Hippo Manchester
November 10, 2005


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Wine: In search of the girl next door

You need a wine that is good, bottle after bottle

By Tim Protzman  tprotzman@hotmail.com

Ever see one of those movies where the boy knows the girl next door but is after the really hot model, so he makes a fool of himself trying to woo her and when he finally gets a date he realizes it was the girl next door he loved all the time?

That’s how I feel about a lot of wines.

My ideal wine would be an affordable red, about $15 a bottle, with some spice and structure and subdued fruit, but enough to round out the tannins. It could be a cabernet or a syrah or even a tempranillo or sangiovese. Dependable, functional and easy to get and drink.

Much of the wine I’ve tasted recently has been thin and wane with a watery flavor. Others taste “canned” with fake fruit and alcohol flavors, like a Jell-O shot or glass of Nyquil. This is probably from the way they’re made — quickly, with less-traditional methods and more emphasis on science than craftsmanship. But even the most ancient methods don’t guarantee quality.

I had a 1996 Chapoutier Cote Rotie, a French red made from 100 percent syrah in the northern Rhone valley. These are among my favorite wines and I’m very fond of all Rhone appellations and varietals. Whether it had peaked and faded or it just wasn’t a good a year, we (me and the Wine Rookies), found it watery and almost tasteless.

Whatever the reason I was out $39.99 plus tax. That same night we tasted a 2001 Mercurey, a red burgundy from the Côte Chalonnaise. This wine was fresher, more fruity but as boring as Scrabble night at Aunt Elva’s. Perhaps this is part of being a wine aficionado, the real thrill is in the quest.

Two weeks ago at a wine dinner I did a lot of slogging. The Gloria Ferrer Sparkling Wine with the marscapone stuffed squash blossoms was nice, but I prefer the Blanc de Noirs, a slightly pinkish champagne with a nice stripe of sweet fruit running through it. Price $17.99

The chardonnay, whose name must not be said, tasted of lead and other heavy metals. It was paired with a tuna tartar which didn’t really do it justice. Price $14.49 (the same as what I’d need to be paid to drink it again.)

The Luna Pinot Grigio (not to be confused with the Italian Luna de Luna Pinot Grigio from the Trentino Alto Adige region) was very nice. Luna is a Napa Valley winery and the grapes come from the Carneros region. Lemony with some endive flavors. $17.99

I enjoyed the 2003 Coppola Pinot Noir, but found it lacking depth. The 2001 Wild Horse Syrah was big, juicy, but a tad too high in alcohol, which gave it a nice afterburn. These two wines I’d consider trying again, just different vintages. They run $12.99 and $17.99 respectively.

The showstopper was a girl next door of a wine from a vineyard I was quite familiar with, Beaulieu.

Beaulieu Vineyards was started in 1900 by George and Fernande de Latour. They were French and required by law to plant grapes on their Napa Valley Farm. They survived Prohibition by producing communion wine. (these were the good ole days of the “Cocktail Mass”) and in 1938 they hired André Tchelistcheff as winemaker. He put Californian wines on the map. The complete story is found at the BV website http://www.bvwines.com.

Beaulieu is famous for its hearty cabernet sauvignons, which are delicious and dependable. But what they served that night was the 2002 Merlot!

The 2002 is one of the best American vintages this century. The merlot was supple, elegant with the structure and layers of a great suit. Oh, how overlooked you’ve been, merlot.

We left you at the turn of the millennium and rather than go away, you stayed. You improved and now you rival the Pomerols and St. Emilions of Bordeaux. Drinking the Beaulieu Vineyards 2002 Napa Valley Merlot was a privilege and honor. I felt like John Cusack in all those movies where he tries to date the super model and finds happiness with the girl who’s been there all along.

Beaulieu Vineyards 2002 Napa Valley Merlot, $12.99  — Currant, chocolate, grassy aroma with that band aide smell and a depth complex finish revealing layers of smoke, a touch of peat and dried sour cherries.