Almost as if it were timed to underscore this week's Wine Lovers' Voting Booth question about "wine closures of the future," a respected Oregon winery has announced plans to start bottling some of its quality red wines using a screw cap instead of the traditional cork.
Argyle Winery of Dundee, Oregon, will be the first winery in the Pacific Northwest to use screw caps to secure a premium red wine, reported Christina Kelly on the regional wine-news Website www.Oregon-Wine.com. Argyle's Cabernet Franc and Merlot - both of which retail in the $30 range - started coming off the bottling line with screw caps last month.
In a similar move, California's Bonny Doon Vineyard recently announced that it will immediately begin using screw caps for its "Big House" red and white wines under the Ca' del Solo label, $10 wines with annual production of 80,000 twelve-bottle cases. Bonny Doon, which had switched much of its production from natural cork to colorful synthetic stoppers, intends to shift its entire wine production to screw caps within the next few years. (Earlier, the boutique PlumpJack winery made headlines in 2000 when it released some of its $100 Cabernet with screw caps; and Sonoma-Cutrer announced plans last autumn to use a screw cap on its high-end Chardonnay.)
Of all the emerging alternatives to natural cork, the screw cap may be the most controversial and maligned, because it has long been associated with cheap, "rotgut" wines, a prejudice that the makers of the original "Muppet Movie" captured with great comedy in the memorable scene where the actor Steve Martin, playing a wine steward, dramatically unscrewed a bottle for Miss Piggy and Kermit the Frog.
Or as two respondents in our Voting Booth commented, "screw caps will take 100 years to catch on," and "Screwcaps are for rot-gut!"
Clearly the screw cap lacks the romance of the cork. But consumer resistance to the cork is rising as an increasingly sophisticated market discovers the reality that as many as one in 20 bottles of premium wine may be afflicted by tainted corks that impart a mushroomy, musty aroma that spoils the wine.
The cork industry, primarily based in Portugal, has responded aggressively to the issue with a combination of technology approaches and public relations, but alternative closures still seem to be gaining market share. The screw cap has become a widely accepted option in Australia and New Zealand, where extensive testing is showing excellent results; and this week's news from Argyle and Bonny Doon may signal a breakthrough change in attitude by American producers.
It may not be as long as some critics had thought before Steve Martin's question to Kermit turns from comedy to routine reality: "Would you like to smell the ... bottle cap?"
For Ms. Kelly's full article on Argyle's screw cap move, see
And if you haven't yet participated in our Voting Booth on alternative closures, you'll find it at
Speaking of Argyle, here's a recent report on their basic Willamette Valley Pinot, an excellent introduction to Oregon wine.Argyle 2000 Willamette Valley (Oregon) Pinot Noir ($16.99)
Clear ruby, typically light in color for a Pinot Noir. Fresh and complex, floral red fruit and "tomato skin" aromas. Juicy and fresh, light and crisp red-fruit flavors and appropriately tart acidity. Pleasant wine with plenty of Pinot character. (April 5, 2002)
FOOD MATCH: Pinot's fruit and earth go well with mushrooms, and this one makes an excellent marriage with pizza with mushrooms and goat cheese.
VALUE: Good Pinot isn't cheap, and the $17 tag is actually near the lower end of the range for premium Oregon Pinot. It's a fair value.
WEB LINKS: The Argyle Winery Website is at
An excellent Oregon wine shop offering many top regional wines (with shipping where permitted by law) is Avalon Wine,
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Wednesday, May 15, 2002
Copyright 2002 by Robin Garr. All rights reserved.