Congrats to our two little graduates, who rocked grades K and 2 this year. Obviously their accomplishments call for a toast, but when I suggested it, my parents accused me of appropriating the occasion as a drinking excuse. “Never!” I protested, while sidling over to our one bottle of red wine on the counter. But they nixed it and instead shared a solitary beer.
My mum had bought only one bottle of this Czech dunkel, LOBKOWICZ BARON on the weekend after watching a fellow customer load his entire basket with the stuff. He raved about it, pointing out the excellent price ($2.17/bottle) and describing it as dark and “sweet but not too sweet.” It sounded normal enough, so Mum shot out her hand and grabbed one before the dude could empty the shelf, and before long it was beckoning yours truly from the fridge.
Advancing to grades 1 and 3 is a big deal that warrants free-flowing liquor, I maintained, but it was not to be, so I will tell you about my tiny portion of LOBKOWICZ BARON. As promised by the dude in the liquor store, it was dark brown with persistent tan foam and a doughy aroma. Accompanying notes of malt, caramel, and yeast was a somewhat unwelcome metallic note all the more evident because of the beer’s simplicity. To be honest, it tasted like my dad made it, which I wish he had, because then we’d have a garage full of the stuff.
Overall, LOBKOWICZ BARON is friendly and uncomplicated, quite mainstream and, being on the sweet side, a good pick for drinkers who dislike being shit-kicked by wayward hops. But LOBKOWICZ BARON is very ordinary, and therefore inappropriate for significant occasions such as today’s. Certainly V, who was touted for her “inventive spelling techniques” and P, whose stint as “Goat Three” of “The Three Billy Goats Gruff” won her accolades, would side with me and advocate hitting the sauce early and wantonly. Too bad they are not in charge. But one day they will be.
My Fellow Inebriates,
Once a month each kid in V’s kindergarten class gets to be the Special Helper. What the Special Helper’s tasks are we’re not sure; all we know is that Special Helper Day is not to be missed. It’s the one day of the month on which V will spring from bed, choose her very best outfit, cooperate all morning, and voluntarily leave the house at 8:15 without thinking of some dramatic objection at 8:14.
Special Helper Day requires some prep, which V does without urging. The Special Helper carries a Mystery Bag, preferably decorative or fancy. Into this bag goes a Mystery Object of the Special Helper’s choosing, along with a sheet of paper.
V didn’t decide until the morning of her Special Helper Day what she would put in the bag. Or at least she didn’t mention what she had in mind. But she had the bag chosen and the sheet filled out within five minutes of waking. In the past she’s brought her bead collection, her Chihuahua, various rocks, bugs—that kind of thing. For V, a found object is the best kind of Mystery Bag item, so we should have known she’d select the special piece of tree branch she’d found a couple of weekends before in Campbell Valley Regional Park. That’s what went in the bag this time.
It was 8:14, a time V has the uncanny ability to intuit each morning despite a nebulous understanding of clocks—a time Mum fears because it so often occasions some kind of hissyfit about hair-brushing or boots or which jacket fits which weather, and so on. So when Mum saw the Mystery Bag item she just sighed and went with it. Anything to get out the door.
So… the reason V likes the tree branch she put in the bag so much is that it’s shaped like a gun. When V first found the branch she went nuts for it and thereafter fought with P and two friends for possession of it throughout the day. P and V don’t have any toy guns, so the tree-branch gun was a huge find for them.
If Mum had any qualms about delivering V to school with a gun, she did her best to be preemptive. “Hope this isn’t controversial,” she said to V’s teacher as V handed the bag over.
“Now I’m intrigued,” said Mrs. R.
And Mum beat it out of there. We forgot about the gun until 2:30, when V emerged from class (Special Helper always leaves first.) She was beaming. Whatever the hell they do on Special Helper Day, it must be freaking amazing.
“How was your Special Helper Day?”
“It was awesome!”
“Did the kids like the Mystery Bag item?”
“Yes,” V said. “Except I wasn’t allowed to play with it.”
Fair enough. Mum’s not a total twit. Taking a gun to school—even a tree-branch gun—is pretty tasteless, and if the only downside was that V couldn’t play with it, and the rest of her Special Helper Day was still awesome, then Mrs. R is pretty awesome too. A more officious teacher might have sent V to the office, arranged a parent-teacher meeting to discuss the gun, or even confiscated it. But if what V describes is accurate, at the moment V pulled the gun out of the Mystery Bag, Mrs. R had to stifle a laugh.
“We should buy Mrs. R a bottle of TRIVENTO AMADO SUR TORRONTES/VIOGNIER/CHARDONNAY (2012),” I said. “It has the rich lushness of Argentina’s signature white wine grape with playful Viognier tartness and disciplined Chardonnay structure.”
“Nope, not good enough,” Mum said. “Mrs. R’s getting CUMA.”
Well, kick me in the nads, I thought the CUMA was for us. But Mum’s right—the TRIVENTO AMADO SUR isn’t good enough for Mrs. R. Sure, it’s a tasty wine but it’s not quite as luscious and enveloping as CUMA. Its small percentages of Viognier and Chardonnay, while strategic, nonetheless operate against the hedonistic fruitiness of the Torrontes, reining it in if you will. If you’re not a complete hedonist, you might appreciate this. This wine has excellent structure and acidity, notes of mango, melon, and jasmine, and a lingering finish. It leaves you, somehow, wanting more—a little more lushness and depth, and more follow-through on the fragrance. Not a disappointment, but not quite in the same league as CUMA.
Incidentally, by the time I finished writing this, my mum and her friend L had polished off the whole bottle of TRIVENTO AMADO SUR. Holy crap, my fellow inebriates, they really sneaked it past me. L is the friend whose kids accompanied P and V when they found the tree-branch gun in the park. L finds me creepy but says: “At least you don’t have button eyes.” To which I respond: “At least I didn’t let my kid take a gun to school.”
Elementary school barfs out almost as many bullshit phrases as your typical business-speak corporation, so it was no surprise to see a sign in the lobby about PHYSICAL LITERACY.
According to Physical & Health Education Canada, “individuals who are physically literate move with competence and confidence in a wide variety of physical activities in multiple environments that benefit the healthy development of the whole person.”
Which is to say, if you’re physically literate, you’re physically fit. Unless it’s not okay to say “physically fit” anymore.
You’re damn straight wine literacy can’t be taught in three hours. You need to drink for a lot longer than three hours, friends, if you want to learn the ins and outs of wine. You couldn’t possibly try all the available varietals in three hours and be able to apply a discerning palate. Not even a supposed guru like Robert Parker, who claims he can remember the characteristics of every wine he’s ever tasted (and he does 50 at a time), could have become wine-literate in three hours.
But still…in the case of a phrase like “wine literacy” we’re talking about knowledge of the subject. And while experience with wine is necessary to achieve both intellectual knowledge and visceral understanding, we’re still talking about a discipline that involves verbal and written descriptions of wine, not to mention a fair whack of studying for the really serious oenophile.
So when Miss V, who is reading “Cool Cats Drive” admirably but probably won’t tackle the Harper Canadian Government’s position paper on physical literacy anytime soon, what the hell does a stupid catchphrase like “physical literacy” mean? Does it mean she knows about monkey bars and slides and tetherballs, and does her so-called physical literacy increase as she betters her skills at these activities or only when she learns that her calf muscles are called the gastrocnemius and soleus?
If you saw V on the monkey bars you would not question evolution (I’m speaking to you, Langley). The kid is a serious monkey. Unlike monkeys, however, she knows how to write her phone number, albeit with the 2s backwards. If “physical literacy” means being good at physical stuff, the kid is also physically literate. But can’t we just say she’s fit? Or does that discriminate against paunchy kids and child amputees? I don’t want to be a dick, but you’d think “fit” would do here.
One kind of literacy V doesn’t have (this time I’m speaking to you, Child Services) is wine literacy. That’s why we waited until she was in bed before opening our bottle of BORSAO CAMPA DE BORJA GARNACHA (2011). Another inexpensive Spanish find, BORSAO is a blend of 70% Garnacha, 20% Syrah, and 10% Tempranillo. We bought it, curiously enough, because it had a shelf-talker quoting Robert Parker raving about the stuff. Ninety points he said, and goodness knows you have to take a mark like that seriously when the scale starts at 50 and everything under 85 is considered shit. LOL.
We decanted it, noting (with our oenological semi-literacy) that it was a young wine, plus we’ve found that when Tempranillo is present to any degree we’re in for a lot of interesting changes as the wine breathes, so decanting is a must. And BORSAO was no exception. It was immediately enticing, yes, and Mum and I were ready to guzzle it with abandon, but Dad said it was a bit rough at first. So we let it sit for a while, and indeed it did open up, developing all sorts of nuance. Before that happens, you get a fantastic fruit-forward orgy; 45 minutes in the decanter and you get something quite special.
Aromas: ripe berries and spice. BORSAO is full-bodied and complex, serving up tasty dark fruit and multi-layered detail—hints of tobacco and flowers that awaken as the wine sits.
Now you know I really hate waiting to drink wine. But decanting isn’t BS; it really works, and BORSAO was a gratifying example of what happens when you do wait. Now if we could only teach V to wait for stuff.
*I swear I didn’t know that was going to come up when I googled it.