leave your inhibitions at the door
I call bullshit. I’m sure you’ve heard this before – “I could never live in the tropics, because I’d miss the change in seasons.” Or how about this gem – “You haven’t lived until you’ve seen your breath”. The latter probably spoken by that white guy wearing shorts in 38 degree weather. Nope. The best season of the year is summer and its only downfall is that it doesn’t last 365 days a year. Any kid can tell you summer rocks for reasons more than lack of school – baseball, fishing, riding bikes, slip-n-slide, and (at least in our house) daily doses of Dairy Queen. In Ann Arbor, summer means seeing hairy legs on the hippie women in Birkenstocks.
No, no, no…For us it means lounging by the pool. Now our yard is only big enough for a kiddie pool at best, and I’m not about to mess with the maintenance and liability nightmare. So we belong to a local country club. Now don’t get your panties in a wad – it’s only a small 9-hole par-3 course with a couple tennis courts. The real prize is the pool and that our club lets us drink alcohol by said pool. We’ve met some of our best friends there bonding over, at various times – wine, beer, margaritas, margaritas made with beer, and the occasional vodka tonic. Kids? What kids?
Now I’m no podiatrist, but glass bottles, concrete and bare feet probably aren’t a good combination. So here are some of my favorites for poolside drinking, shatterproof container edition:
Bell’s Oberon 5 liter Mini-keg
For those of you in those unfortunate states that don’t have Bell’s, you are missing out on summer in a bottle. Bell’s hails from Kalamazoo, MI and produces some incredible beers. Oberon – only available in summer (loosely defined as March-October) – is probably their best-seller. It’s a smooth wheat ale with nice citrusy notes and floral hoppy aroma. The classic way to enjoy it is with an orange slice, but it’s perfectly fine without it. The 5-liter mini-keg has a convenient built-in tap and fits perfectly in our over-the-shoulder soft-sided cooler. I’ve heard unfinished beer can last a week in the thing. But then, I’ve never heard of one of these going unfinished.
Blue cooler full of spiked Country Time.
Do you remember those Country Time Lemonade commercials on TV with Wilfred Brimley sitting on a porch with his old lady? Ok, screw it… I’m not going to get anywhere with a random Wilfred Brimley reference. (Although it was really cool seeing him get his ass kicked in “The Firm”, even if it was Tom Cruise doing it.)
I still have yet to pick one up this year, but this has always been solid year after year. It’s Spanish Rose that hails from Alicante that’s served in a 1-liter carton, reminiscent of a kid’s juice box. It goes for about $12 and is made from organic Monastrell and Syrah grapes. It’s dry, fruity, with nice cranberry and strawberry notes. (Future topic – correcting the common mistake of referring to a fruity wine as sweet. Fruity does not equal sweet, sweet equals sweet. So dry and fruity can co-exist, jerk.) Anyway, this isn’t going to make you forget about Domaine Tempier Bandol Rosé but, then again, it’s about one-third of the price. It’ll go great with salad, seafood, and grilled chicken. Those of you in A2, get it at Morgan & York.
It’s a series of wines that come in, you guessed it, a black box. I’m still a little doubtful of their claims that they fit 3L of wine (=4 bottles) in those things. Looks like two, max. Anyway, I first tried their California Cabernet Sauvignon a few years ago in my Bello Vino days – nice drinkable full-bodied red wine. Their Monterey County Chardonnay isn’t awful, either. I realize “not awful” and “drinkable” aren’t exactly glowing recommendations. But think about it, you’re getting four bottles of decent wine for under $20. The only other $5 wines are shitty ones from Australia with animals on the label. And no, 2-buck Chuck is not wine. It’s horse piss.
On Saturday, “H”, a great friend of ours, was at Meijer and wanted to pickup a boxed wine for the pool. She read off the available ones and we landed on their New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. New Zealand produces some very nice, affordable SB’s. They’re usually bright, citrusy, occasionally herbaceous and this one was right there. It’ll go great with shellfish, rich cheeses, or in my case last night – air. As the night went on lively conversation degenerated into her husband and I having a field day with double entendres about the packaging. I think the winner was “Man, your wife’s box is really tasty with a nice aroma”.
From there, as is often the case after several hours by the pool, we went back to someone’s house for further revelry. Here’s what I recall consuming – a coupla bottles of Two Hearted Ale, more of H’s box, and a decent Amarone. So what started off as a nice quiet evening watching the kids cool off on a hot summer night ended with a drunken impromptu guitar concert by “T” and yours truly. Trust me, my writing skills are WAY better than my late night guitar playing/singing skills. Scary thought.