June 26, 2008


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Leftover wine
What to keep and what to drag to the curb
By Tim Protzman letters@hippopress.com

I’m getting a new downstairs neighbor. I liked the last ones because they never complained about my busy entertainment schedule. The only thing I didn’t like about them was that they never brought the empty trash cans back in on garbage day. And when they moved out they left a heap of stuff behind.

Two neighbors ago I got a lot of stuff that was left over from a tag sale they held right before they moved. They were very nice and from San Jose. They introduced me to the wines of Truchard Vineyards. They had a great Pinot Noir on the Napa Dinner Train. I found it in the store and shared a bottle with them. They gave me an answering machine. It still had a message on it. The newlywed wife had left a “love message.” It was sweet, but it sounded like dialogue from a Warner Brothers’ cartoon.

“Oh, you big strong hunk of man.”

“I could just kiss and kiss you.”

Nothing too descriptive, but not for family dinner, either. I played that PG-rated tape to all my friends.

They too left a bunch of stuff behind, but at the curb, so I didn’t have to drag it out.

I don’t know about your neighborhood, but in mine, salvaging stuff from other people’s trash is OK. The Truchard Pinot-drinking, sexy answering machine message-leaving newlywed couple left some odd things. A hydro-sonic foot bath (seems like every house in America has one of these, and they’ve all never been used), two lamps, a headboard for a bed and a medicine cabinet. The trash pickers went wild. Everything was gone long before the garbage men came. The only thing left was the contents of the medicine cabinet. Nail clippers, cortisone cream, an industrial-sized bottle of aspirin and three prescriptions for Valium, all expired. I sealed everything in a trash bag, except the least-expired tranquilizers (you never can tell when a case of the nerves might hit), and stuffed it under a Jansport backpack that was all ripped and the zippers didn’t work.

Last night I went to take the trash out and was confronted by a mountain of junk. A foot bath, a shelving unit, a broken vacuum, a heater fan that blew warm in the winter and doubled as a regular fan in hot weather.

I dragged everything to the curb. The only thing I salvaged was a pack of razor blades. It was in a box of bathroom things. But I did find an empty wine bottle. The last neighbors were also newlyweds, and they spent their honeymoon in Tuscany. They shared some wine with me once or twice, but mostly stuck with themselves. But I was fascinated by the empty bottle.

2001 Pietranera Brunello di Montalcino. Jancis Robinson says the wine was over the top in terms of oakiness, ripeness and its similarity to wine from California, Australia, Chile and some of the lesser Bordeauxs. I wonder if this is a scandal wine. Could it be that some cabernet sauvignon or syrah was intentionally placed in the wine, totally in violation of the Denomination of Origin Control and Guaranty (DOCG), which mandates which grapes are used in what wine?

The scandal didn’t involve bad wine; it involved unsanctioned grapes getting into wine that by law should not have those varietals in it. Brunello di Montalcino should be 100 percent Sangiovese grapes.

Here are some nice Brunello di Montalcino producers available in local stores: Altesino, Angelini, Antinori, Banfi, Brizio, Carpineto, Col D’Orcia, Fanti, Fontevecchia, Frescobaldi, Nardi, Poggione, and San Polo. I can’t be sure they’re all 100 percent Sangiovese, but they do taste good.

Before I get to the wines I tasted this week here’s another wine I didn’t taste. I was reading a personal account of the San Francisco earthquake and the gentleman who was recounting the story of being shaken out of bed, going downtown only to be turned back by fire, heading home to the Mission District only to encounter waves of flames and grabbing a few things from his house — clothes, a pistol, gold coins and a bottle of 1868 Johannisberger Schloss reisling.

Johannisberger Schloss is a 900-year-old vineyard outside of Mainz, across the Rhine from Ingelheim. The wines are among the finest produced in Germany’s Rheingau region. And the earthquake gentleman drank it as he watched Nob Hill burn. He said it tasted smoky but refreshing.

Here’s the wine I drank this week — my Champagne kick continues:
Lanson Black label non-vintage, $32.50 The House of Lanson dates back to 1760 and only declares a vintage (a banner year) when the optimal growing, harvest, fermenting and bottle conditions occur. Lanson vintages since 1900 are 1904, 1921, 1937, 1947, 1955, 1959, 1961, 1969, 1976, 1979, 1982, 1988, 1990, 1995, and 1996. Nice, with a sweet start of grape juice followed by a hint of Juicy Fruit gum and a quick finish with no bad aftertaste.
Taittinger, $39.99 Yummy. A subdued start with crisp juicy flavors of rose water, apricot and passion fruit followed by the crispest beer-like carbonation with a honeysuckle finish.
2003 Damilano Lecinquevigne Barolo, $42.89 This one needed a few more years, but the licorice, tobacco and violet grace notes come through. The Lecinquevigne means grapes from five vineyards.
2003 Chateau Grand Ormeau Lalanade-de-Pomerol, $29.99 This was my favorite red of the week. Balanced, structured and layered. Plum, cassis, endive and a bit of bitter chocolate.
2005 Haute Cotes de Nuits Domaine Michel Gros, $24.49 I wanted a traditional Burgundy and this, my second-favorite red of the week, fit the bill perfectly. There was gentle fruit, a rich finish and none of that jammy manipulated taste.

6/19/2008 Fortune favors Opus One

6/12/2008 In the year 2048
6/5/2008 Tea, the original infusion
5/29/2008 Hello old friends
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
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