(Notes from Duane:) Those who really know me know that I’m all about wine because it’s all about the sharing experience it brings to our lives. My brother Darin took a job down at Ft. Rucker Alabama recently and has found himself living in a state with some very strange alcohol laws. I thought you’d enjoy his write-up as it does help shed some light on the struggles folks like him go thru in states like this.
Whining about Wine in Alabama
by -Darin Pemberton
When people ask me where I grew up, I have two possible answers, depending on what they are really asking. If they are asking about my physical growing, I tell them Renton, WA. If they are asking about growing up on the inside I tell them near Mainz, Germany. Germany taught me a lot about what I thought I’d believed up to that point – the point of moving to and living there. I’m very thankful The Army decided to place me there from 1992-1995, if for no other reason than the start of my wine experience.
My then-girl-friend and I would follow the wine fests up and down the Rhein river. For about 7 marks ($5? then) we’d get a glass (a few of which I still have somewhere packed away) and get to ‘sampling’ the wines of the region. True, my pallet was limited to mostly sweet whites (Spätlese Riesling, generally), but because of the times I learned to to associate wine with ‘good times’.
Fast forward several years. Fast forward to today in fact – Sunday, 13 July, 2008. I find myself living in Enterprise, Alabama. If Germany had a bizzaro world, this may very well be it. Having started my journey with wine in a country where drinking isn’t “drinking” per se, it’s just what happens with dinner, to a place where what I decide to do with my money is strictly controlled, is a hard pill to swallow.
As I sit here in my cluttered townhouse, my family is getting ready to leave the house. Our mission is to document for WineFoot.com the struggles, challenges, and joys associated with living in a state where it’s illegal for stores to sell wine on sunday.
Our first stop will be a widespread grocery chain – Win Dixie. Plastered on the side of the store in large red plastic letters is scribed – “The Beef People.” Because Winefoot.com is more than just drinks, we’ll also try to capture the frustrations of finding fresh, good ingredients. After Win Dixie, we’ll stop at a very small grocery store called “Tate’s.” Then, we’ll cross the state line and stop at Big Daddy’s liquors in Esto Florida. Because it’s against Alabama law to transport into the state ANY alcohol which was not purchased within the state, we’ll try to pick up a bottle of wine, and do a tasting before heading back to our home state.
During what i hope is to be a continuing piece for Winefoot.com, we’ll move our way around the state of Alamaba looking for good wines, and good people – the latter will get their chance to sound off about the borderline-oppressive liquor-control laws in this state.
Win Dixie –
In case you’ve forgotten, the good folk at Win Dixie are kind enough to place a reminder on the first case of alcohol you see in the store. Just sorta neat it’s a Washington wine.
In fact, more than ‘a’ reminder, I think there’s a reminder every 4 feet on the racks.
What we’ve found typifies what I’ve seen in other grocery stores in the area. Loads of Mondavi. Several Australian labels (Yellow Tail being the largest), with the token Chateua St. Michelle ($14.99 for their 2004 Merlot) and Columbia Crest ($11.99 for a 2005 Merlot) offerings.
One fairly good Chianti I’ve enjoyed – Da Vinci – sells for $14.99. I’ve purchased that wine on sale, in WA for about $10/bottle.
We looked at several bottles – touching of course, not buying – when the proper day of the week gets here, I’ll grab a couple bottles for a look-see.
On to the meat section – after all, the Beef People should have strong kung fu, right?
Eh? Not impressed. $12/lbs rib eyes are nothing to write home about. Couple the price with the fact all the beef looked…desaturated? Not-cared-for. Just flat and lifeless.
As an aside, I found a couple GOOD things about the store – namely, Widmere Heffeweizen AND yuengling! YAY! Two of my all-time favorite beers.
And of course, I’m tellin’ ya…this beer is ON to something. WAY beyond a simple ‘beer garden’ – a HOEgarden would make me a millionaire, no?
And the single biggest ‘win’ for our visit with Win Dixie? SBC, baby!! WOOT!
Moving south by about 20 miles, the town of Hartford, AL features Tate’s Supermarket.
Tate’s takes the cake in terms of diversity of product. Where else, amid the boxes and bags of crackers and treats can one buy a cherry 69 Camaro?
Based on a suggestion from Steve from Frogz Restaurant (www.frogzrestaurant.com), we spent a few minutes looking over Tate’s offering of beef. MUCH better than what Win Dixie had – AND…at less than $7.00/lbs for the rib eye, a great deal, too!
One thing I noticed was the absence of any sort of alcohol. As I was browsing, however, I came across a Chardonnay. Really. In the middle of Lawn Mower blades, Food stuffs, and a candle supposing to smell like JESUS CHRIST himself, was a box full fo Chard bottles. Note the label, however.
We’ll review this “wine” later in the day.
Now – next mission – Head for the Border!! WOOHOO! Florida, here we come!
The good state of Florida has decided it’s populace, upon reaching legal age, SHOULD be allowed to decide for themselves on their purchases of alcohol.
Here we go! Digable Planets up loud!
Big Daddy’s Liquors is the place. It looks like a bar. Note the drive through.
I didn’t take any photos inside because there wasn’t much inside. I saw several – literally 3 or 4 – wine choices amidst bottles of Thunderbird, Jack, and other ‘(poor)man drinks’. I selected HRM Rex-Goliath Wines 47lbs Rooster Merlot.
So as not to break ANOTHER alabama law as mentioned above, I GPS-verified my location and parked just before the “Welcome to Alabama” sign and broke out my road-wine-tasting kit. (insert trunkmount.jpg) The Honorable Bob Riley’s state would be kept safe from ‘shiners’ like me.
Right there on the side of the road I poured and sampled the Rooster.
Nose: Menthol. Cherry Halls cough drops. A hint of apple cobbler. Underlying layer of sweating, musty gym locker.
On the tongue: As the wine crossed my lips and hit my tongue my first thought was ‘spoiled milk.’ As I swished a bit, I was hit with, appropriately enough, the smell/taste of chicken poop soup, stirred and blended with black licorice. Bit of rotten/rotting plumbs and a lot of Char. Think 1/4bls burger patty, cooked in a Weber gas grill on HIGH heat for 10-15 minutes. Char. Propane a bit?
Overall: Even for $7.99, this wine hurt my feelings. I honestly felt my palate taking a step backwards in protest to what I’d just put it through, if for no other reason. I could see this “merlot” being served with, and possibly okay with heavy-heavy MAN-sized hamburgers (think 1lbs patty cooked VERY well-done, sauted/grilled onions, hot sauce, pickled jalapenos). INTERESTINGLY enough, after me and my wife had a mouthful of the Rooster, we both felt like eating at Hardees.
When we got home from our trip, my 9-year-old daughter and I broke open the Alcohol-free Chardonaay.
Her notes as follows:
Nose: Peaches. Pears. Little Apple going on.
On the tongue: I think it tastes like fruit because it’s very fruity.
Nose: Grapes. Pears. Club Soda.
On the tongue: Tons of mango here with unripened grapes – those little tiny almost sour grapes on the end of the bunch. A touch of vinegar. A stainless steel component. Watered-down Welch’s White Grape juice from concentrate.
Overall: This “wine” kicked that merlot’s butt. This might be the first oak-free Chard I’ve tried. I think most kids would love this as a kid’s table wine at thanksgiving. I could definitely handle a glass of this with cranberry sauce, stuffing, and gravy.
That’s brings us to a wrap of the first installment of “Whining about Wine in Alabama.” I hope you enjoyed my journey today – as always, I suggest you go out and learn flavors and wines and embrace your palate. After all, only you can decide what’s GOOD for you.