August 7, 2008


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Wine at the game
Take me out to the tailgate
By Tim Protzman

My sister and I were quite popular in babysitting circles 35 years ago.

I used to take care of these two boys starting when they were eight and six. By the time the oldest was 13, I demurred.

“He’s shaving,” I told his Mom. “He can stay by himself.”

My favorite babysitting assignment was for the Wine People. They had a huge cellar. They also had one of those funny last names that spawned snickers and jokes. You know at least one family with a name like that. As an example I looked up a rather obscure but innocuous name on the Web. Did you know that close to 300 families have the last name of “Boob” in the United States? And for some reason they mostly live in Pennsylvania.

Now the family of the two boys loved me, although they were kind of strange. They’d leave me there for a long weekend while they flew to Vegas to see Neil Diamond in concert. Once I found some frozen brownies in their freezer and being prone to sweets and goodies, I thawed a couple out. Thank god this was just before the microwave oven became an essential piece of kitchen equipment, because they were “special” brownies and I might have fed them to the strange couple’s children. Instead I put on a Mingus album.

I ended up babysitting for the Wine People by accident. My sister was supposed to but had missed her ferry from Nantucket.

Now the strange couple just handed me $20 or $30 and said, “Feed them.” The wine couple had lists of do’s and don’ts, mimeographed (yeah, it was that long ago):

No Guests

No Smoking

No Cards

No Horror Movies

No Long Distance

Junior has Gluten reactions

Apply cream to Susie’s rash before bed.

(God, where were the brownies? I thought.) And they were cheap to boot. I got like a dollar an hour. And they made me drive home. Usually I got picked up, and dropped off. They requested I drive.

But as fussy and privileged as the Wine Father was, he did show me his cellar and offer me a glass of white Burgundy. To this day I consider him the original wine rookie, but he was more like a guru.

The wine? It was lusciously full and with apricotty fruit. I still remember. The name — long gone. I can’t even remember the children’s faces, but I remember the cellar in vivid detail.

My second Wine Rookie was also a guru. A teetotaler almost. He was German, urbane and 110 percent gentleman. He trained Gil, the third wine rookie, who became my own private guru. Sadly, he died in an alcohol-related accident, which exposes the dark side of wine and spirits. Do not drink and drive. And if you’re like me do not drink and call up old lovers.

I was thinking of Gil last weekend when a few of us went to Shea Stadium for the last time. Citi Field, the new home of the Mets, is nearly complete and they’ll be tearing old Shea down this winter. Gil was a Mets fan and got his start with fine wine when he received a bottle of Chateau Giscours, a mostly cabernet sauvignon and merlot blend with just the right amount of cabernet franc from Margaux in the commune of Labarde-Margaux, as a Christmas tip from his job as a doorman in Manhattan.

I have been to and sometimes suffered through many Tee Ball, Pee Wee, Little League, Babe Ruth, American Legion, Double A, Triple A and Major League games. My spirit’s been broken — thank you Red Sox — and uplifted — thank you Red Sox. And the hotdogs at Fenway, Shea and Three Rivers Stadium aren’t any better than the ones at Stadium. But there’s just something about being at a major league park. And this time out it was the tailgating.

I used to think tailgating was a Dartmouth kind of thing. The Chrysler wood-paneled Town & Country. White linens, kegs of beer, fur coats and those big foam fingers. But Mets tailgating is different. It’s more like Tuesday night bowling league. Beer, Doritos and a little hibachi with a pack of Nathans cooking.

As I made the rounds I saw a lot of wine. Mezza Luna, Franzia, Rossi, Toasted Head in the magnum, Chateau Montelena Estate Zinfandel. The Mets lost, but tailgating lives on. This week’s wines are all in the larger-format bottles, perfect for entertaining in the stadium parking before the game. Remember, emphasize the food and not the beverage. Even though our game went extra innings, it takes about an hour to metabolize one ounce of alcohol, or about 70 minutes for a six-ounce glass of wine or an eight-ounce beer. DO NOT DRINK and DRIVE.
• Almaden Mountain Burgundy, 3- and 5-Liter format ($8.99 & 12.99) Not from Burgundy, but it may have some pinot noir. Mostly zinfandel? Charbono.
• Carlo Rossi Paisano 1.5-Liter ($4.99). Many older first-generation Italian men sip this after tending the tomato plants. That’s why I drink it. It tastes like homemade wine.
• Corbett Canyon Pinot Grigio/Chenin Blanc $9.99 for 3 Liters. Pear notes and lemon. This would slide easily into home at an art opening or an off-Broadway show.
• Columbia Crest Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon $14.99 for 1.5 liters. Well-rounded with tannins that most people will never see soften. What if we aged this in perfect condition for 10 years? My guess is you could actually pass this off as a Bordeaux Superior of a pricey Australian Cab/Merlot blend.
• Paul Garrett American Burgundy ($9.99) 4-Liter format. This wine’s from the Finger Lakes and is not pinot noir. Some Marechal Foch, some Catawba, some Finger Lakes White.
• Inglenook Vineyards California Rose ($8.99). Nice simple wine. Not from the original Inglenook Vineyard in Napa but sourced with California grapes. Goes well with almost any picnic food except cole slaw. 3 Liters.
• Almaden Mountain Rhine, $11.99 for 5 Liters. Nice. One of the first wines I ever drank. Leaden finish speaks of glycol additives.

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5/29/2008 Hello old friends
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5/8/2008 The must-drink list
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4/3/2008 The daquiri's of spring
3/27/2008 Germans play well with others
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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
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1/10/2008 Wishes and predictions
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12/20/2007 Not fighting for the right
12/13/2007 The liquor store suite
11/29/2007 World of drinkin'
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11/15/2007 Drinks with Diwali
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10/25/2007 Schooled in Shiraz
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8/9/2007 Stop, wine thief
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6/14/2007 Jack & Jill and a pail of wine
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3/8/2007 Finding new beauties
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2/15/2007 The extraordinary ordinary
2/8/2007 A glass of sweetness
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1/18/2007 Cheating on wine
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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
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09/14/2006 Wine for life
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07/27/2006 Slow process of maturation
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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)
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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
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Wine Works With Red Sauce