Novermber 13, 2008


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A vote for …
Is Obama a Pinot Noir or a Cab?

By Tim Protzman

I’m a little ashamed of myself. I didn’t vote.

I sort of tried, but I wasn’t feeling well and there were huge lines and my kid had my car and I would have had to walk two miles there and back. Still I feel like a slacker. I rarely miss a chance to vote, but I almost never vote for the candidate that ends up winning. It’s like a curse. Some years I didn’t even try. I used the “write-in vote” space. Ford, LaRouche, Anderson, Perot, Dukakis, Kerry, Nader, Forbes and Paul all got my vote, but never got the brass ring. The only thing that makes me feel better about being an unpatriotic non-voting whiner is that so many other people turned out in droves.

Thank you citizens who care.

Now we will have a new president. I don’t know too much about him, though. The president-elect is always a mystery. But this one has an air of hope. Will he be shiny, metallically crisp with a warm inviting manner, like a well-made chardonnay? Or will he be bold, enthusiastic and brash with a refreshing truthfulness, like a Cabernet Sauvignon? He could turn out to be a self-effacing, subtle, altruistic leader with firm but gentle structure, like a Pinot Noir, or a sunny, twinkling Syrah that never fails to bring a smile and brightens the world just by being there. Secretly I hope he’s a sparkling wine, a champagne that signals celebration, peace and success. But I could get used to him as a Cabernet Franc, obscure and underestimated but capable of producing strong, delicious structure and balance, with the ability to age into wisdom and profundity.

This week my discussion of the wines I drank will be accompanied by the reason I bought them and little background on the decision process.

Last Friday I went into a liquor store. They were having a vodka tasting. The distributor was highlighting Vikingfjord Vodka. Most of the time when I see a distributor in a liquor store I stop and chat. The job they’re doing isn’t that tough, but people can be rude. Especially if it’s not a great product. They get a lot “yuck”s and “no thank you”s and even some “gross”es.

So I try to instill some confidence. What intrigued me about this was that they had this vodka and a secret vodka, a premium vodka, zipped up in a white nylon bag. I tried the Vikingfjord ($14.99 with hints of slate, kerosene and juiced parsley), a premium vodka from Norway which is made with ancient water from the Jostedals Glacier and potatoes. I persuaded the rep to let me peek in the bag. OK, I lied. I waited until the rep was talking with someone and I peeked in his plastic bin and saw that the premium vodka we were tasting Vikingfjord against was Ciroc.

Ciroc Vodka is made in France from grapes. The taste is more smoky with a hint of citrus. I throughly enjoyed both vodkas and they mixed exceptionally well with fruit juices. The Ciroc retails for $23.99 and is a little more flavorful on its own, but the Vikingfjord presents an extremely clean, traditional vodka flavor which is from the potatoes used as a mash. And the tasting was so successful that I bought a bottle of Vikingfjord, a half bottle of Ciroc and a pint of Patron Blanco Tequila to round out my appraisal.

The Patron Blanco or Silver was one of the most mixable spirits I’ve encountered. And it was unbelievably flavorful as a shot. There’s something elegant and sophistcated about white spirits, even after Labor Day.

• Fossati Barolo 1997 ($38.44) Produced by Enzo Boglietti. I bought this one because the woman in the shop was the daughter of the mean lady who called me an idiot and told me “We don’t need your kind of business.” I went back in my Halloween costume (Chewbacca) so she wouldn’t recognize me. The daughter was as prune-like as her mom. The wine was marginal — smoky, a touch of raisin and some A-1 steak sauce hints. Drank half at a Halloween party, and the other half the next night.

• Kendall-Jackson Grand Reserve 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon. A little subdued. Lots of structure. A nice food wine, mellow without any showiness. Hints of blackberry, cherry and Swedish Fish. This one came in a box delivered to my door from a wine publicist. Each year they give me a beautiful calendar. Two years ago the full moon dates were off. This year there were two August 26ths. Haven’t found any flaws in the 2009 one yet.

• 1995 E. Guigal Cote Rotie ($42.99) I found this tannic and tight. Christine loved the two glasses she tasted. I found it had a sour flavor. She loved the clean structure and definition. I thought it was past its prime. She thought it would age into a subtle swirling mélange of spices — turmeric, clove, tobacco smoke, chocolate and au jus. Bottom line: I bought this wine because I didn’t want a cab or pinot noir, and while I wanted more we both agreed it was a typical Rhone style at a manageable price.

• 2004 Domaine de la Solitude Cotes du Rhone ($9.99) I bought this wine because I read about it in another wine column and I picked it up even though I’d tried it before. I kept thinking I tried the wine from a different producer, Delas Freres, but I wasn’t sure. The bottle is definitely worth getting, and even though it’s an everyday wine it has certain traits, like the violets in the bouquet and the spicy, lemon grass flavor notes, that will help those unaccustomed to Rhone wine orient their palates.

And if you’ve got the money, spring for the E. Guigal Cote Rotie from the La Turque vineyard. It’s only $348.99 for the ultimate Rhone experience.

My favorite wine came from a wine shop whose inventory is getting a bit thin. I think it’s the economy. Less credit and less money tied up in inventory. I bought it because it was the third wine the clerk suggested. (He makes me work for the suggestions and usually tries to get me to buy a nice but slow-selling wine. After I reject a couple he starts keeping it real.)     

• Louis Latour Santenay 2005 ($21.99) My favorite wine of the past few weeks. Very subtle and understated. Great price. Grape, blackberry, pencil lead, dandelion greens and a touch of dried strawberry fruit notes. Not structured, but elegant with a two-step finish. Just thinking about it makes me want a glass. This is typical Burgundy.

11/6/2008 Spooky wine

10/30/2008 Critical darling
10/23/2008 An epitaph of good wine10/16/2008 A wine crime
10/9/2008 All my personalities love wine
10/2/2008 Harvest magic

9/25/2008 Where fantasy meets reality9/18/2008 The mojito cure
9/11/2008 Spend Fall in Spain
9/04/2008 Making a break for it
8/28/2008 Achieving the impossible
8/21/2008 AVA in search of a movie
8/14/2008 Return to seller?
8/7/2008 Wine at the game
7/24/2008 Reviving a star
7/17/2008 Champagne staycation
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