So I'm sitting there minding my biz at a favorite Ventura, Calif., watering hole when one of the regulars figures he'll trot out his true colors, in front of God and everybody. Happens he's from Australia, and he decided he'd target a frequent patron from New Zealand with whom he'd had a few friendly flaps about both nations' politics and standing in the world. That night, the gloves were off—and the outraged Aussie peppered his tirade with ugly personal attacks and gratuitous vulgarities until management took matters in hand and bodily 86'd him for good. His display was one of the most disgraceful I've ever seen in public, and the alcohol factor be damned.
I thought about that the other day when I was picking out a wine for y'all. New Zealand's temperate maritime climate, after all, translates into a slow ripening period for fruit, and the country's wine makers have responded accordingly. Take the 2006 Pinot Noir from Brancott Vineyards, outside Auckland. Get past the unremarkable label, and you've got a serious hit on your hands—the strong strawberry and black cherry overtones make this an ideal refresher by itself, and it's perfectly fine with lamb and veal, which New Zealand also exports by the boatload.
The New Zealand bloke died a few years ago, and our memories of him were all the fonder amid the unpleasantness at the bar. The Brancott Pinot ($11.99 at BevMo and other places) serves due notice about his country, one not necessarily top of mind when it comes to wine. At least one bigoted asshole will clearly miss out on the fun. Then again, that's not your problem.