Complain yourself happy
Woe on wines might have brought on a good pour
By Tim Protzman email@example.com
Maybe complaining does work.
I’ve calculated that I’ve spent almost three weeks of my life on the phone to customer service, complaining. I probably complain about something at least 10 times a day. I’ve become more aware of my bellyaching since Debbie, one of my oldest and best friends, pointed out that “complaining is the ego run wild.”
We used to sit down over a glass of merlot or pinot grigio and have a crankfest. This is when you just go on and on about: your husband, your boss, your ex-wife, your kids, your boss’s ex-wife, your ex-kids, the line at the post office, the Patriots’ losing, the weather, bad wine, horrible service from utility companies and inflation. Deb and I used to have some really heavy sessions. But lately she’s changed. More accepting, more respectful and more reticent. Oh, we still have the merlot — Forest Glen, $7.99, dry with a touch of plum and cherry, tight, closed and a decent finish — at her house. Or Clos du Val from Napa — $22.99, layered with grape, plum, chocolate and nutmeg with a tar and violet aroma — at mine. Deb makes no excuses for her pedestrian wine selections. She’s cheap and she’s proud of it. But she’s given up complaining. Because she read Eckhart Tolle’s book A New World.
At first I shuddered. Not another self-help book! Deb has always been into therapy and spiritualism and psychic phenomena and Rolfing and Reiki and necromancy. (I don’t know what necromancy is but I like the way it sounds.) But this one had some merit. We discussed it over a glass of Tiefenbrunner Südtirol/Alto Adige Pinot Grigio, $13.99, lemon and mineral water with a watercress finish. (My choice.)
The whole premise is to quit judging and judgmental behavior, like complaining, that feeds the ego with messages like — you’re the only one who really understands! If only people did it MY way! I haven’t got MY fair share and your incompetence is costing me money! The book is really more complex than that, but the gist of it is let go, let live and practice focusing love instead of criticism.
Which kind of leaves me at a paradox. Last week I complained that most of the wine I drink is boring and one-dimensional. But like clockwork — BANG! — no sooner than my ego made me lament about the dearth of uninspiring wines I’ve been forced to sample, than a good one came along. I’ll tell you about it shortly. After this little story.
I went to the Web site of the above-mentioned Tiefenbrunner Vineyard. It’s in Alto Adige, Italy, in the area south of the Alps. The vineyard makes both pinot grigio and pinot bianco. I’ve tasted both, but found them similar. Here’s why.
Pinot noir has a white counterpart. It’s hard to determine which came first, but they think pinot bianco or pinot blanc is a mutation of pinot noir. Pinot bianco/blanc is a white-skinned grape. Pinot grigio is another mutated variety of the pinot noir grape. It has a grayish tint to its skin. Pinot grigio is also known as Pinot gris, which grows well and produces great wine in Oregon and the Alsace region of France. To me pinot blanc is a little richer and a little more full-bodied than grigio, but the popularity of chardonnay (yawn) has actually increased its production and its demand as an alternative to oaky, sweet, heavily buttered chardonnays. So even after kvetching about how most wine is insipid, how hard it is to know almost everything about wine, and how the market conspires to only provide high-profit, low-satisfaction wines that all taste the same, I found myself stumped on the pinot grigio/bianco/gris question. And I’m happy to report that the great pinot quest has stoked some of that same old enthusiasm I used to have for wine. And I must remember that my bailiwick is not to discuss which case of top-shelf shiraz to cellar, but what bottle to accompany my evening meal with. I lack the means to stock a great cellar. I lack the means to purchase allocated wines from an expensive mailing list. But I no longer judge those who do. I wish them only good things. And I walk proudly in my role as blue-collar connoisseur. I represent those who buy their wine for immediate consumption and to improve their choices and selection. And I am happy in that role without judgment.
Back to the wine that made me happy.
• 2001 Sanford La Rinconada Vineyard, Santa Rita Hills, Santa Barbara County Pinot Noir ($40.89) I gave this wine a B+ or 89.9 in Parker-style points. While it wasn’t in the category of “life-changing,” it was delicious. Dried cherry, au jus, raspberry hints, a tannic frame that was draped with luxurious powdered chocolate notes. It did lack the barnyard ammonia, but that was actually welcome in this wine. This is a wine for everyone who thinks great wine needs to get 90 points. HINT: the actual bargains in both wine and vintages are those on the cusp, 88 or 89.
• Di Pacini Mauro, Fattoria La Lecciaia Brunello di Montalcino 1999 ($32.99) 100 percent Sangiovese grapes from the Brunello clone. Too dry for me with persimmon, sour green cherry and a touch of olive oil. While I wouldn’t buy this one again I’m dying to try the Fattoria Dei Barbi Brunello di Montalcino. HINT: fattoria means farm in Italian.