Hooked on the good stuff

There’s this crazy story floating about concerning a millionaire playboy (really, is there any other kind of playboy?) and his fraudulent wine selling.

The FBI recently arrested Rudy Kurniawan and charged him with mail and wire fraud because he tried to sell fake wine at an auction. The wine, if it were real, would be worth $1.3 million. (Read more about the story here.

That’s got to be some kind o’ wine. I mean, really – libations worth $1.3 million? I think of those with mountains of money to burn and their drive, their lust, so forcefully fueled, they write checks for hundreds of thousands of dollars or more — for wine. Can’t they find a good Barolo in the $100 range, for crissakes?

Which made me think of a conversation with a friend recently wherein we discussed when and how one’s “wine palate” changes or develops — or even if it does. He used to think all wine tasted alike and that connoisseurs were, for the most part, not. I used to think many a pontificating wine drinker little more than a snobby, verbose fake as well — except something’s happened to my palate in the last ten years or so.

Today, I drink wines priced at about $20 or more a bottle. I know this because I’ve graduated to Argonaut Wine & Spirits’ “3rd Tier” shelf. Argonaut sells their wines (more or less) from four shelves: starting at the bottom shelf and working up to the fourth shelf, they are priced, respectively, at about $6, $12, $23 and over $40.

I once happily swigged the $6 stuff. Then I got turned on to the world of $12 wine which, at the time, included much-ignored (and under-marketed) Spanish wines and lesser-known Italians. Gifts of wines costing $20 and up started coming my way and, like the lure of methamphetamine, I abandoned all reason and responsibilities and completely succumbed.

The Danger Zone (the inability to drink wine priced within my budget) began when a suitor brought me a beautiful $85 Cinq Cepage from a Sonoma Valley Chateau St. Jean Winery, wherein my wine head was turned in more ways than one.

It’s only going to get worse. Next month I’ll travel to Verona, Italy with Panzano’s Executive Chef Elise Wiggins to drink the “wines of the world” with Italian chefs, sommeliers and connoisseurs — men and women who will cook and pour things most on this planet will never get to experience — and I’m dreading it. I know. It’s hard to sympathize, given what I’ve just told you, but it gets worse: I’ll be staying at an exclusive villa where the French Prime Minister took his new bride for their honeymoon.

The problem is simple: I can no longer afford my habit. I can’t afford to purchase the wine my palate’s sure to come to love and keep my several times a week habit alive and well. I cannot come back and continue to settle for drinking from the “3rd Tier” any more than I can be okay with a $3 hair cut.

They found “counterfeit wine-making paraphernalia” in Kurniawan’s abode after his arrest. And the French Prime Minister’s wife ultimately left her Minister Man, despite being wined, dined, and honeymooned at a villa where commoners like George Clooney vacation.

The moral, then, of this wine story is: If you can’t drink the wines you love, love the (cheap) ones you drink.

Or something like that.


One Winning Wine Tasting

Fine Wines & Cordials of Italy

On March 27, 2012, Argonaut Wine & Liquors will host one of their 4th Tuesdays of Every Month wine tastings at the Park Hill Golf Club (at the Park Hill Golf Course) from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. (www.parkhillgc.com).

The event offers a tasting of hundreds of wines, plus a variety of appetizers. The cost is $30 in advance and $35 the day of the event and proceeds go to The Positive Project (www.thepositiveproject.org). Call 303.333.5411 for further information.

Weird Wine Trivia
• The wreck of the Titanic holds the oldest wine cellar in the world and despite the depth and wreckage, the bottles are still intact. 
• The “Proof” is in … proof is the alcohol content in half the proportion of the proof degree specified. A 200% proof vodka would taste as alcohol, as its alcoholic content would be 100%. However no such content has been yet recorded on commercial products. In the early days of alcohol trading, whiskey was mixed with gunpowder in order to determine if the alcohol content was high enough to set the gunpowder aflame. 
• The word alcohol is derived from the Arabic language (al kohl or alkuhl).  A large proportion of the Arabic population is forbidden from consuming alcohol for religious reasons.
• Poor soil quality tends to produce better wines. The trick is to “challenge” the vines by making them “work” harder.