Learning About Wine MC Hammer Style

November 29, 2011

I recently purchased six bottles of a well-known red wine from the Rhone region. As a learning experiment to expand my wine knowledge, I plan to drink one every two years while keeping meticulous notes on how it ages. I’ll drink one in 2012, 2014, 2016, 2018, 2020, and 2022. By doing this, I’ll learn how wine matures and improves throughout its life. I look forward to observing the tannins mellow with time, the fruit transform with age, as bigger, earthier flavors come to the fore. Years from now I’ll know more about when a wine peaks, and the subtle clues it expresses when its time has come. Below I will add my tasting notes next to the date the bottle was opened.

Monday: The first bottle of my twelve year test. What a delicious wine! It sports a deep ruby color with sweet tannins. One of the most notable traits is its powerful flavors of ripe, red cherries. For a wine meant to age in the cellar, it sure is drinking well now. I love this wine.

Tuesday: After yesterday’s tasting I just had to open a second bottle. With only four more I’ll have to forgo the last bottle scheduled for 2022. Still loving those ripe, red cherries! How can these tannins be so strong yet so sweet? What a wine!

Wednesday: The ripe, red cherries are still there. No discernable difference in the tannins after just three days. This leaves me with only three bottles to last twelve years. I’ll wait three years between them instead of two–that way I can still see how the last bottle will drink in 2021. I will open NO MORE of this wine until another three years passes!

Thursday: Ripe, red cherries!

Friday: I just opened one of the two remaining bottles. I’m starting to doubt the success of this experiment. When I finally open the last bottle in 2022 I’ll remember the ripe, red cherries and the sweet tannins.

Saturday: I just finished the last bottle. In six days I squandered my entire stash of wine as if I were channeling MC Hammer. If in 2022 I ever hear someone talking about this vintage, I’ll tell them about the ripe, red cherries and the strong yet sweet tannins.

This week’s recommendation:

Francois Chidaine “Clos Habert” Montlouis Sur Loire ($22.99): Made from the Chenin Blanc grape, this is a white that ages beautifully. Just when you think it tastes too sweet, the acidity slices through, ending the floral flavors and leaves you wanting another sip. I dare you to pick up a bottle. Better yet, pick up six and spread them out over a few years.

I Used to Like This Swill?

November 15, 2011

Sometimes appreciating wine is like spending time with a praying mantis: You find yourself getting ready for a quality evening with a bottle you just know you’re going to love, when suddenly it turns on you and eats your head.

This happened to me earlier this week when I tasted an old favorite of mine. This was a wine I’ve brought to parties, gave as gifts, and shared with friends many times over many dinners. Although it had been a few years, I had no doubt that it would deliver. It always did. The moment it touch my lips, however, I became immediately confused. And not in a “did I remember to take my vitamin this morning?” sort of way. No. I mean in more of a “get stoned on absinthe while watching Polish acrobats” sort of way (That’s kind of a long story–no, actually it’s not. I got stoned on absinth once while watching Polish acrobats and it freaked me out. Right out). Anyway, what was once one of my solid, go-to wine choices now had the same effect on me as my Grandmother’s creamed corn—the only recipe I am aware of which is inspired entirely by vomit.

But if there’s one thing I’ve learned about drinking wine, it’s that tastes change over time. Thinking back to some of my early wine favorites is much like thinking back to some of my old girlfriends: I’m left wondering just what the hell I was thinking. How was I ever so attracted to some of those over-processed, over-manipulated Cabernets?  How I was ever so attracted to that girl with the huge African lip disc? What the hell was I thinking? Yes, my tastes have changed.

I like to think that these changes in preferences are due to my becoming more wine-educated. I like to think I’m becoming more refined through the years, more discerning in my palate, but considering I’m the guy who still belches the entire alphabet at parties and runs away when his wife catches him eating frosting off the cake with a spoon, that logic may be a little optimistic.

This week’s recommendation:

Barone Ricasoli 2009, Chianti ($14.99): Although Chianti has faded in and out of favor through the years, BR has NEVER let me down. With an awesome spiciness and bold cherry flavors, this Chianti will always taste good–just like belching the entire alphabet will always be funny.    

Good Wine and Bad Tattoos

October 20, 2011

You’re tempted to ask the guy at the liquor store for his best under-fifteen dollar bottle of wine but you hesitate because you’re afraid of the Hard Cow Effect.The Hard Cow Effect is when someone sells you on an item which turns out to be vastly different than the sales pitch promised it to be. And when I say vastly different I don’t mean in a “you expected bran flakes but got fudge instead” sort of way. I mean in more of a “you asked for Disney World but got military school” sort of way. Yes, the HCE is always a huge let down.

The Hard Cow Effect gets its name from my friend Dave, whom I met while traveling in Europe. One night in Dresden, Dave split a bottle of whiskey with a skin-head tattoo artist who talked him into getting a tattoo. What could possibly go wrong? The tats on the artist’s face looked pretty cool and the thug was oddly convincing after half a bottle of Jack. My friend couldn’t quite remember which tattoo he picked out, or the artist’s name, or most of the ordeal for that matter, but he definitely remembers the skin-head telling him that the piece would make him look like a Jedi Pimp. Just before passing out on the table, Dave remembered the first touch of the needle and how excited he was to be the first Jedi Pimp in his family.

The next day we made it all the way to breakfast before I asked him how his tattoo turned out. The dim light of remembrance lit his face and he quickly pulled back his sleeve. First the right. Nope. Then the left. There it was: A strangely effeminate-looking monster emblazed on his forearm with the words “HARD COW” printed directly beneath it. In a whiskey haze, the artist meant to adorn the tattoo with the words “HARD CORE” but apparently felt the booze most during the writing portion of the piece and his penmanship wasn’t at its best during the “R” and “E” section of his work.

Dave was devastated after the skin-head gave him such high expectations. Likewise, every time the store clerk pontificates the virtues of that new wine, you just can’t buy it for fear of the big let-down, the disappointing sting of the Hard Cow Effect. Not to worry, this week’s recommendation will leave you feeling like a Jedi Pimp.

Argiolas Costamolino 2010, Vermentino ($14.99): You’ve probably never even heard of a Vermentino so if anything reeks of Hard Cow Effect it’s this bottle. But don’t let the strange name stop you. Its acidity and pineapple and honey flavors make it not just super tasty, but something you can pair with anything from fish to pasta to Asian.

When Your Love of Wine Gets Creepy

October 10, 2011

I called the liquor store twenty eight times just to ask if you were there. I hung up when the clerk recognized my voice. I don’t care. I just want to know that you’re still there. I want to know that I can still get to you. I still have the old bottle that you were in when I first found you. You didn’t know I kept it did you? It still smells like you. Sometimes I pull it out and smell it when I’m listening to Air Supply. That’s our band, you know. Air Supply.

Have you seen me slowly driving past the liquor store? Eleven times yesterday. I do it to see you in the window. That’s not weird is it? Think of it this way: I’m only looking out for you. I’ll always be there for you.

You took some good pictures for your web site. I printed some of them and taped them to my bedroom wall. And ceiling. And mirror. Some of them really show off your beautiful label. I think about your label a lot when I’m at work. I think about your dark cherry and anise flavors too. I try not to think about them when I’m at church, though. Nothing good can come of that. And don’t go sharing your voluptuous mouthfeel and your exotic liqueur flavors with someone else. I don’t know what I would do. Do you understand? I just don’t know what I would do.

Another customer almost bought a bottle of you. I talked him out of it. Then I bought the bottle myself. See? I told you I would always be there for you. I told you I was looking out for you. That’s why I’ve also written a thirteen-thousand-word manifesto explaining how perfect our love can be on the side of the box I brought you home in on that first perfect day. I really love getting close to you like this. Enough talk. It’s time to put on some Air Supply and pull out your old bottle again.

This week’s recommendation:

Bogle, Petite Sirah Port ($19.99): I know. Creepy. But it’s pretty much the way I feel when I become infatuated with a wine that so captures my full attention. Bogle Petite Sirah Port is one of those wines. It makes me want to build a little cozy room in my basement, buy a case of it, and lock us both inside so we can be happy all by ourselves. Forever.

A Few Miscommunications Between My Wife and Me When She Sent Me to the Liquor Store

September 21, 2011

She said: Can you run down to the liquor store and pick up a bottle of wine? We only have twenty minutes till dinner.

I heard: Can you run down to the liquor store and pick up twenty bottles of wine? We only have a minute till dinner.

She said: We’re over budget on wine already, okay? Don’t go crazy if there’s a sale.

I heard: We looked over the wine budget already and it’s okay. Hopefully there’s a crazy sale.

She said:  And don’t stop at Home Depot on your way home. We already have a garage filled with tools that you never use.

I heard:

She said: And if they’re pouring free samples don’t stay and try them all. My parents will be here soon.

I heard: You’ll probably have time to try everything if you drink them fast. You know I love it when my parents visit and you have your buzz on.

She said: And don’t use the blue credit card. I’m waiting for the statement to come for that one so I can figure out which month our vacation bill shows up on. If it’s on next month’s we’re okay but if it shows up on this month’s we need to be careful. Did you hear me, Honey? Don’t use the blue credit card.

I heard: Something something something credit card, something something vacation something something.

She said: Hurry back.

I heard: Hurry back. And don’t hesitate to buy yourself an early birthday gift while you’re there. Christmas is right around the corner too so you can beat the rush by buying now. I probably won’t even care if you get the $200 Opus One. Or maybe you can get it and just hide it in the basement so I don’t find out.

This week’s recommendation:

Casanova di Neri Rosso di Montalcino 2007, Sangiovese ($19.99): If you can’t remember the phrase, “Don’t use the blue credit card,” you’ll never remember the name of this wine. Write it down because it’s one of the best deals I’ve come across. Casanova is a great example of what the Italians do well (besides using hand gestures and honking their car horns). Here they take Sangiovese, the grape used to make Chianti, and display its absolute finest qualities for under twenty bucks. This bottle is a great wine for anyone who wants to get their feet wet with the European style and not end up with a wine that tastes like you need to wear a beret, a goatee, and a striped shirt to appreciate.

Environmentally Friendly Wine and How Not to Clean Your Skis

September 14, 2011

The tube of ski wax remover flaunted the words “Environmentally Friendly” on its label. It sure smelled lemony fresh. Knowing I would not be harming the environment, I hurried home from the sports store to get my skis ready for the upcoming season. A quick spritz on the rag, a little elbow grease, a few rubs……nothing. The wax on the ski base stared back up at me, unchanged, as if to say, “Sorry, but I’m fine right here.” I reread the directions, poured a more generous shot onto the rag, and scrubbed the ski the way a high-schooler scrubs a beer stain he’s left on the upholstery of his dad’s Vista Cruiser. After ten minutes the rag showed only the slightest hint of a wax-colored stain where it contacted the ski.

Exasperated, I searched for another option and opened up the case of ski gear I inherited from my dad. The case had not been opened since the seventies–that era when a young EPA was only beginning to crawl from its primordial stew; when industry laughed and danced in its toxic bliss; when officials were still trying to find a way to put out that river that caught fire in Ohio.

The back of this tube had words like “Hexafluoroacetone” and “Trimethyoxysilane.” Yellow warning triangles peppered the back of the package. I saw the typical “Corrosive” sign: the one that pictures a vile of liquid spilling over some poor sap’s hand as it devours his fingers like alien blood eating through a spaceship hull. Another sign seemed a bit less clear but appeared to show a baby with two heads, presumably because its father didn’t wear a full hazmat suit when using the product.

I quickly removed the cap, took a short whiff and spent the next ten seconds convinced that someone attached my head to one of those machines used to test car suspensions. With stinging eyes and bleeding gums I passed the rag over the wax. One pass was enough. The wax beaded up, jumped off the skis, and screamed, “DEAR GOD! HELP ME!” as it fell to the floor.

In six seconds the job was done. The bases gleamed like new. I quickly rinsed the rag out in the sink but immediately wondered if that would be a problem. Over the next few weeks I noticed several trees in the neighborhood reaching down and scooping up small dogs. I still wonder if the two had anything to do with each other.

This week’s recommendation:

Bonterra 2009, Chardonnay ($12.99): With wine, eco-friendly does NOT mean a lesser product. All of Bonterra’s wines are made with certified organic grapes. This Chardonnay is delicious and tastes of green apple and pear–which is pretty much the exact opposite of Trimethyoxysilane and Hexafluoroacetone.

An Open Letter to Big Red Wines

August 24, 2011

So you’ve come back. Do you really think you can just come traipsing back into my life again after leaving for an entire summer? You want me to just pick you up again as if everything was fine? Am I really supposed to just take you back?

Sorry Honey. I’ve moved on. I’ve met so many fantastic white wines after you left that I barely even remembered you. I met a Torrontes from Argentina. That’s right. We saw Shakespeare in the Park together. Did you know I spent some time on the beach with a Sauvignon Blanc from California? Yup. That was in June and I’ve had that same wine three times since then. Uh huh. Unlike you, it’s crisp and it’s bright and it refreshes me like you never did.

Did you hear I met a Viognier for the first time this July? Well I did. I even brought it to my family picnic. Guess what? They loved it. I might even take it over and introduce it to the guys on game night. So don’t even try to weasel back in like you and me got it goin’ on.

Did you know I had to put the big red wine glasses away after you left? I should have known you wouldn’t be around once the weather got nice. I was so stupid! And I have no doubt that you’re probably showing up in other people’s glasses right now too. No! We’re done! Things are different now. We. Are. Done.

Don’t get me wrong. I wish you well. I mean, you always did go well with steak. Do you still go well with steak? I bet you do. Remember that night at the cabin? The night of two bottles? You were amazing. You’re always amazing on a cold night. We were good together, weren’t we? It would be fun to do something like that again. We have so much history together. It would be a shame to just turn our backs on so much history. Okay, maybe I’ll have just one glass. For old time’s sake —   but I’m not taking you back.

This week’s recommendation:

Guglielmo Private Reserve, Petite Sirah 2007 ($24.99): With flavors of smoke, chocolate, and leather, Guglielmo tastes like something we love to reminisce about but are careful not to talk about. This wine is big and meaty and buxom and delicious and a great way to welcome back the big red wine season. Grab a bottle and create some history.

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