May 8, 2008

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The must-drink list
Wherein Tim Protzman cuts to the taste
By Tim Protzman letters@hippopress.com

Sometimes — well, most of the time — when I read others’ wine columns, I skip the prose and go right for the lists.

Even my friend who writes a food and restaurant column says she skips the descriptive crap and goes for the meat. I mean how many ways can you praise crab cakes? “Pungent, silky symphonies of buttery soft meat intertwined with crisp celeriac slices in a golden mound of bread crumbs made from Panko — they’re décolletages swathed in a topaz-colored remoulade.”

So, cut to the chase: here’s a list of 20 Wines You Must Have.

They aren’t the most expensive. Some are not extraordinary, but they are indicative of their region or varietal. Some are pricey but worth it. Some are inexpensive but nice.
• Cambria Katherine’s Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Chardonnay ($17.99) A bit oaky but nice lemon hints.
• Far Niente Chardonnay Napa Valley ($54.99) Take this one to France and drink it in a cellar in Burgundy and see the envy on their faces.
• Wild Horse Chardonnay Central Coast ($11.99) Nice. The first serious wine I ever tasted.
• Ferrari-Carano Fume Blanc ($21.49) It’s sauvignon blanc, but one of Robert Mondavi’s grandchildren couldn’t say sauvignon (saw vig non) so the came up with fume (fu may)
• Elk Cove Oregon Pinot Gris ($18.99) Rich and a little sweet, but such an interesting under-appreciated grape.
• Dr Frank Johannisberg Riesling ($17.99) Ignore the Johannisberg, it’s just Riesling. From upstate New York
• Matanzas Creek Sauvignon Blanc ($21.99). California. Equal to the Cakebread or Duckhorn Sauv Blanc’s.
• Gloria Ferrer Blanc de Noir Sparkling Wine ($17.99) Nice, a bit heavy, but equal to anything from Epernay.
• Merriam Vineyards Dry Creek Valley Jones Vineyard Cabernet Franc ($41.99) A mouthful of a name, a mouthful of flavor. Cabernet Franc is growing in popularity. See why.
• Chateau St. Jean Cinq Cepages- $54.99. Once was “The Wine of the Year,” now just plain nice. Plus the stuff is going for over $75 on the Web.
• Chateau St. Michelle Washington State Cabernet Sauvignon Indian Wells Vineyard. ($13.99) I’ve tasted crud that cost $139.99 that isn’t as dense and profound as this wine.
• Beaulieu Merlot Napa ($14.99) From the days when Paul Masson and André Tchelistcheff made wine.
• Domain Drouhin Pinot Noir Oregon ($42.99) My favorite Western Hemisphere pinot.
• Elk Cove Pinot Noir Oregon ($23.99) Why Oregon is Oregon.
• Bouchaine Pinot Noir Carneros ($24.99) Nice, but I’d take the Elk Cove if I could only take one to a deserted island.
• Edna Valley Pinot Noir Paragon Vineyard ($19.99) Remember when your 13-year-old nephew reached 6’ 2”? Not a man, but not a boy. Not an everyday wine (the price), not a showboat, a little of both.
• Rabbit Ridge Paso Robles Zinfandel ($12.99) What good zin used to be.
• Truchard Pinot Noir Carneros ($27.99) A newlywed couple had this on the Napa Dinner Train. I drink it whenever I can find it. Wine like this is why they made Sideways.
• Leeuwin Estate Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot Prelude Margaret River ($30.99) Taste Australia’s West Coast Wine.
• Casa Lapostolle Merlot Cuvee Alexander ($13.99) From Chile.

Here’s what I drank recently:
• Rus Bogorodskaya Vodka ($11.99) (1 liter) This I believe is the second label of Jewel of Russia. It is very smooth with flavors of glacial spring water, black pepper and a smidge of Grappa, the fiery Italian brandy made from distilled grape skins left over from winemaking. Mixes well and does nicely in a shot. Try it with a dash of Tabasco sauce and a healthy shake of black or red pepper.
• Qupe Syrah ($15.99) From California’s Central Coast. This wine is a real standard-bearer. Like the old DC 3 propeller-driven aircraft that’s about 70 years old but still is in service, this wine is no Concorde, but consistently delivers quality and flavor. The wine is 94 percent syrah, 5 percent grenache and 1 percent Counoise, a Rhone Valley blending grape that came from Spain.
• Vatistas Asyrtiko ($17.99) From the tip of the Peloponnesian Peninsula (say that three times fast) comes a dry, acidic but fruit-filled white wine from the Asyrtiko grape. You can also spell it with a double “S,” which is fun, especially if you pause before the “Y.” It has lemon, lime and sour green cherry fruit with an almost bubbly finish. It’s a sunny wine that reminds me of a bright white day with a clothesline full of crisp white linen flapping in the breeze. Produced by the legendary Yiannis Vatistas in Lakonia, Greece, original home of the Spartans. The perfect wine for Motorcycle Week.


5/1/2008 Gaming wine futures

4/24/2008 Chronos and me
4/17/2008 Getting lucky
4/3/2008 The daquiri's of spring
3/27/2008 Germans play well with others
3/13/2008 Complain yourself happy
3/6/2008 Operatic wine tasting
2/28/2008 Everything must go!
2/21/2008 His & hers bottles
2/7/2008 Friends in spam
1/31/2008 Warm up the wine
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
Gin
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
Mondovino
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