Monday, April 15, 2002

I'VE BECOME OBSESSED with chardonnay. You know, the ubiquitous white wine that everybody was crazy for 15 years ago or so? I've always been a red-wine guy; in fact, I was way ahead of merlot-mania. I drank a lot of merlot in the early 1980s, and I think I even invented a wine-tasting term. If you've read anything about wine you've probably seen flavors and bouquets compared to such prosaic things as pineapple and pears and berries and jam, and such esoteric items as bell peppers, cigar boxes and the forest floor. But have you ever seen "cobbler" used in wine criticism? Yep: Back then, at least, certain merlots (like, oddly, certain batches of Pepsi) had an off taste that can be described only as like the pastry part of fruit cobbler.

Anyway, I've made up for my prescience on merlot with this very belated discovery of chardonnay. We're way past even the chardonnay backlash. Near as I can tell, it's OK to like chardonnay now, as long as you steer clear of the stereotypical big and buttery ones. Which ones to I like? As buttery as possible, please. My chardonnay drinking started with a popular Australian label, Lindemans Bin 65. Nice and buttery. But then somebody gave me a bottle of Chateau Ste. Michelle chardonnay, from the state of Washington. Much more buttery. And the great thing about not knowing a heck of a lot about wine is that whatever you like goes with all kinds of food.

I drank a lot of chardonnay over the past week as Jacqueline and I visited her parents' April retreat at Amelia Island, in north Florida. The fourth-floor condo was right on the ocean, with a long balcony. Quite spectacular. But the Florida tourism people should pay me to stay away: As it has before, my arrival coincided with a surprise attack of rainy, chilly weather. I was able to frolic in the surf a few times, but the sun didn't appear until Sunday, as we packed to leave. At least I got a lot of reading done.

We had originally planned to drive, but we flew. I don't think we'll be making that mistake again for a trip of that relatively modest distance. Nothing horrible, but the usual hassles. Malcolm Gladwell, whose wonderful book The Tipping Point I finished on this trip, has a good little essay on the Slate site about the stupidity of the current state of airline security. He doesn't mention my big gripe, which is the misguided focus on whatever happened last. Because Richard Reid had a bomb in his shoe, suddenly the shoe is the most dangerous thing in the airport. If some madman packs his penile implant with plastic explosives, I guess the security folks will have us whipping out our schlongs.

I've also been reading:

  • Leonard Downie Jr. and Robert G. Kaiser, The News About the News: American Journalism in Peril
  • Jack Lait and Lee Mortimer, Washington Confidential
  • Linda Amster (editor) and Dylan Loeb McClain (editor) with Allan M. Siegal (introduction), Kill Duck Before Serving: Red Faces at The New York Times
  • Anders Henriksson (compiler), Non Campus Mentis: World History According to College Students
  • Ruth Reichl, Comfort Me With Apples: More Adventures at the Table
  • Anthony Bourdain, A Cook's Tour: In Search of the Perfect Meal
  • Geoffrey Nunberg, The Way We Talk Now

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