My Dumb Phase

January 25, 2011

I was pretty stupid when I was in junior high. When I was baking a cake in eighth grade home economics class, the instructions told me to grease the bottom and sides of the pan; so I did—on the outsides.  In seventh grade history class, I wrote a five page book report on the pheasants that lived during the old medieval feudal system. Not the peasants, mind you—the pheasants. According to the paper, the pheasants were not able to leave the fiefdom without first receiving the lord’s consent. Junior high was also the time when I thought the word “awry” was pronounced like “awe-ree”. Once during summer break I tied a rope to my friend’s mini bike to see if my skateboard could do thirty. Turns out, twenty seven was its top end. This was the first time of four that I broke my arm in junior high.

Let me continue. Once in social studies class I copied every single answer off a friend’s test paper—beginning with his name. On two separate dares I chewed tin foil, and pushed a pin into the wall socket. Rather than taking the $5/hr. caddying job, I stuck with the $3/hr. lawn mowing job because I thought it would look better on a resume one day. I remember wishing I could score with the ladies the way Freddy Mercury probably did. Once in a spelling competition I misspelled the word “Angel.” A-N-G-L-E–Angel. Another time I counterfeited a teacher’s handwriting on a hall pass to get out of going to math: “Please excuse me from class.” These are just a few examples. I could go on. I’m not saying I’m a brain surgeon now but I did get a little better.      

Some wines go through a phase like this too. It’s called their “dumb phase.” No kidding. It’s a period of a wine’s transition from youth to maturity. Shortly after bottling, the delicious flavors of fruit can begin to decrease before the complexities of maturity have developed. During this time the wine just doesn’t taste very good. It’s wine’s version of writing “pheasants” and just like some junior high kids, there’s no telling what causes it or how long it will last.

This week’s recommendation is a white wine and therefore typically immune to the dumb phase.

Sebastiani 2008, Chardonnay ($13.99): This wine contains a smart taste of pear, a clever use of oak, and an intelligent hint of butter. It all comes together in one brilliant Chardonnay.

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Wine-Like Characters From Freshman Dorm

January 18, 2011

Trying to make sense of the diversity of wine on the store shelves is like trying to figure out all the new people you meet in the college dorm. It took the best part of a semester to learn enough about each dorm mate to determine if I thought they were cool or a complete dork. Likewise, with wine, a little exposure to the unfamiliar often produced a surprising and lasting relationship. The wine equivalent of the guy that cranks up Turkish folk music and never does his laundry can sometimes make a better friend than the Polo-shirted Corvette-driving dude. This is how it would look if wines were dorm mates.

Cabernet is definitely the dorm stud. Popular and with a good build, he’s on both the soccer and football team. He’s not right for every occasion, though. Sometimes he’s a bit over the top. Like when he wore his wrestling suit to class. Merlot is a lot like Cab but his sports are badminton and curling.

Beaujolais is so different from other wines. It’s like that weird guy at the end of the hall. Some people liked him. I did not. After a semester of hearing his ramblings about his spirit animal being the fish, I completely avoided him. Sorry Beaujolais lovers, I don’t get it.

Blended wines are like the dorm pharmacist who made it a lifestyle of trying to mix every possible concoction of native plant and cleaning product in an attempt to find the perfect buzz. While I didn’t relish the thought of trying his hallucinogenic bath salts, most of my favorite wines are a concoction of several varietals.

Pinotage has very different flavors: bananas or even tropical fruit. Every dorm has the Pinotage guy. He’s different, yes, but he’s also fun. Most of his siblings ended up as shepherds or in the circus and he definitely sports his family’s weird gene. Because of him you would never have the experience of air-playing a didgeridoo to whale songs.     

Brunello is the sultry diva. Everyone wanted a date with her but starting around $45 a bottle, we usually didn’t have the money to take her out. Bordeaux wines are the upper classmen with a few years under their belts. Boone’s Farm is the guy that dropped out two weeks into the first quarter when he learned there was no recess. 

This week’s recommendation is a white from Argentina.

Piattelli 2009, Torrontes ($13.99): Who hasn’t had a crush on a foreign exchange student? She even smells exotic; like flowers and honey. Have a fling with this one and you’ll brag to your friends about it.


The Greyhound Wine Critic (or “When Do You Know You Have Too Much Spare Time on Your Hands?”)

January 10, 2011

So much of the taste of wine comes from its smell. Therefore, I enlisted the help of my greyhound, Nora, to use her super-sensitive smelling abilities as a critic for a side by side competition among several wines. The judging was simple: the more she sniffed or licked the cork or cap, the better the wine must be. Here are the results.

Pinot Noir: Two sniffs, one lick. I knew she wanted a taste but although she’s twenty-eight in dog years, I won’t let her have a sip from my glass. She glared at me like I was Michael Vick until I brought out the next cork. Score: Two paws up.

Cabernet Sauvignon: Only two sniffs but she also aggressively attempted to chew the cork. I have only seen one wine judge lunge for the cork with his teeth before but it was after he’d confused his cold medicine with bull shark testosterone. I have to assume lunging for the cork with one’s teeth is a positive testament for the wine. Score: Two paws up.

Chianti: Three sniffs and enough licking to give the cork the feel of an oil soaked gerbil. I slid the soggy cork back into the bottle and made a mental note not to pour the remainder of the wine for guests. Score: Two paws up.

Lemon Fresh Pine Sol : Two sniffs. In an effort to avoid an appointment with the vet and a date with the ASPCA, I restrained her from licking the cap. Score: Two paws up. I’m beginning to have my doubts about Nora’s palate.

Boone’s Farm (Apple Blossom): One sniff. Nora immediately adopted the same depressed expression she wore when she learned David Archuleta lost American Idol. She then ignored the cap and spent the next fifteen minutes licking the same spot on the carpet. A rather damning statement about the wine considering Nora happily gobbles up dead beetles and frozen rabbit turds. However, my faith in Nora’s judgment is restored. Score: One paw down.

Test conclusion: I probably have too much spare time on my hands.

This week’s recommendation is an excellent Malbec.     

Trivento 2009, Malbec ($8.99): This wine reminds me of a retired greyhound racer. It’s powerful with beautiful structure and at the same time it displays a docile mellowness. In wine speak that means it’s super delicious. At under ten bucks you also feel like you’ve just won at the track.


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