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Corbett Canyon 1997 Chardonnay & Glen Ellen 1997 Proprietor's Reserve Chardonnay
"This is exactly why I won't drink Chardonnay!" croaked Zelduh. It was dark outside, and it was just the two of us in the kitchen, with two bottles opened. "Chardonnay, it's either real good, or awful. And usually, it's awful. " I nodded grimly. After the chardonnays by Francis Coppola and Georges Duboeuf these just didn't cut it- unless "it" was the cheese.
The Corbett Canyon 1997 cost $5.99 and while not particularly offensive, had few if any positive qualities. This was disappointing, in light of the claim on the bottle that,

"Corbett Canyon is rapidly becoming discovered for making distinctive varietal wines of exceptional quality."

This may be true, but in this case we got a ho-hum Chardonnay with a peculiar finish. It nosed and tasted of apple and pear, but then turned sour and bitter. (Rating **)

The Glen Ellen 1997 Proprietor's Reserve ($7), which can be found in nearly any grocery store that sells wine, was both better and worse than the Corbett Canyon. It was an improvement insofar as it had better taste- more fruity, with tropical notes. But the finish was harsh- a stiff alcohol ester and a sharp, bitterness that made me want to spit. (Rating **)

While I'm one who is willing to drink paint thinner if necessary, I admit that I can't see myself purchasing either of these wines again. We're they dished out in plastic cups for free at some alumni club meeting or some such event, sure, I'd one or three. But otherwise- no.

Achaia Clauss Ouzo

Like the words, "vasectomy," and "tequila" mentioning Ouzo tends to bring a recoil from one's audience.

Admittedly, Ouzo is no light fare. It's made of alcohol spirit, anisette, and various herbs, the latter of which typically are scarcely detectable (at least in the Ouzos you find in the U.S.). Ouzo's obvious and overwhelming characteristic is that smell- the smell of black licorice. If you don't like black licorice, you will never like Ouzo. End of story.

Those who do like black licorice might find this to be an enjoyable drink. Remember, Ouzo is an aperitif. If you drink it straight, drink only a small amount and do so before a meal (hopefully, though, it won't be breakfast) so to relax you and stoke your appetite. Ouzo isn't made to be chugged or knocked back in shots. Sure, you can do that, and you can also shove billiard balls in your rearend rather than push them about with a pool cue. It's a question of what's best or befitting.

Achaia Clauss Ouzo costs under $10 for a 750 ml bottle, and is imported by Blair Importers Ltd. of Lake Success, New York. As Ouzo typically is, this brand is clear (unless you add water, then it turns cloudy) and weighs in at 76 proof. While it does have an alcohol ester, it is by no means overpowering. The anisette/black licorice smell is potent but not obscene, and I couldn't detect any other aromas.

You can sip this Ouzo straight or add half an ounce to your two to three ounces of Ouzo. I prefer to do the latter, as it also makes the drink feel softer, less intense, and cools the heat you'd otherwise feel when you swallow it.

As with Sambuca, you can use this as an adjunct to your dessert by dropping a shot of it in your coffee, and perhaps adding some whipcream to the top. Achaia Clauss is an inexpensive and solidly made Ouzo. If you like black licorice, why not give this one a try? (Rating ***3/4)

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