Monday, September 1, 2014

A Fleshy Chablis for Steam Engine Steve

Dear Friends,

The Hard Taco song for September, "What Has He Done, The Bear," is the most important song you will listen to all day. You won't BELIEVE the third and twelfth lines. One quarter of the way through the song, you'll start to question everything you've ever thought about anything. By the time you're halfway through, you'll start to believe in the jaw-dropping power of the human spirit. And once you rank the 300 signs that you're a Hard Taco Digest reader from most to least unbelievable, what happens next will break your heart.

A Lesson in Wino Pairing
Lauren and I recently attended a destination wedding in Northern California.  Sonoma County is known for breathtaking views of rolling hills, pinstriped with sweeping vineyards. Not surprisingly, the combination of picturesque beauty and unlimited free wine tastings has attracted droves of hoboes to the region for over a century. I'm not talking about the sedentary street bums found in other cities, but actual steam rail-riding, bindle-carrying hoboes.  Thousands of them. They call the region Napa Valley, which is the Wappo Indian term for "Nappy Vagabond."

The old stereotype that hoboes love wine holds true in roughly 100% of cases. I always assumed that the wine a hobo chooses to drink is just a matter of personal preference, but the Sonoma sommeliers know better. Gabriel, who pours at the Lancaster Estates tasting room in Healdsburg, gave us a free primer on how to pair a fine wine with the right breed of hobo. Here are the basics:

Cabernet Sauvignon - A powerful, tannic red grape.  Goes well with a toothless hobo wearing a stovetop pipe hat and coveralls that are missing a button.

Chardonnay - A wider-bodied white grape that is often seen with late harvest tramps, such as Tarnose Nabob or Hobo Huxtable the XII. Also pairs nicely with white-bearded sidetrack hoboes like Mr. Ben "Nickel Note" Pantaloons.

Malbec - A sophisticated mid-season ripener, and a good match for a stocky, snake oil-selling charlatan in tattered coattails. A supple wine that creates delightful stains on burlap pants held up by a piece of rope.

Merlot - A lauded middle-palate grape with a round finish. A bottle of this varietal is often found in the brown paper bag of a tall, stubbly bindle-stiff with a mutt limping a few paces behind him.

Pinot Noir - Delicate and fresh, with softer aromatics. Perfect for inebriating medium-bearded vagabonds like Creaky Rags Lupino or Milo "Extra Chum" Spare-biscuits.

Riesling - A drier white that goes well with chicken, fish, a can of beans, and any urine-soaked bum lying stuporous in a boxcar.

Sangiovese - A silky red wine native to Tuscany, often consumed by a hoboes who begin stories with, "Let me sit down a minute, a stone got in my shoe."

Sauvignon Blanc - A versatile, smoky varietal typically found in the hand of a Westbound hobo sleeping under liberal-leaning newspapers. Popular pairings include Seasick Admiral Mulligan, Steam-for-legs Sal, or Lushy McBedsore. Also pairs well with any hobo wearing a bent fork tied to a string around the neck.

Syrah - A hearty, spicy red, often with toffee notes. Pairs well with harmonica-wielding itinerants like Snaky Bunyan or Earl "Redundant Skinfold" Hardwhiskers.

Zinfandel - Found only in California, Zinfandel grapes are crushed by inserting them between the two plates of the San Andreas Fault and waiting for an earthquake. This creates a zesty and versatile wine that can intoxicate a wide range of hoboes, from dumpster-diving handcar pumpers to your high-end jungle buzzards with corncob pipes.

White zinfandel - Sweet, syrupy, and trashy, white Zin is terrible and no hobo would ever drink it.

With warmest regards,