“Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks. Rage, blow, You
cataracts and hurricanes, spout till you have drenched our steeples,
downed the cocks.”—William Shakespeare, King Lear
My parents, whom I’ve mentioned before, were in the path of Hurricane Charley. They’re safe and sound, their home undamaged, but they’re still in shock and can’t adequately fathom the damage done to their community. Trees, wires and double-wides uprooted like so many dry leaves. No electricity, no water and no phone service. I spoke with them throughout the storm and it was only after it moved into Central Florida that both the cellular and land lines went dead and I lost contact with them, but I knew they were safe.
They approached the storm with a healthy attitude, stockpiling water, batteries and non-perishable ready-to- eat food. They pushed the car up against the garage door to brace it against the wind. And because they live within a mile of the harbor, they had two state-of-the-art life jackets and an inflatable rubber boat, in case of flooding from the storm surge. But my favorite preparation was the special bottle of wine they bought, to be opened at the height of the storm, by candlelight.
The late great Julia Child said her favorite meal was any red meat and a bottle of gin. So with that in mind I sprang into action when they day before the storm I received the call.
For those of middle age, being asked for advice from your parents is a big deal. It means you’ve arrived—you think, “I’m a big boy now!” My stepmother called from Camino Real Liquors, Port Charlotte, Florida.
“Could you recommend a good white wine that we can have when the hurricane hits?”
My mind raced. My choice would be a great white burgundy like a Corton Charlemagne from Henri Boillot, a grand cru of course. The first sip will confuse you. It doesn’t taste like wine, but like gently perfumed water with grape, endive and watermelon juice taste notes. Each sip evolves in your mouth and the glass. The problem is it costs $139.99, and even facing natural disaster my parents are cheap.
“Try the Mulderbosch sauvignon blanc, it’s from South Africa.” I decide.
I wait as she cruises the aisles searching for my selection.
“I found it, but it costs $15.49…”
“I know you’re used to buying wine in bulk from Sam’s Club, but trust me on this one.” I plead.
So she bought it. I chose it for its versatility, its price and Julia Child’s principle of minimalism. Mulderbosch has hints of pineapple and an herbaceous nose that speaks of alpine meadows. And it’s good with Cheez Whiz and trail mix.
The storm’s destruction was terrible, all of Charlotte County’s mourning for the dead. This catastrophe prompted me to think about all the New England hurricanes that caused destruction. The Great Colonial Hurricane of 1635 toppled chimneys, ripped boats from their moorings and flooded the Great Bay. The Great September Gale of 1815 left snow in the White Mountains and pounded the seacoast. And the Hurricane of 1938 flooded an already-soggy Manchester as the Merrimack River left its banks. Always important to me will be Hurricane Gloria, which left 600,000 without power and led to the birth of my son nine months later.
As I surveyed my apartment for survival gear I found four empty wine bottles suitable for water storage, two cans of sardines left over from my Y2K survival bunker, extra-fine Sicilian martini olives and a box of Kraft macaroni and cheese. The empty wine bottles caught my attention:
Chateau Gloria 2000: an unclassified yet tasty little number from the St. Julien region of Bordeaux. St. Julien’s are more feminine and lack the aggressive, grassy flavors of a Pauillac and St. Estephe, but offer more cabernet than a Margaux. Look for chocolate, espresso and currant flavors. $34.99.
Buena Vista 2001 Pinot Noir: from the Carneros Region of Napa/Somona. Lots of overripe plum and juicy concord grape flavors. $14.99.
Merryvale 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon: made in the traditional way, by adding egg whites to collect the residual skins and particles, which are then skimmed off. $24.99.
2003 Torremoron Tinto from Spain’s Ribera del Duero: 100 percent tempranillo grapes, a bit tannic due to the youth (somebody should import well-cellared Spanish wine) but a riot of sunny, slightly smoky flavors.
They’d hold potable water as elegantly as they held wine. And even in New England it’s good to be prepared. Remember the highest wind speed ever recorded was 231 miles per hour on Mount Washington.
My parents were too scared to drink the wine during Hurricane Charley. They opened it two days later with lobsters and stone crabs that they bought on sale from a slightly damaged fish market that was without power. They had cooked them on a gas grill. They said the wine was delicious, the best they ever had, but I think they just tasted the sweet nectar of safe delivery.
Tell Tim your wine stories. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Find the wines discussed in Hippo’s food section at state liquor stores. For exact locations of your favorite juice, go to http://www.state.nh.us/liquor/products.shtml.
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