Reprint of a Q&A with Mark about lovable wines for Valentine’s Day and his beloved “El Tigre.”
Q: What is the perfect Valentine’s Day wine?
Mark: For those willing to endure its vertiginous pricing and notorious inconsistency, the answer, unequivocally, is red Burgundy from France. It has a splendidly shimmery glow, a kind of ruby translucence that is a world away from midnight dark wines like Zinfandel and Syrah. The best examples have an intoxicating fragrance of berries and rose petals as well as a satiny coating that seems to leave a talcum trail across your palate. They often show an underlying hint of earthiness — think mushrooms or forest floor or autumn leave piles — a kind of primal sexiness that stands it apart from any other wine, especially on Valentine’s Day. You’ll earn extra points if you secure a bottle from the Burgundian village of Chambolle-Musigny and the perfectly-named but hard-to-find “Les Amoureuses,” i.e., “The Lovers,” premier cru vineyard.
For love on a budget, go with a cru Beaujolais, which is a slightly more serious cousin of the more familiar Beaujolais Nouveau. You’ll say it all with a “St. Amour,” the northernmost of the cru Beaujolais villages. Like most wine from Beaujolais, it is irresistibly light and fruity and costs less than $15 a bottle. Excellent producers include Georges Dubeouf, Marcel Lapierre, Mommessin, Château de la Chaise, Jean Folliardand Michael Tête. Perfect for
Q: Tell us about your television show.
M: I’m a judge on PBS’s The Winemakers, which features 12 folks competing to have their own wine label. It’s compelling television; you’d be surprised at how intensely people yearn to break into the wine industry. We filmed the first season in California’s beautiful Paso Robles wine country and will soon be shooting the new season in France’s Rhone Valley. You can check out clips of the show at: www.TheWinemakers.tv.
Q: Word on the street is that you have a muscle car – do tell.
M: Ah, you mean “El Tigre,” which is one of 500 “Grabber Orange,” 400-horsepower street-legal racecars made by Saleen, a boutique manufacturer-modifier of high-performance Mustangs. In power, color, and form, the car pays homage to race legend Parnelli Jones’ 1970 Boss 302 Mustang, which ruled the SCCA Trans Am Series in the early seventies.
Q: So the car has a 70’s feel?
M: Undeniably. It’d be right at home in Starsky and Hutch or a Beastie Boys video. It comes complete with a “shaker scoop,” a cannon-like pipe protruding through its hood and “window louvers,” which look like black venetian blinds screwed into the back window. Besides giving the car an exquisitely menacing, Stegosaurian rear, I haven’t figured out a purpose for the louvers beyond making would-be tailgaters imagine that the driver is a once and future felon.
Q: What is it like having a muscle car in Manhattan?
M: In a city of solemn sedans and generic SUV’s, El Tigre is a mobile joy machine, a retro representation of West Coast tire-burning culture. Unlike your typical animosity-generating exotic car, I get the sense that El Tigre engenders goodwill in those it rumbles past. It has a certain democratic appeal: cops smile, street hustlers wink approvingly, and buttoned-up business types get Matchbox flashbacks. European tourists often stalk it with their camera phones, as they seem to take special pleasure in its unapologetic Americanness.
Q: Are people surprised to learn that a wine expert has such a car?
M: Often they are, and I like that. Life, like wine, is most interesting when it embraces the complex. The ability to experience many dimensions, some them pleasantly unexpected or seemingly contradictory, can be greatly satisfying.
Happy Valentine’s Day, and remember to drink bravely!