May 29, 2008

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Hello, old friends
Remember that wine called chardonnay?
By Tim Protzman letters@hippopress.com

Every wine I tried this week I’ve tried before.

My motto “try to drink as many different wines as possible” went out the window. But there is something to be said about the comfort of old friends. And the wines were friendly and comfortable. I only wish some of my old friends were as fun to revisit as these wines were.

• Pol Roger Brut Reserve Champagne ($44.99) It took this exceptional champagne, which I’ve tasted and purchased many times over the years, to make me re-appreciate the wonders of chardonnay. Rich and deep with a clean finish that’s free of any weird chemical tastes. Even though they use 33 percent pinot noir, 33 percent petit meunier and 34 percent chardonnay grapes, the chardonnay shines through.

After drinking a glass I started to remember the great Burgundies and Napas I’ve tasted. Pahlmeyer, Batard-Montrachet and the simple Chamard were friends once, but we hadn’t connected in a while. Why, I thought, wasn’t I drinking more chardonnay?

I stopped drinking chardonnay when everyone else started drinking it. I stopped when it become fake tasting with artificial oak and butter flavors. I stopped when a good American chardonnay got as expensive as a Bordeaux. And I stopped because I went to a strip club where the very limber pole dancer used “Chardonnay” as her stage name.

The Pol Roger made me nostalgic for chardonnay. Chardonnay and lobster on a deck on Martha’s Vineyard. Chardonnay on a picnic with an Oscar Mayer bologna sandwich. Chardonnay with a cart of European cheeses of all nations in an expensive restaurant.

• 2005 Grgich Hills Chardonnay ($37.99) Was my next attempt to re-connect with my Chardonnay past. This had a strange finish. It seemed artificial, but it was just rambunctious tannins. It settled down on the third day it was open, and the flavor was nice, but it still had that unmistakable California counterfeit taste. That taste is hard to describe, but it’s a combination of rancid butter and metal. So I’m still looking for a wine that presents that profound yet fresh flavor.
• 2005 Domaine Pere Usseglio Chateauneuf-du-Pape ($36.49) The grapes were Grenache, Syrah & Mourvedre, and seven others at 1& 2 percent increments. I didn’t hate the wine but it wasn’t like the spicy, peppery Rhones I remembered. Was it thin and elegant because the market wants that style? Or was it just not as deep as other Chateauneuf-du-Papes? This one reminded me of an old friend who used to be funny and quick witted but has become dull and predictable over the years.
• 2005 Beringer Merlot ($18.49). I heard this one got good marks in another wine column and I wanted to re-taste it. It was mellow and smooth, but lacked that grassy/floral/Band-aid smell of fine wine. It was a nice merlot, but just that. No excitement, no transfer of knowledge and a dull finish.

But I wasn’t that disappointed. It was not really expensive.

• Ponzi Pinot Noir ($34.99) This was a real treat, second-best wine I drank next to the Champagne. I loved the approachable tannins. I loved the violet and plum flavor notes. I loved the brisk finish that just ended and didn’t linger around waiting to get paid. Ponzi is a small but prominent family-owned vineyard 35 minutes and 44 miles outside of Portland, Ore. It’s made from grapes harvested in the Willamette Valley. It says so on the label. The valley runs for 100 miles north and south. The Oregon Coast Range is on the east and the Cascades are on the west. This leaves a sunny, protected strip of grape heaven in the middle. They have their own vineyards and they buy grapes for a few small high-quality vineyards in the valley.


5/22/2008 Ancient in the new world

5/15/2008 You are the expert
5/8/2008 The must-drink list
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