"What would I take?" I was asked, as horrific Katrina stories began pouring from the media. After a short pause, I replied, "My cat and the perfect case of wine." As I watched Jim Cantore's dramatic coverage and witnessed the distraught citizens of devastated New Orleans, I (like many Tampanians) couldn't help but think, "This could have been me."
I live about one mile from Hillsborough Bay in Tampa, which leads out to the open water of the Gulf. Even after more than two weeks, everyone I know remains numbly stupefied by the reality that if we took a direct Category 4 hit, we'd be under water, too. We've had our share of hurricane scares in the 12 years I've been here, with Charley coming the closest. During that storm — in between downing bottles of wine once earmarked for once-in-a-lifetime special occasions — I considered where exactly would I go and what would I take. Since I am single sans kids, my wine bottles popped into mind. Yes, it's pathetic, but like the guy who worshipfully waxes his sports car every weekend, it's my gig. And the wine is going with me, dammit.
So I jotted down the list I hopefully will never have to look at.
The 1995 Perrier Jouet Brut Champagne caught my eye; since ice will be scarce, I could drink it warm and still enjoy it. Same for the 1994 L'Ermitage Brut from Roederer Estate. Paid some serious money for that one, too, so it's like an investment in myself. Then there's my collection of Ridge Zinfandels, from Dusi Ranch to Lytton Springs. Damn, all their wine rocks, so I can't abandon it to the harsh elements.
I once had a fantastic dinner with Christine Hanna, who encouraged me to try her winery's 2001 Hanna Bismark Ranch Zinfandel. Even though the purchase of two bottles set me back $100, I'm still thanking her. Oh! One more zin ... Tin Barn 2000 Sonoma Zinfandel. I first tried this wine at a restaurant called Zinfandel (R.I.P) in Chicago and completely fell in love. So much so, I broke the law — gasp! — and feloniously imported a case into Florida. Memories — got to take that one with me. Then there's my old cabernet sauvignons ... mostly gifts from people richer than I, and quite generous: 1990 Leoville Barton from Bordeaux. If you bought it today, it would cost $200 — and unless online wine forums are totally full of shit, you still wouldn't want to drink it for another 10 or 15 years. My 1996 Silver Oak was won in a bet, so sentimental value — although I personally feel the winery is horrendously overrated — would press me to pack that puppy up, if only to sell it once my home insurance denies my claim.
Then there's this little Napa winery called Tay, which makes a fantastic cabernet sauvignon. Tay is my nickname, so I must hold on to this one, as well as another namesake: 1994 Taylor Fladgate Port.
Another gem is a 1995 Campo Preda Sarmassa Barolo, from an obscure Spanish winery that's kicked ass in international tasting competitions. Another thoughtful gift. Love those. Just like the 1999 Merry Edwards Klopp Vineyard Pinot Noir.
So that puts me hauling a heavy case of my favorite juice across and up the state of Florida. I'll be the one with the orange tabby meowing in the backseat and "Wine Country or Bust" scribbled in soap across my back window. Right about now, earthquakes sound a lot more attractive.
EOS 2000 Merlot Paso Robles (California) Port-like in flavor, with pungent roasted prunes, toasted walnuts and an unusually bright cherry aftertaste. Sweetness = 4. $14. 3 stars.
Brancott 2004 Reserve Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough (New Zealand) Zippy with tart grapefruit, green grass and a hint of asparagus in the aroma. And I hear this wine goes well with glazed donuts. Sw = 2. $20. 3.5 stars.