes flat and limp.

But now it’s a bright February day. You ski, snowboard, tube or roll down a snow-covered hill. The snow and ice crystals leave a frosty plume behind you. Even at 27 degrees, you work up a little sweat. On the deck of the base lodge you get handed a glass of Piper Heidsieck Brut ($32.99). The chill, the sky and the blush of your cheeks make the drink heavenly, crisp and refreshing. Lemon and citrus notes, flecks of malt. Much better than a mouthful of hot sand. It’s the same reason that a cold beer after mowing the lawn always loses its appeal once it gets the tiniest bit warm.

But, champagne aside, sometimes it’s too cold for wine. You want something that warms the bones. This weekend the Wine Rookies and I turned Japanese. I had never tried plum wine. Christy was raving about it because she had it in a Japanese restaurant on a recent trip to Birmingham, Ala., which she thought was a little like the Granite State but without adequate zoning enforcement. We tried Gekkeikan Plum Wine ($9.99). It was similar to Dubonnet, but I found it very port-like. It was strong enough to leave a pleasantly warm finish all the way down into my tummy and it was sweet but not sticky sweet. I tasted plum, like the kind in Hoisin sauce, and a touch of caramel and clove.

We also tried the Choya Plum Wine ($19.99), which had more structure and a creamier sherry-like (but without the nutty flavor) finish. Then, looking for the ultimate warm adult beverage, we turned to sake — Yaegaki Nigori Sake ($16.99) and Mu Sake Jun Mai Daiginjyo ($28.99). We served it warm, but then we heard that warm sake is a way of making bad sake palatable, so we drank the second cup at room temperature. It had flavors of barley and mushrooms. It was acidic with a high alcohol content and we found it strange and possibly like Scotch, an acquired taste.

It was wonderful to try something new and warm and not cabernet, pinot or chard on a cold winter night with friends. I went online to study up on sake, but it was too daunting. There are more than 50 different kinds and the Japanese Prefectures where sake comes from were as confusing as the Clos of Burgundy. Perhaps this is the next great challenge for me, to become Tim Protzman, Sake Master. It seems to have the detail, the depth, the insouciance of wine, but will it taste good once I’m smeared in Hawaiian Tropic SPF70 and covered in sand?

Of course even if I did become Master of Sake my father wouldn’t be impressed. I sent him a recommendation for new my favorite wine, champagne actually, Moet & Chandon Rose Imperial.

Monday he called me.

“How’s the weather up there?” he asked in his best Florida voice.

“Everyone’s got a cold and it snows every day and the temperatures plunged this weekend,” I said

“We played tennis today and drove over to Englewood and walked on the beach, until it got too hot.”

“That sounds rough,” I deadpanned.

Then he told me that he did go look for the champagne I recommended, but it was too expensive and he would have to wait until Valentine’s Day, but at least he knew where to find it.

“Where?” I asked.

Costco, he answered.


I went online and remembered, they did indeed have decent wine in the Floridian BJ’s & Costcos. I remembered seeing pallets of Belle Vallee Cellars Oregon Willamette Valley Pinot Noir in the grocery section. There were cases of Justin Paso Robles Cabernet and Setti Ponti Oreno Super Tuscans and Chateau Mont Redon Chateaunuef-du-Papes. I thought it odd. Most of the people there looked more into corndogs than Shiraz. And the wine aisle seemed empty compared to the frozen food section, where a woman in a jalapeño pepper hat was giving out hot, previously frozen, jalapeño poppers from a little toaster oven. She had a crowd. The Babich Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand, didn’t.

But would they really sell wine if it weren’t profitable? Apparently wine is not a huge profit center, but a steady, dependable source of profit, according to store management. And get this, pricey wine boutiques: they’re able to buy in bulk at lower prices and offer a varied selection. And the typical consumer? Not the older couple from Peterborough with the brand new Chrysler Town and Country — although they do account for a steady percentage of sales — but the middle-class Gen Xers! Wine, like soccer, has made inroads in America and as each generation comes of age more and more of them are choosing wine. Which to me is good news. And any company that takes the mystery out of wine and offers delicious selections to the busy multi-tasking shopper who usually only gets the choice of “red or white” has my support. Unless they offer a chardonnay slurpie. That’s where I draw the line.

1/24/2008 A drink to them

1/17/2008 Stalking the barking dingo
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
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, doesn’t 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
Olé! to a week in wine
Opening the Parker book

Our French friends — 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
White’s OK after Labor Day
Wine Between The Season
Wine for the NASCAR set
Wine is in at the Inn
Wine’ll make you crazy
Wine Works With Red Sauce