October 16, 2008

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A wine crime
Young aficiando or scofflaw?
By Tim Protzman food@hippopress.com

The following is a description of a crime.

Darryl brought his son to a little tasting group we had. It was at Norman’s house, which is very nice, so I left the Wine Rookies home. They tend to be murder on Oriental carpets, what with the work boots and Mike, who sometimes forgets about his golf shoes.

The house had this big 1980s great room with a kitchen (lots of pine) and a fireplace and couches and a heavily varnished table made out of a barn door. Or made to look like it was made out of a barn door. The tasting was limited to Rhone wines, both red and white, and everyone knew what everyone else was bringing. We also paid Norman $5 apiece and he provided three bottles of a Bernard Burgaud 1999 Cote Rotie. The tasting was really nice. There were hot hors d’oeuvres, little phyllo dough puffs with ground Italian sausage and broccoli rabe filling. And cheese. Always cheese. Cheese is to wine tastings as snow is to Siberian winters. Or winters in Concord, which is shaping up to be the new Sverdlovsk. The wines were a mix of really good, the Cuilleron Condrieu white made of viognier and a racy, spicy little St. Joseph Domaine de la Faviere, and some other not bad but pretty ordinary bottles. I remember a Guigal, which I was dying to try, as being so-so.

The big surprise was Tyquon, dressed in Rocawear, totally Urban Contemporary, had a really good palate. The surprise was he’s only 19. Or 19 and a half, as he says. His palate had been trained by his dentist father. And although he lives in New Jersey, Tyquon sees him almost every weekend. Or he did, because now Tyquon has a life of his own. But they still talk and get together and sip wine and go to Rutgers football and basketball games.

Tyquon tasted flavors I only dream of. Red Gummi Bears, North Carolina-style barbecue sauce, beets, celery and caviar. And he could tell the varietals apart. We put a cheap Chilean merlot and a Twenty Rows Cabernet Sauvignon side by side and he knew which one was merlot and which was the cab. We all were very impressed. I got to talking with him, because besides his father, I’m the hippest one in the room. We talked about Ridge Vineyards (he’s not a big fan of zinfandel), Cabernet Franc and rap music with liquor, wine and Champagne mentioned in the title. I told him Squiggy’s idea to do a tasting book on all the potables mentioned by name in Rap/Hip-Hop and Urban Contemporary songs. He thought it would never be up to date because rappers love the grape and I laughed. Then the police came in and we were all arrested for providing alcohol to a minor.

Kidding!

We had a great evening and we went home. Tyquon did not drive; Darryl did. But it still was illegal. This was made painfully clear to me by annoying Jo-ellen. Even the way she spells her name annoys me. She works in one of our satellite offices for the job I do that pays for my wine and allows me to pursue my hobby of drinking wine and rambling on about it to 21st-century teenagers like Tyquon. Jo-ellen is so politically correct that she had our Christmas Party changed to a Holiday Gathering. I used to forward her any e-mail I got with prayers, religion, angels, God and puppies to her until she complained.

“You DO know I’m an atheist! Don’t you?” she growled.

She was so artificially incensed I considered setting up a separate Hotmail account under an assumed name just so I could send her red-state propaganda and Hallmark religious e-cards.

I just wish that people who don’t care for something would just shut up about it already. We don’t need to know how you suffered and how it’s now your crusade to ban things like paintball guns just because your moron kid accidentally shot one up his nose and you had to sit in the Elliot ER for five hours on a Saturday night, causing you to miss Bingo.

Poor Greg was like that. He was a victim of mine at college, who found it necessary to say things like, “Yech! You’re eating the three-bean salad. I HATE three-bean salad.”

Which in itself wouldn’t have been so bad, but it was the constant blah, blah, blah of adverse reactions to: aardvarks, ants, guns, stainless steel, ABBA, bubble gum and Tony the Tiger from Frosted Flakes (who according to Greg should have been a woman, because the main customers for Frosted Flakes were males aged 9 to 27. Strangely, I find that threatening and am slightly excited by the prospect of big, strong tiger comforting me with sugary snacks over the breakfast table).

Greg ended up wearing the greater portion of my three-bean salad that day and complained that the oil stains didn’t come out in the wash.

Jo-ellen informed me that serving a minor alcohol was illegal!

Surely there was some loophole?

“But he was with his father,” I countered.

“Still illegal.”

I was so sure that in the privacy of our own homes we could offer a sip or taste of wine to our offspring, that I called the Liquor Commission. And Jo-ellen was right. It is illegal to give alcohol to a minor. But it’s not really enforced. It might be if you had three beers with your kid and then he went to pick up his friend or a pizza and got caught. But it is just plain against the law. And while they don’t come into your home and enforce it, they could if they wanted to.

I know how much damage drinking does, but don’t we want to teach our kids how to enjoy wine?

This is why I’ll be paying extra close attention to the candidates when I vote this year. In fact, I might even vote twice!


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