By Terry Sweeney
Long before the walls of Wall Street came tumbling down, my bank went bankrupt, and General Motors asked if it could borrow a couple o’ billion (sorry guys, I’m a little short myself this week), Lanier and I enjoyed perusing the aisles of our favorite wine boutiques.
“Oh look!” Lanier would cry out. “This Russian River Valley Syrah from Dutton Estate got 95 points from Robert Parker. And it’s only 34 dollars.” Melodramatically, I would rush over and read aloud, from the card below it, Parker’s poetic description as though I were on stage at the Kennedy Center.
“….Delivering dense concentrated blackberry, wild berry, anise, fresh earth, cedar, and pleasing mineral notes. The finish sails on and on.” It was at that point that Lanier and I would exchange a look that said ‘when that ship sails, we’re gonna be on it’. “Ahoy there, matey, we’re comin’ aboard,” I’d gleefully scream.
Today I’d just scream, period. Thirty four dollars?! Not a chance in hell!! Our naive Doris Day days of singing ‘Que Syrah, Syrah’ are over! We Winos have changed our tune. Our empty wallets have helped us see the error of our ways. That which we once scorned and ridiculed, we now humbly bow down before and ask its forgiveness. We’re talking of course about the 1.5 liter ‘double’ bottle. That’s right, we’ve gone from 95 points to nine dollars and fifty cents. The only points we’re looking at now during this Grape Recession are decimal points!
It seems like only yesterday when I would shake my head and smile indulgently at the little old lady in Publix pushing her
supermarket cart filled with small neat stacks of Lean Cuisines and a jumbo 1.5 bottle of chardonnay. ‘Bless her heart’ I’d say to myself. Nowadays, instead of a smug inner monologue, I’m stoppin’ the old grey fox and asking her right out loud: “Hey lady, that wine any good?” She pauses politely to reply. “It’s got some very subtle notes of lemon grass, honey, and vanilla.” Then, elbowing me in the ribs, she brags out of the side of her mouth, “you won’t find a better buzz for your buck in this joint, buddy!” Well… no, she didn’t exactly say that. It was more like: “It’s my favorite dear, but everybody’s different.”
Being new to the 1.5 cult ourselves, we needed more guidance than that. So Lanier and I decided to ask some of the more experienced devotees among our friends what their favorite ‘El Cheapos’ were. Lanier’s good friend Kathy in D.C. said “Okay….don’t laugh. My favorite supermarket wine is Pinot Grigio from Cavit ($9.99). For some reason it goes down well…all 1.5 liters of it!!”
Our friend Gary who’s a Beverly Hills bartender talked up the 1.5 La Terre Chardonnay ($9.99); “a lot of the restaurants here secretly use it as their house wine.”
Here are a few more that got high praise, including some of our favorites. (Yes, we actually went out and drank a whole bunch of 1.5’s for you. Don’t thank us, it’s our job.)
• Brownstone Chardonnay ($11.19)
• Folonari Montepulciano d’ Abruzzo ($12.19)
• Peter Mertes Reisling ($11.19)
• Frontera Pinot Grigio($7.99)
• Frontera Cabernet Merlot blend ($7.99)…. this also turns out to be the best selling wine in South Carolina)
And if you’ve had a good night at the poker table or the bingo hall, you can always splurge on these two 1.5’s:
• Red Cliffe New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc ($16.19)
• Ardeche Louis Latour Chardonnay ($20.29)
Hint: Look for all the above on the bottom shelf of wine stores and supermarkets, as they stock more pricey stuff at eye level in hopes you will be tempted.
A mischievous vintner friend of ours in Napa recently poured his favorite 1.5 Cab into an empty Chateau Margaux bottle he had saved, slipped a paper sleeve over it, and snuck it into a blind taste test some local wine snobs were holding. Turns out 4 outta 5 of them picked it as their favorite. Needless to say they weren’t too happy when he showed them the 1.5 liter bottle of ten buck bargain juice from Walmart their pretentious palates had plotzed over.
Oh, by the way, in terms of wine etiquette, it is now acceptable to openly display your 1.5’s. Yes, at long last, 1.5’s (everybody’s dirty little secret) have finally come out of the (liquor) closet. At a very fancy dinner party we recently attended, held at a beautiful 3,000-acre plantation, our charming and sophisticated hostess rang a tiny antique sterling silver bell and servants rushed in to fill our crystal wine goblets with (are you sitting down?) 1.5 bottles of YELLOWTAIL!!!! After which they proudly placed the bottles out in the open on her 18th century $100,000 dollar sideboard. One word of warning though…when someone invites you to dinner and says ‘you could bring a bottle of wine’ …they don’t mean a 1.5. Keep ‘em for yourself.
We should also say, once you go ‘1.5’ that doesn’t mean you aren’t tempted to go back to one of those skinny 750 ml high priced floozies. The other day a shiny new bottle of Pascal Jolivet Sancerre ($42) seemed to be knocking on our door asking us to come out and play. But we suddenly remembered a different leader, President Obama, and his Inaugural warning in 2008 that “it was time to put away childish things.” (Gee, you think he was talking about all those fancy bottles of high class swill we all downed the decade before?)
Guess we’ll put that $42 Sancerre on hold for now. In the meantime, we have faith America will be Number 1 again. Or even better…1.5!
By Terry Sweeney