Fun with wine facts, nonblind justice, screw-cap etiquette and traveling Sideways
Posted: December 1, 2004
Thousands of bottles of wine from the palace cellar of Romania's former dictator Nicolae Ceausescu were thrown away by housekeepers to make room for what? Cleaning equipment. Fifty percent of respondents to a U.S. poll said one should spend how much on a bottle of wine on a first date? $15. For 10 years, Shafer Vineyards in Napa Valley has been sending such tidbits of offbeat information to its customers via thrice-yearly postcards. Now it's turned the idea into a book, the Shafer Vineyards' Line On Wine, which can be purchased for $13 at www.shafervineyards.com or www.amazon.com. The idea is to show that wine doesn't always have to be a serious subject; it can be downright silly sometimes. If you've ever wondered at what speed a Champagne cork exits a bottle (40 mph), this book's for you.
By now a verdict was supposed to have been issued in the fraud trial involving Burgundy shipper Chanson Père & Fils. The Dijon court that heard the case announced it would rule on Nov. 17. But that was just days before Burgundy's big annual Hospices de Beaune wine auction, and the Burgundian winegrowers didn't want any bad publicity for their region. (As it was, wine prices fell 30 percent, which has sparked its own controversy, with the Hospices claiming that négociants teamed up to artificially depress prices, hurting the charity fund-raiser.) So a Burgundian wine trade association asked the court if it would delay its ruling. Now it's set for Dec. 8. Looks like justice isn't blind, at least when it comes to tastings.
Some sommeliers don't like screw caps because they feel they take the ritual and romance out of serving wine. Now two wine companies are trying to change that perception. New Zealand's Villa Maria, which has declared that it would rather turn down orders than supply cork-topped wines, has produced a training DVD that shows restaurant servers how to add a little panache to the process. Among the tips: Roll the cap off on your forearm instead of twisting it with your hand. (Don't try this in public without practicing first.) Beringer Blass Wine Estates has issued a pocket guide with step-by-step guidelines for table presentation. One version takes a serious tone: "Let the customer know that the cap has some rough edges and it will be removed from the table. Place the cap in apron pocket. Retain the cap in case the customer does not finish the bottle … ." But Beringer Blass' Two Tone Farm brand has a bit more fun with its version: "Twist off cap in counterclockwise direction (actually, we know that you already know how to do this). To reduce noise and affect French sommelier persona, you can also place serviette (French for white napkin) over screw cap as it is removed. Absolutely no sniffing the screw cap." For customers frightened by the "radical new closure," other options suggested by Two Tone Farm include diversionary tactics (waiter opens bottle after telling you to look at beautiful flower arrangement) and sound effects (make cork popping sound by inserting finger into cheek and pulling).
If you liked the film Sideways, now you can take the tour. Capitalizing on all the publicity the popular wine-themed movie has generated, the Santa Barbara County visitors bureau has put together a free map of 19 Santa Ynez Valley spots featured in the film. You can follow the characters' route, from Kalyra winery (where Jack flirts his way through a flight) to Ostrich Land to the Hitching Post II restaurant (where Miles meets the waitress Maya). Just don't follow their characters' behavior; at Fess Parker winery, an upset Miles drinks the contents of a spit bucket.
|The on-screen antics of Paul Giamatti (left) and Thomas Haden Church have boosted Santa Barbara County's tourism biz.