Corkscrew - Mail bonding September 09 2004

Because no question — OK, hardly any question — is stupid

This week’s column lets you talk back. I’ll print whatever wine comments and questions you might have, so have at it. If you have something to add or air, e-mail me at

Gimme the free stuff

Edita Beasin asked: “I enjoyed your article ‘Bring me your quirks’ (Aug. 5) ... I do have a question: How and where do you get so many ‘wine samples’?”

Wine writers often receive free wine from wineries pimping their wares. Not all writers accept samples — I have no cash for wine, so I say bring it on — and not all wineries have the budget, the inventory or the will to ship directly. Although I taste almost all of them, probably only 25 percent of my wine reviews come from those samples.

The wine pusher?

Dave “Wine Mule” Erickson, Asheville, N.C., writes: “Hi, I like your style (‘Sauvignon Blanc with balls,’ in particular, July 15). I’m a wine salesman, so I taste a lot, and I keep all my notes. If you ever need to fill up a column with [these notes], I’d be happy to oblige.”

Are these notes on the brands you sell? We wouldn’t want Corkscrew to turn into a wine company’s public relations billboard, now would we?

Elusive whites

Ralph Mancusi, Jacksonville, wrote: “Great column (July 15). Totally agree with you. I’m a red wine enthusiast, but there are times when a white is perfect. [Caymus] Conundrum is my favorite, but I’m always looking for something new and different. Which of our wine shops has those other wines?”

I am, unfortunately, only familiar with Tampa and Atlanta wine retailers. I ensure that my reviewed wines are available where Corkscrew is published, but sometimes they just aren’t on the shelves. The most reliable way to get your hands on an elusive bottle of wine: Ask a friendly wine retailer to order it for you.

Chest beating

William Reid corrected (July 22): “While I normally like your writing, I think that you miss some points [about stocking wines]: 1) Carbon dioxide is not used; it’s nitrogen or sometimes argon; 2) Refrigeration is also a good way to keep both red and white wines healthy; 3) Why did you not highlight restaurants that take the time to preserve wines (wine is food) so their efforts can be rewarded? ... Why not go the extra step and recommend places that make the enjoyment of wine easier and reasonable?

Thanks for the clarification, William. I’m left wondering if you own a restaurant and want applause for your wine efforts? They might be well worth accolades, but because my column runs in seven markets, it’s tough to get that information. I did, however, publish some accolades in last week’s Corkscrew.

The first and last crusade

Marty Hughes from Bothell, Wash., wrote: “I just got home from a restaurant in Bothell, where I was served the worst glass of wine I’ve ever had: my first glass of Cella Lambrusco. My initial shock was having it served chilled. Blasphemy! A red wine served chilled? And not “slightly chilled,” either. This thing was pushing 3 degrees Celsius. Then the taste. Gag! Could such a Machiavellian mixture of grape juice and vinegar truly have been exported from a country so accomplished in the culinary craft? Unless there is some explanation relating to a lone renegade bottle fermenting in the walk-in refrigerator, it will certainly be the last. On the other hand, is this just an acquired taste?”

My first question is ... are you for real? Cella Lambrusco, a sweet Italian red wine, is the wine that gag gifts are made of, so perhaps you shouldn’t have ventured there in the first place. Restaurants chill cheaper, sweeter wines to mask the flavor, kind of like Bud Light.