Wine at the game
Take me out to the tailgate
By Tim Protzman email@example.com
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 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 Merchantsauto.com 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.