July 17, 2008


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Champagne staycation
Wherein the wine writer relaxes
By Tim Protzman letters@hippopress.com

I used to take scrupulous wine notes at every tasting.

I have more than 62 pages archived. That was in my “taste every wine possible, never drink the same wine twice” phase. Today, I’m more relaxed about wine. I’ve had the triumphs and tragedies. Tasted the ambrosia and swill. Now wine seems to fit neatly into my life, rather than being a lifestyle. It’s easier this way and just as pleasing.

Now don’t stop your own personal wine quest just because I’m content to coast. Wine is a wonderful journey. I’m just taking a Staycation.

A staycation is a vacation where you stay home. Or around home. For New Yorkers it would be like taking the Staten Island Ferry for the first time. And all you need to do for planning is to finish this sentence: “I’ve lived in Epping (or Manchester or Nashua) for 20 years and I’ve never……” And just do it. Go to the Currier. Visit the Christa McAuliffe Planetarium. Go to a local vineyard and see first-hand the winemaking process.

The best thing about my new wine liberalism is the freedom. Instead of fussing over the perfect little Pouilly-Fume for a picnic like Guy Saget $15.99, I just get something I’ve tried before or maybe never tried. Like Murphy-Goode Alexander Valley Fume Blanc $10.99 (tried) or Duck Pond Oregon Pinot Gris $10.99 (never tried).

Today instead of archiving every note on wine I just save the bottle. I realize that this breaks one of my cardinal rules — if you’re going to talk about wine, know the name of the producer so the person you’re talking with can get a bottle too. But I save the bottles in a 12-pack case cardboard box. Then when writing time comes I just pull it out and reminisce. What fruit was in it? Did it have spice notes? Big and jammy or tight and thin?

And once I was too zealous with my recycling and I forgot to look at the saved bottles in my haste to fill my little green bin. That week I had to reassemble from memory.

And at this point in my wine journey, a relaxed and easy point where my knowledge and enjoyment of wine combine to offer me pleasant memories and new tastes, I’m really feeling the comfort of tried and true wines. Wines I’ve had before. The anticipation. The promise of each new vintage. The familiarity of past pleasures. The subtly nuanced differences between this time and the last time.

Lately I’ve been loving Champagne. And tasting bubblies I had in the past. Not all of them are stellar, but most are memorable and bring back pleasant thoughts of good times.

And that’s the “Why?” of wine. The tastes that invoke memories.

Here are this week’s wines:
• Bollinger Brut Special Cuvee ($49.99). Usually the cuvees are better than the straight bruts. This one was a little closed. It took a good hour to open and then it had that yeasty, toasty characteristic of fine champagne with little fruit and a touch of beerishness. I wouldn’t spend money on this one again. Too pricey. But it did bring to mind an out-of-control conga line that formed one New Year’s Eve at an Irish restaurant.
• Veuve Clicquot Brut Yellow Label ($39.99). I had remembered this one as pedestrian. My memory was off. This was wonderful juice. Full of bubbles and rich chardonnay flavors. Cream, lemon and pie crust taste notes. Bracing nose and finish. Loved the price. Remembrance of things past: Ordering a bottle of Veuve at the now-defunct La Francaise in Chicago, then ordering a chardonnay, sending the chardonnay back and getting a second bottle of Veuve, then a third, then getting the bill, finding the bill unreadable except for the $375 total, asking for it to be “clarified,” then getting a second unreadable bill with $389 for the total, paying that bill without questions and slipping into the kitchen to visit the chef and getting a frozen tilapia thrown at me. Good times.
• Domaine St. Michelle Blanc de Noirs ($13.99) Never tried this one until now, but my Atlanta cum Charlotte, N.C., wine collectors serve this as their house champy. The flavor is an adult soda pop. Tart and refreshing with ginger, spices and a touch of chardonnay, which overpowers the pinot noir that gives it its Blanc de Noirs name. Would definitely buy this again and serve it to even the most discerning palates.
• Erath Oregon Pinot Noir ($14.99). One of the first Oregonian wines I ever tried. But that was years ago. What’s new? A nifty screw top, one of the first I’ve ever seen on a medium premium American wine. Handy! The taste was a little thinner than my memory serves, but when I got a little chill on it the wine assumed Burgundian characteristics.

7/10/2008 Pair vintage with vintage

6/26/2008 Leftover wine
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