Putt O'Nyos

Archive for the ‘Putt Ponders’ Category

in defense of Putt

In Putt Ponders on May 16, 2013 at 5:42 pm

If I had a nickel for every time someone asked me the following questions, I would have, well, no nickels. No matter. I have answered them anyway, in hopes of shedding some light on my character.

If you were a grape, what would be?

Gee, I thought you’d never ask.

I’m tempted to say I would be aglianico: if left to my own devices I’ll go off on long tangents that do not ultimately produce anything of quality. I need to be reined in, and that’s just the start of it. At best I can be dark and concentrated, though my appeal is not immediately apparent. Just give me some time. I’m quite sour and definitely bitter, and while there’s the potential for elegance, I’m not nebbiolo. I’m lesser known and even harder to love – but when you get me, you get me. Also, you probably can’t pronounce my name correctly.

In truth, though, I’m more like lambrusco – grasparossa, if you must – in its traditional sense (not in its current faddish frenzy.) To be properly enjoyed I must be considered in the proper context, a not-so-serious one. I should be taken for what I am: a dry bit of froth that is mostly refreshing rather than challenging. I’m obnoxious when I become immodest and strive to be the latter. Most importantly, I go great with pork fat.

What do you think of the upcoming documentary Somm?

I cried the first time I drank Tokaji Eszencia. I cry every time someone asks for a “dry red.” And I cried when I watched the Somm trailer.

That seems harsh.  

Does it? I mean, really. “Insufferable” does not even begin to describe how those guys come across. And that’s coming from me, mind you. It’s one thing to recognize how ridiculous or condescending you sound (I do.) But those guys have reached a level that’s dangerously out of touch with reality. I’ll pass. 

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in 140 characters or more

In Putt Ponders on December 13, 2012 at 7:38 pm

In the two months since I’ve joined Twitter, I’ve vented random frustrations and mocked trends I’ve observed whilst serving and drinking around NYC. I’ve also tweeted several ambiguous limericks, if only because the juxtaposition of antiquated English poetry and twenty-first century prattle makes me chuckle. Perhaps by limiting myself to such subjects of less-than-universal appeal I have dug my own grave of Twitter obscurity.

So be it.

But I feel that I’ve left my eighty (give or take) followers wanting more, so I’d like to take a moment to elaborate on several tweets. For if they have the attention span to read up to 140 characters at a time, surely they’ll enjoy this.

Cold, rainy night – how much zweigelt & poulsard I can slip past unimaginative drinkers clamoring for big, rich reds? #bartenderboredom

No, I’m not trying to trick you. But I do have to keep myself reasonably entertained at work, and as temperatures slowly drop Bartender Boredom quickly sets in. Too many people follow an unwritten and absurd rule: come December it is unacceptable to drink white wine.  Real people drink red – and big bruisers at that. How else can one stay warm in such harsh forty degree weather?

So forgive me if I’ve created a little game for myself. Instead of some negroamaro or uva di troia I’ll pour you a poulsard. Light & peppery with a good amount of acid – it’s not at all what you were asking for, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised. A challenge can be more rewarding than comfortable security. Plus, your mouth won’t be ripped to shreds by all those tannins. Now, may I interest you in some kadarka?

Non devi spiegarmi cos’è l’aglianico – già lo conosco bene. Bravo, hai fatto la figura di merda. #SurpriseIspeakItalianbetterthanyou.

(You needn’t explain what ‘aglianico’ is. I already know it well. Good job, you’ve made an ass of yourself.)

Lest you forget, this is New York – a city of over eight million people with incredibly diverse backgrounds. You probably shouldn’t assume that I can’t speak another language, and unless you’re confident in your proficiency I would not recommend rolling your r’s so flagrantly. It’s better to give me the benefit of the doubt rather than launch into a rehearsed and pathetic discourse on indigenous Italian varietals. Duh.

Sorry, but the “funk” that you call “cool” is just straight up Brett. Now I can only smell jasmine-crusted bandaids. Great suggestion.

Brettanomyces can be kind of “cool,” in the same way that your perpetually stoned & shower-phobic college friend – let’s call him Brett – is “cool.” Sure, every now and again he adds something mildly entertaining and different to the mix, but you don’t want him crashing on your couch for weeks and fouling up your whole place.

Sometimes a wine is faulty. Frustrating and sad though it may be, it’s not the end of the world. There are other wines out there, so let’s stop pretending that this barnyard funk gives this one character. If you’re content to drink it, by all means be my guest – but I’ll have something else.

Dear North Face clad 22 year olds: thanks for your patronage, but all your Malbec-guzzling makes us look bad. So stop. Sincerely Argentina.

If you’ve just graduated from college and moved to New York, don’t wear your North Face to the bar. The company may not have the monopoly on warm clothing, but they do on making you look like an insufferable dillhole.

North Face may have been the perfect all-purpose attire while you studied abroad in Argentina, but you’re not in Buenos Aires any more. Don’t you think it’s time you moved on and started wearing adult clothes and drinking something other than malbec?

Furthermore, no one should wear North Face while in a city, New York or otherwise. How’s this: if you wear North Face, I will card you. I don’t care if you are obviously thirty. You may say “there’s no way you could possibly think I’m under twenty-one,” to which I will promptly reply, “there’s no way you could possibly think that fleece was a good call, and yet here we both are, you in your modern day dunce cap, and I refusing to serve you.”

Way to put a muzzle on me, Twitter.

fat & fatuousness

In Putt Ponders on November 29, 2012 at 1:24 am

I was recently asked, Do we need religion to express terroir?

Here’s my response:

I don’t believe in God. I do believe in Terroir.

And lardo.

Allow me to indulge: lardo is like religion – best served in small doses and spread thinly lest it become downright unpalatable and even dangerous to your health. At their best, both are undeniably comforting and can even make you proclaim, (to paraphrase Mr. Franklin) “there is some Higher Power out there, goddamnit, and He/She/It wants me to be happy!” But this feeling is all too fleeting, and you’re often left with nothing more than a gross aftertaste and a heavy dose of guilt.

But do we need religion to express terroir?

The question reminds me of a similar one my mother asked me when, after spending several months in Tuscany, I returned home ten pounds heavier:

Did you need to eat all that lardo?

No, of course not. But I’m sure glad I did, if only because it enabled a deeper appreciation of Tuscan cooking and therefore culture – a concept loosely thrown around to the point of distortion.

So the short answer is: no. We don’t need religion to express terroir.

But this has not always been the case. As Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson wrote in their World Atlas of Wine, “terroirs depend on man and his money for their expression,” meaning that for a great chunk of time the making and drinking of wine was almost exclusively the province of the ordained and the wealthy. (You think it’s rough being part of the 99% nowadays? Try being a serf.)

In the Dark Ages the Church was considered the Guardian of the Sacred Vine against the Barbaric Beer-Drinkers of the East. And they were some scary motherfuckers (Gladiator, anyone?) Various monastic orders accumulated and consolidated vast land holdings during the medieval period, strengthening this position. Of course, the wine of those days was likely entirely different from what you and I drink now. Yet we are not so detached from those times: through the following conversation between Saint Robert de Molesme and Saint Albéric, documented in the annals of the Abbaye de Cîteaux, one begins to see the origins of the contemporary phenomenon known as “Wine Douchebaggery”:

“This Blood of Christ is some pretty good stuff, wouldn’t you agree?”

“Indeed! And do you detect tomato stalk and tobacco on the nose?”

“Definitely not, if only because I have no idea what those are.”

“Fair enough. Though the bouquet is delightful and – dare I say – sinfully so?”

“It’s 1101 in the year of our Lord, we think everything is sinful.”

“Touché.”

But I digress.

While in 2012 terroir is a no-religion-required concept, it’s important to give credit where credit is due – and to recognize that an examination of religion’s strengths of shortcomings can add much to our current understanding of terroir.

I’ll begin with the latter, but since I’m not here to bash religion I’ll limit myself to just this: the belief that there can only be One True Religion that everyone, everywhere must subscribe to – or face the fiery pits of Hell – is the sort of dogmatic bullshit that ignores the distinctive traditions and cultures that make our little world such a cool place. This one-size-fits-all approach is not entirely unlike the proliferation of a select few number of grapes (cabernet sauvignon and merlot, I’m looking at you) at the expense of the tried and true local guys. Sure, they may be rough around the edges and need some work. But at least they’re distinctive and representative – they have been growing there for quite some time, after all, and likely have much to say.

But sometimes a fault can also be a strength. Organized religion’s Big Three are nothing if not tenacious – and every now and again that sort of attitude is just what’s needed (although Galileo may argue otherwise.) Sure, a ruthless insistence on tradition can come across as antiquated or ignorant. But when so many were spreading the gospel of fruit bombs doused in vanilla, maybe more winemakers should have taken a page out of the Papal Infallibility Book and said, “well, fuck that.” (Side note: bravo, Bartolo Mascarello.)

Ultimately, though, it is religion’s espousal of the Sense of Wonder that ought to be applied to our understanding of terroir. We can study the shit out of the science of fermentation, the genetics of indigenous varietals and how the soil on which they grow and the microclimate of the valley or hill or individual vine contributes to phenolic development, etc.  But nature is multi-faceted to the point of obscurity. There’s a lot going on, and while we’ve made plenty of progress we need to remember that there is ultimately much more that we still do not understand, and possibly never will. Furthermore, Nature can be a fickle and unjust bitch – even more so than God circa the Old Testament, and He was cool with smiting people with boils. So let’s remember that it’s ok to let go: we can only do so much and the rest is in someone else’s hands, be they microbial or divine.

All too often when I say, “whipped lardo bruschetta” a look of disgust comes across your face. You’re not sure what it is, but it sounds gross. This pained and confused expression kills me. But it’s really not so different from the expression I make when my born-again Christian grandmother explains to me why I’m going to hell. So what am I trying to say is this: look beyond lardo’s obvious fat and religion’s apparent fatuousness. You’ll find there’s a lot more there, and it’s even better paired with wine.

God Bless You, Mr. Vonnegut

In Putt Ponders on November 14, 2012 at 4:56 pm

You: All these wines! I don’t recognize any of them…I don’t even know how to pronounce them!

Me: No worries – I can’t pronounce them, either! Tell me what you like to drink and I’ll pour you something similar – but from a grape or region you’ve never heard of! Don’t worry, it’ll be fun!

I can have oodles of charm when I want to.

Kurt Vonnegut would have turned 90 years old three days ago, November 11th. In Breakfast of Champions, he comments on the greater significance of his birthday:

I will come to a time in my backwards trip when November eleventh, accidentally my birthday, was a sacred day called Armistice Day. When I was a boy…all the people of all the nations which had fought in the First World War were silent during the eleventh minute of the eleventh hour of Armistice Day, which was the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

It was during that minute in nineteen hundred and eighteen, that millions upon millions of human beings stopped butchering one another. I have talked to old men who were on battlefields during that minute. They have told me in one way or another that the sudden silence was the Voice of God. So we still have among us some men who can remember when God spoke clearly to mankind.

Armistice Day has become Veterans’ Day. Armistice Day was sacred. Veterans’ Day is not.

So I will throw Veterans’ Day over my shoulder. Armistice Day I will keep. I don’t want to throw away any sacred things.

What else is sacred? Oh, Romeo and Juliet, for instance.

And all music is.

If I could ever be presumptuous enough to believe that I could improve on Mr. Vonnegut’s work, I would add: And all wine is.

But I’m not. And besides, it’s not true.

Maybe there was a time when all wine was sacred – not necessarily good, but sacred as a crucible of cultures of the agri-, bacterial, and human variety. The wine was often faulty or oxidized or just plain gross for our modern palates, but with the rose-coloured glasses I’m wearing, all wine was sacred in this selectively remembered past.

Of course I’m now supposed to rant about the corrupted, homogenous, juice-on-steroids schlock that much of the wine-drinking public contentedly knocks back night after night, and lament the lost Virtue of this Most Civilized Drink.

There’s no shortage of explanations and explorations of this false dichotomy, so I’ll leave you to your own devices. Instead, I’ll avoid absolutes and argue a spectrum of wine sanctity in which the juice at the lower end acts as a foil for the juice on the higher end. When you drink bad wine, it really makes you appreciate what goes into (and often what does not) go into the truly great stuff.

But lest we forget, at the end of the day we’re all just here to fart around. So let’s raise a glass of juice and yeast waste and revel in the glory of wine:

 Kilgore Trout once wrote a short story which was a dialogue between two pieces of yeast. They were discussing the possible purposes of life as they ate sugar and suffocated in their own excrement. Because of their limited intelligence, they never came close to guessing that they were making champagne.