‘Kids, don’t try this at home. Again.’ A Valentine vignette

We were young, we were broke….we were living in rural Iowa, for cryin’ out loud.

My roommate Jim had a girlfriend, and one Friday night he was going to impress her with a nice, home cooked meal and an evening of romance. This necessitated me finding somewhere else to be for the night, which was no problem, but his plans also included a bottle of wine to go with his home cooked feast. That was a bit of a problem.

SEE: ‘we were broke’, above.

A plan was developed to overcome both limited funds, and lack of quality and variety (fancy-schmanzyism, as the locals might say) in the local municipal liquor store wine selection. Keep in mind this was Marshalltown, Iowa 1979 – stocking both Mogen David and Boone’s Farm qualified as ‘wide selection.’ The solution to Jim’s dilemma seemed to be simple: what couldn’t be procured could be made.

I’m not really sure how the initial idea unfolded, but our plan seemed sound when concocted in our living room – ‘concocted’ being the operative word here.

Part one of our scheme was to procure the container, and Jim had a friend who worked at a nice restaurant and got Jim an empty French wine bottle – cork included.

French! Even better than Jim had hoped for – and it had the cork, to boot.

Jim cleaned out the bottle, and then we made a trip to the grocery store for the ingredients necessary for one bottle of Jim’s date-night wine; Welch’s grape juice, a bottle of vodka, a box of Alka-Seltzer tablets. And a funnel.

Returning home to our apartment, we poured a couple of small glasses of the grape juice, in varying amounts, then added the vodka. A quick sampling led us to the conclusion that a 50/50 mix was pretty close to real wine – real French wine – save for the fizz.

Sophisticated palates such as ours would know this, right?

Taking the funnel, we carefully filled the empty (French!) wine bottle half-way up with the Welch’s, and then he filled most of the remainder of the bottle with the vodka.

Jim then got a couple of packets of the Alka-Seltzer, and opened a pack of two tablets. We had to break them to get them down the neck of the bottle, and once inside they began to fizz and foam, threatening to overflow the bottle, before settling down. Two tablets didn’t seem to add enough fizz (maybe for a chintzy domestic, but not for decent French) so he ended up opening two more packets of Ala-Seltzer and repeating the procedure until our little instant-ferment seemed to fit the bill. A couple of sips convinced us both that we had hit upon the recipe for im’s night success.

Jim was able to get the cork snugly back in the bottle, and the bottle into the fridge for proper chilling. (I know what you’re thinking; red at room temperature. Not this bottle, baby!)

One bottle of Jim’s Impress-A-Chick; vintage, Thursday – under four 1979 dollars!

Jim’s date night went off without a hitch – his home cooked meal, the accompanying wine both a big hit – though their evening ended a bit earlier than he might have wished. You see the wine was cheap and easy, the girl wasn’t.


A New Year’s Glass of Whine

2011 is a case of empty bottles. Its contents consumed, let the ruminations begin.

As vintage years go, 2011 was, in general, clumsily decanted then sloppily poured. While its initial bouquet was enticing to the senses, a lot of the nuance was lost in first few tastes. Even well aged, vintage hope can lose its flavor when allowed to breathe too long.

That being said, I find some things to recommend in remembering the year passed.

I found 2011 to be earthy and musky on the nose: this is especially true in regards to politics. The first taste was usually, but not always, nutty and fruity – as in ‘most of our public figures are nuttier than fruitcakes’ – but the earthiness is right there soon enough.

Earthy is one thing, but at times, high partisan acidity and murky aftertaste ruined what could have been a memorable tasting or two. As the year wore on, the tannins of ubiquitous and unfocused ‘debates’ at times turned a bottle quickly toward vinegar well before its time.

Economically, the first 2011 sniffs detected restrained, lightly roasted kernel/bean-counter like scents; aromatic but a bit off. As the year continued the financial bouquet opened up as aromas of saddle leather, tobacco leaf and walnut come to the fore.

Makes at least as much sense as any economic forecast you have heard this past year, doesn’t it?

Suffice to say, economic news was not something to be held midpalate this past year; a discount bin jug wine with screw-top cap. Rinse-n-spit stuff to be sure.

Socially, 2011 had a perplexing and distinctive perfume, incorporating mundane hints of celebrity, narcissism, preposterous behavior, and outright stupidity. As usual with an off-the-shelf bottle of pop culture, drink now–next week, then down the drain she goes.

On a personal level, I welcomed a grandson this past year – my first. This was an exceptional cask savored above all others. The fragrance on the nose is soft, but pleasant with a nice blend of yeast, citrus and apple aromas. The palate is dry and filled with bubbles. It offers flavors and texture of yeast (think fresh bread), lemon, apples and baby powder. The finish is fairly long and evolves.

This particular 2011 bottle will continue to age nicely over the years, and will be an excellent vintage to be shared for years to come.

All in all, I would label 2011 as full-bodied, with a fair intensity and reasonable balance and distinctive bouquet. I would pair it with a good rehashing before a palate cleansing and then moving on to something else for the year ahead – something stronger, like a good, bourbon or perhaps some Valium being as the year ahead is of the election blending varietal.

We’ll de-cask again next January.kids. Til then, good luck…and happy decanting. (Tutorial below. Click on link.)