Friday, January 27, 2012

Corked wine and Uncork Kansas

I was very excited to try the 2005 Laurel Glen Counterpoint Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma Mountain with last night's tri-tip. Unfortunately, it was corked. Truly a shame as I could tell there was a lot of gorgeous cedar, licorice and currant in there. But the moldy "wet cardboard" just couldn't be ignored. I guess I'll pick up another and hope for better results.

What are your experiences with corked wines? Do you come across them with any great frequency? I'm pretty sensitive to TCA and I've turned down a lot of wines that I've seen others enjoying. But I still encounter way too many bottles like this. Last time I read anyting on this, industry estimates put the number of TCA-affected bottles at 3-5%. I think that's completely unacceptable. Can you imagine breweries releasing 3-5% of their beer without any carbonation? Would the beer-drinking public just take it in stride? How about 3-5% of all beef coming from the butcher spoiled? 3-5% moldy cheese? Seriously, what kind of industry can accept a 3-5% failure rate of its product?

Say what you want about artificial closures potentially affecting agability, but I'm 100% behind any closure that guarantees a TCA-free drinking experience. Screw cap, glass plug, zork, plastic cork - you name it. I never have to worry about wet cardboard showing up with a wine under one of these closures.

Switching gears to something much more exciting than the aroma of wet cardboard, I'd like to encourage all of my readers in Kansas to sign the Uncork Kansas petition. For the first time in forever, there's a realistic chance that the Kansas legislature could vote to get rid of some of the Puritanical laws handcuffing Kansas wine retailers. For example:

• It is currently illegal for Kansas grocery stores and convenience stores to sell beer or wine coolers (are those things still around?) with more than 3.2% alcohol. For comparison, most beer sold in liquor stores contains 5-6% alcohol. If a brewery doesn't want to brew a special, low-alcohol batch, then it can't sell in Kansas grocery and convenience stores. This law applies to stores like Costco and World Market, too, who cannot sell anything other than 3.2 beer in their stores in Kansas.

• Right now it is illegal to sell mixers, corkscrews, gift bags or any other non-alcoholic item alongside beer, wine or liquor in a package store. You can sell it, but it has to be rung up on a separate cash register in a separate room with a lockable door on the premises. If you come into my store to buy a bottle of wine as a gift, I have to ring up the wine on one register and then walk next door to our "party shop" and ring up the gift bag separately. Same goes for a bottle of gin and a bottle of tonic water at a Kansas liquor store. Do any other states have such a requirement?

• Right now it is illegal for any retailer to sell or give away samples of an alcoholic beverage to any customer on the premises. So no sampling of the goods in Kansas retail stores. It's even technically illegal for distributor reps, winemakers or importers to pour samples for employees of the retail store! This happens, of course, but it always takes place in hushed tones behind a locked office door.

The way I see it, the only parties truly benefitting from these Draconian laws are the alcohol retailers that line the street on the Missouri side of the Kansas/Missouri state line. Missouri retailers can pour whatever samples they want and their grocery stores can sell beer, liquor and wine as they see fit.

So if you live in Kansas and have any interest in bringing our laws up to 21st century standards, I encourage you to sign the petition. Hell, even if you don't live in Kansas go ahead and sign it just to help your friendly wine blogger out. (When I signed the petition it didn't ask me where I live.)


  1. Bill, sorry to hear you had another corked wine. You asked about your reader's experiences, and as a Newbie, I am glad to say I've only had one so far, and one cooked wine, while I have one in the basement leaking a bit. I don't have a problem with screw-caps at all, but I'm not sure if that would allow you to tell if it is cooked, whereas wines that have corks will have them somewhat pushed out.
    Bill, I've been doing some exploration into wine blogs for a while now, and I want to tell you just how good yours is: it's wonderful, and the time and verity of info you put into your blog is amazing!
    Keep up the good work,

    1. Thanks, Dennis. I always appreciate your kind words. Hopefully you won't have to deal with any more corked (or cooked) wines any time soon. What a bummer.

    2. For some reason, I can only comment on here by replying. Oh well.

      Thanks for pointing out a great reason for living in MO. You're right, we have great access to wine & spirits. Today is Saturday, & I can drive up & down one road & have plenty of wine to taste. Now, I always buy at tastings, so we usually only go to 1 or 2 places, but nonetheless, Saturday is a hoppin' day for wine lovers in St. Louis.

      Corked wine blows. I've had a lot, & I'm also pretty sensitive to TCA. More & more wineries are turning to various closures, & I have no problem with this. Unfortunately, there are some restaurants that refuse to carry a wine if it doesn't have a cork. That's just stupid.

      Denis, you are correct that it is much more difficult to spot potential issues without a cork. Any wine can be cooked, so you'll have to rely on your senses to determine it. Bottom line, if a wine tastes off to you, it probably is.

    3. I meant boss's name is spelled Denis, & I've gotten used to spelling it that way. You 2 are the only people named Dennis that I've ever known!

  2. Claire, have you ever visited Kansas City? State Line Road is just insane. The entire road is literally lined with gas stations (gas is usually 20 cents cheaper in MO due to lower taxes) and liquor stores (because of the issues already addressed)! No one is stupid enough to try and put one of those establishments on the Kansas side of the road.

    We're just trying to "level the playing field" - LOL!

    I had a guy from Iowa wander into my store a year or so ago and he was shocked that we couldn't pour samples. He looked around for a few minutes but left after politely telling me that never buys a wine without tasting it first. I was left thinking "Damn, how can I compete with that?"

    1. It's been years since I've been to KC, & that was before I drank wine. However, my company does a lot of business in the KC area, so I'm familiar. One of these days, I'll go back for a weekend, but to be honest, there are other places I'd rather go back to first.

      I guess I missed the part about you having a store. Yes, those kinds of attitudes make it very difficult to sell wine. While I generally like to taste before I buy, it's not always possible. I would never ask someone to open something just so I could try it. I have many people that I trust, so if one of them says that I'll like a particular wine, then I'll buy it. It sucks that you can't pour samples. In MO, you have to be licensed for it. It would also be very difficult to sell wine to retailers & restaurants if they couldn't actually try it.

      Note to self - don't move to Kansas. =P

  3. Perhaps "my store" was a poor choice of words. I work at a small retail shop in Overland Park. But I'm not the owner.

  4. Brevity is the essence of wit. Said Mark Twain, and low and behold Claire says: "Bottom line, if a wine tastes off to you, it probably is." Well said.

    Bill, I knew that it wasn't your store, but in my mind, it is; Henry David Thoreau would agree as "The farm" became his as he took it in his mind's eye. Silly, I know!

    As I continue to plunge into wine blogs, I continue to be amazed at what hospitable people you two are; keeping it real must be difficult for competitive bloggers. I'm glad you two can.
    Sincerely, Dennis with the two Ns.

    1. Oh, yeah. I forgot this is the cutthroat, competitive blog-o-sphere! I guess I should stop leaving positive comments on your blogs. ;-)

    2. So VERY competitive. =P Actually, I had no idea that it was & don't care to get involved in any kind of competition. I have to keep it real, or else I'm not being me...& where's the fun in not being me?

      I really need to get around to writing again. I haven't even uploaded pictures from our CA trip yet!!! We got our wine but we aren't going to even think about drinking it for at least a couple more weeks.

      I digress...I understand what you mean about calling your store yours. I don't own the company I work for, but I'm committed to it & I'm proud of it, so I do feel a bit like it is mine, in a way.

    3. Yeah, Claire, didn't you just get back from Paso? Ugawino's favorite wine region on earth? I can't wait to hear about it....!!!!

    4. Yes, I did! We got back on the 8th, & life was waiting for us here full force. Anyway, it is also my favorite & I believe we'll make it an every 2 year thing. We still didn't get a chance to hit everything we wanted, it's crazy. Sadly, some places - like Denner - was out of wine, so we didn't get to check them out. Regardless, we had great experiences everywhere & we brought back some great wine.