No one is a bigger football fan than macho pedant Jay Miller, so when the big game rolled around this year the cry went out across the northeast corridor: SUPER BOWL PARTY AT JAY'S PLACE!

We arrive early, having walked the length and breadth of Jersey City in search of Jay's new digs. (By "early," I mean less than an hour late, our standard deviation.) This isn't wasted effort, as Jersey City is apparently fast becoming the new winegeek Mecca, and it gives us a chance to scout locations for future jeebi.

Jay is a punctuality freak, and when we arrive he expresses his disapproval of our country ways by announcing primly "Sorry, you're fifteen minutes late, all the '49 Huet is gone!" We smile and bob our heads respectfully, tucking our tails between our legs and adopting apologetic body language out of respect to our host, the hardest-working geek in the winegeek biz. This dance past, it's time to get down to some serious macho football action.

Jay hands me a glass of Peljnewemzzc Champagne Fllwwhernvfhg vbnowoonn and we toast the health of the two combatant squads whose names nobody can quite call to mind at the moment... the men who I think wear green shirts and the other team, the Boston team if I'm remembering correctly. At any rate, the minutiae are unimportant, what matters is, as Lisa Simpson puts it so eloquently, "the savage ballet that is professional football." The champagne is fizzy and cold but my notes are utterly illegible, my pen hand palsied with excitement at the prospect of the upcoming gridiron spectacle.

We wave at the assembled geeks, reclusive internet spectre Andrew Munro-Scott and longtime companion Jennifer Munro-Clark, the ever-pedantic Jeff Grossman, um... yeah, no, that's it, there's nobody else to wave to, I guess that's everyone Jay could find that was both a winegeek and a football fanatic.

Here's an Alice & Olivier de Moor Aligoté Bourgogne 2002. Smells lightly whiteflowery, gardenia and lemon Pledge hints, touch of breadiness. Tastes firm and stonyfloral, tight in the middle, with a flickery mineral streak, mediumweight wine with presence but not a lot of complexity and some unintegrated yeastiness. Pleasant, but (in a twist) much less interesting than the lovely '03. Hey, we've finally found a white grape that turned out okay in 2003!

The geeks quiet down, the lights are dimmed, Jay reverently opens up a bottle of Huet Vouvray Le Haut-Lieu Demisec 1949. Lisa takes one sniff and winces. "Damn, that's a shame," she says, looking over at me. I groan. "Wait, maybe it'll blow off...?" She nods and smiles at me forlornly in the manner of my mother when I said "Maybe the angelfish isn't dead, just asleep upside down...?"

Anyway, she's right of course. Stupid goddamn bark stopper spoils another great wine. We collectively pass through the five stages of corkiness, emerge stronger on the other side.

So, what's up with the football game? Whoops, it turns out that Jay doesn't actually have a television. Hm. He does, however, have a computer, so someone calls up a sports site on the internet and reports the score, I think the game is tied? Or maybe the Boston team is winning. At any rate, rousing cheers shake the metaphoric rafters.

"Have we had enough white wine?" asks Jay, hovering over a bottle, corkscrew poised, "Shall I open another?"

Nobody responds, perhaps thinking it a rhetorical question. Jay repeats himself: "Shall I? Anybody?"

Polite uhs and ers, a few cleared throats. Nervous silence.

"OPEN THE DAMN BOTTLE ALREADY!" I squall, grabbing the reins from the socially timid types. Jay looks relieved; the corkscrew is wielded swiftly and mercilessly, and soon we are drinking a Laurent Tribut Chablis Beauroy 2002. "The geekiest chablis on earth!" our host assures us. Damn, I'd always thought that was Raveneau, looks like I can't keep up with these kids today and their crazy trends. Anyway, the wine smells lightly creamy, yellow apple and vanilla. Tastes smooth and creamy, green apple acidity, ginger-pear skin around a taut core, very decent (for chardonnay), on the lean side, with velvety-soft edges.

Nothing seems to be going on with the football game, so someone goes to the computer and calls up some kind of web animation that sings BADGER! BADGER! BADGER! BADGER! BADGER! BADGER! BADGER! over and over again, with the occasional insertion of SNAKE! SNAKE!

We stare at the animated dancing badgers for a few minutes, hypnotized. Andrew says "After half an hour the really GOOD stuff starts," so we settle in for the long haul. And you know, he was right.

Best wine with badgers is the Nikolaihof Gruner Veltliner Wachau Honifogl 1986. Pale lemon-straw color, with a slight greenish cast. Smells vibrant and expressive, a sneakily complex blend of quiet baked pear-pineapple yellowfruit, green sweetpea and white peppery earthy notes. The flavors are muted and tend towards minerality, there's good heft, a solid wine with firm acidity and a beautiful follow-through. Very very nice.

Jay has a digital camera, but it seems he can't figure out how to make it take pictures. He holds it at arm's length, as one might a dead mackerel, explaining "You're supposed to turn some knobs or something..." Jeff takes it and plays with it, repeatedly pointing it at me and turning some knobs or something, which makes me fidget. "Stop that" I snap, but he pays no attention, continuing to point and squint and fuss with it, click click click. I start to sink slowly down under the table, but the omnipresent lensman follows me. Curse these papparazzi!

Jay makes sole with peas and some kind of emulsion. I'm not clear on what exactly an emulsion is, but it tastes good, so I throw caution to the wind and dive in. Awesome match with the Nikolaihof. Emulsify me, baby.

Hey, it's a red, in fact it's a Faively Nuits-St.-George Clos de la Marechal 1987. Damn, the most important vineyard owner in Burgundy, it says so right on the label. Also on the label is some Monopoly tie-in, I guess Parker Brothers is the corporate parent? Anyway, there's a bright cinnamon streak in the muted beety-earthy-horehound nose. Tastes bright, light, lean and spicy, a small, compact wine with a good deal of layering, no heavyweight but well balanced and vivaciously crisp. The spine is what grabs me from the gitgo, then the light leafy-earthy layering tickles my tonsils, in a good place now.



"Hey Jay," says Andrew, "We need one of those, um, receptacle things, you know, th--"

"A receptacle into which we may pour our excess wine," the rest of us intone in unison. Jay waves us off, "No, no, it's my house, we can call it a spit bucket." He goes, returns with the recep-- er, bucket in question.

Here's a strange one, a G. Allesandria Barolo 1962. The wine is the color of twenty-year-old white zinfandel, or perhaps pinkish iced tea. Smells very spicy, cinnamon and rhubarb, cedar and crushed brick. A sip, and its surprisingly lively, like an older Cotat rosˇ, pleasantly decayed but still vivid. Rhubarb flavors dominate the midpalate, leather and earth jostle for position underneath. Firm acidity, slightly plush mouthfeel around the hard core. Interesting, a kind of Barolo rosˇ, the vague 1962 fruit having gone the way of all flesh. "You just can't kill Barolo," says Jeff. Damn straight.

We're chatting idly about various online auction and retail wine sites when Jeff says something incomprehensible. The rest of us try to parse his gibberish, to no avail. Here is what it sounded like: "You own enough wine, Jay."

See what I mean? Apart from Jay's name at the end, can't make heads or tails of that one. I clear my throat to demand clarification, but am startled by a high-pitched metallic shrieking. I instinctively dive under the table, but it's just Jay's overenthusiastic smoke alarm, which has to be beaten into submission before it'll shut up.

Castello di Ama Vigneto La Casuccia Chianti Classico 1995. Medium-dark garnet color, smells toasty-dark and raspberry-cassisfruity. Crisp and rather hard, a firm red wine with a dark berrysmoky core and light cedary-toasty wooding that's turning towards a happy spiciness. Not terribly distinctive, but well-made and firm wine with a bit of an edginess about it. This needs time, but it's showing fairly well tonight, lots of promise.

The notion of a gay winegeek mafia arises, it turns out that the gay winegeek mafia is in cahoots with the Trilateral Commission, the Elders of Zion and the Queen of England, saving the best bottles for themselves and oppressing the unwary straight community. We are sworn to secrecy, and, until now, I've kept that oath sacred.

Well, nobody said "This is off the record," 'kay? Sheesh, a guy's gotta have a scoop or two, doesn't he?

Damn, it's a Clos Roche Blanche Gamay Touraine 2002. Geraniums? That's what Andrew keeps saying. It smells like strawberries and talc to me, but I don't know what a geranium smells like: many mainland flowers are simply not in my nosecabulary. Do geraniums smell like strawberries and talc?

My reverie on the subject is interrupted by the sight of Andrew pouring his unused wine not into the recep--er, dump bucket, but rather into the icewater pitcher just next to it, turning the water a pretty shade of pink. Cries of alarm, amusement; pitcher removed, profuse apologies from Andrew (he claims it could've happened to anyone, but just between you and me I think he's been drinking).

Castello di Ama Chianti Classico 1997. Ripe-smelling, truffles and black cherries dosed with spicy smoky-tarry oakiness. Rather plump and velvety-textured, medium acidity, showing the bland ripeness of the California-style vintage, aggressive fine tannins on the finish. Very decent Napa Valley merlot.



Everyone is abuzz with the rumor that Paul McCartney is going to drop trou at halftime, but we're going to have to wait awhile for that. Oh, no wait--I guess halftime is over, they seem to be in the third inning. Oh well, I'm sure we'll read about it in the paper tomorrow.

Jeff asks about the cheap wines that show up at Warehouse. I mention that they had a bunch of wines from that place, that place in the Loire that no one ever remembers, that place, they make sweet wines, like the Layon, Jacqueline Friedrich went ape over one estate in her book... you know... something something, or something like that...

This is going to bother me.

Château Pape-Clément Graves 1975. Light oregano and mushroom hints at first, resolving into muted bricky-cassis and cedar, touch of stewed tomato. A sip, and it's rather soft and vague, but still bright and fresh. The tannins seem pretty much resolved, so I'd drink sooner rather than later; it's no knockout, just a small loose claret that's doing yeoman's work tonight, pleasant and smooth and a fine match with Jay's lamb

Jay is making wrinkly-nose at this wine; he doesn't like it, and we're not sure why.

"Gillette?" says Andrew. "Something..."

"MONTGILET!" I ejaculate, "Coteaux de l'Aubance!" Phew. The mind-pressure is gone, now I can relax and get back to football.

Filli Brovia Barbaresco Riosordo 1995. Bright cherry-juice aromatics laced with a brown herby bay leaf streak, smells simple but pleasant. Tastes even simpler, bright and red and lacking in mouthgrab, almost tanninless, with medium-wan acidity. A brief tart finish adds nothing, this seems to just not have a lot going on.

Jeff complains that his asparagus is undercooked and sends it back. Jay cooks it more, forgets about it. Jeff complains again, thumping a stalk woodily against the table for emphasis. Andrew says "Just keep sending it back until it comes back with hollandaise sauce!"

Jeff sneezes, Andrew shouts "Hail Sneezer!" I giggle, and he turns to me with a Cheshire Cat grin, "I invented that!" he announces proudly.

"Nice going," I say, meaning it. We finish dinner. Look out, there's a passel of desserts coming!

Now is the very sweeting time of night, so we open a Domaine du Closel Savennières Moëlleux Les Coteaux 2002. I do love Closel wines, but I wish they'd stop renaming the various cuvˇes every few years. This seems to be the former Cuvée Isa--there's some story here that I remember Mme. de Jessey telling about Isa not being in the family anymore or something, but with all the football excitement I can't call the details to mind. Anyway, it's straightforward medium-sweet chenin, pretty and balanced. There's a supple midpalate earthiness, but it doesn't speak to me vividly of Savenni¸res the way the astonishing '89 and the light-and-lovely '97 do, I find it rather closed. Shutting down, or not terribly expressive?

Cookies made with thyme! Who puts thyme in sugar cookies?! It's an act of madness and genius! My fucking mind is blown! Vegetable cookies! Aaargh! Kill me now!

Oh no, wait until I try tonight's deathbed wine, the Müller-Catoir Riesling Musbacher Eselhaut Eiswein 1998. Whoa, ripe pineapple, guava and vinyl, so richly aromatic, smells like I'm eating a tropical fruit salad while lounging in a beanbag chair. Very sweet, viscous and brightly crisp, superb balance for such an extravagant wine. Extraordinary stuff, just wonderful. Astonishingly good match with Jay's lilikoi soufflˇ. Were I the type to do so I'd say "Bravo!" Happily I'm not, so I'll have to be content with "THIS SHIT ROCKS!"

Special hot chocolate. Damn, a third dessert. Mmmm... cocoariffic...

"Ooh!" says Jay, "I know what I wanted you to taste!" He scuttles off, returns with a Navarro Vineyards Pinot Noir Mendocino 'Unfermented' 2004. Strange how these Navarro wines keep showing up at Jay's place--could it have something to do with the dreamy-eyed guy who was pouring when he visited? Cunning marketing indeed. Whatever the provenance, it's good stuff, well balanced, moëlleux-sweet pinot noir, with spry, subtle acidity, no alcohol. I have much more experience with the fermented kind: this is rather more simple than that, but it has a great deal of freshness and bright appeal. Juicy-sweet and light in the piehole, a real treat.



Um, so... does anybody know who won the game?

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