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December 19, 2004

Bonny Doon

Lynne Kiesling rediscovers the Bonny Doon winery:

Knowledge Problem: We rediscovered Bonny Doon this September, when we had a long weekend in the area. They are refreshing for lots of reasons: they don't take themselves too seriously, they make good wine that is good value for money, and they are embracing the screw top. Three for three!.... What an incredible wine for 13 bucks. It's a Sangiovese, but done in a new world, zinfandel style as befits its Monterey County origins.

Mark me down as not being enthusiastic about the screw-top.

Posted by DeLong at December 19, 2004 07:04 AM


Why don't you like the screw-top?

Honestly, it's far better than the cork, which is very old, unreliable technology. Something like 5% of wine goes off because the cork wasn't sufficiently sterile or didn't form a perfect seal. I know there's this whole aesthetic issue with the pop of the cork, but it's actually worse for the wine and the drinker than a screwtop is.

Posted by: paperwight at December 19, 2004 09:26 AM

the screw top may have a pejorative connotation in regards to wine, but as a preserver of wine in a bottle it far surpasses the efficency of the classic cork. high end producers of wine have slowly embraced the synthetic cork to preserve their investments, so the screw top may not be far behind, though there is a lot of cultural baggage to overcome. can you imagine the day that a sommelier sniffs the bottom of a screw top when he presents a $100 bottle? yeah, neither can i...

Posted by: lawrence at December 19, 2004 09:34 AM

Agreed. The screw cap is far superior from a sealing point of view. You might make an exception and want a real cork for some wine you are going to let sit in a mouldy old basement for 40 years before its "fit to drink", but for wines intended to be actually drunk and not sitting around looking pretty (and expensive), the screw cap is actually a superior choice.

I once bought a whole CASE which were improperly corked: an entire case of leaky bottles.

Posted by: Nicholas Weaver at December 19, 2004 09:35 AM

Brad -

Would you be able to tell in a blind tasting if a bottle had a cork or screw-top?

Of course not! Unless there were little bits of cork in the glass... :-)]

Posted by: wayne at December 19, 2004 09:53 AM

The problem with the screwtop is that sometimes the cap gets rotten or happens to be cut from a piece of low-density material, and when you remove it dozens of foul-tasting screwtop crumbs end up in the wine.

Posted by: Alex Merz at December 19, 2004 10:44 AM

So, screw-tops are technically far superior, ensuring that a wine won't undergo unexpected quality changes due to poor corking. Yet the aesthetic quality of corks are significant enough to consumers to keep a second-best solution in common use. (Suggested article title: "Homo Economus walks into a bar ....")

As for Bonny Doon, perhaps I should give them another try. A few years ago, I bought several bottles of their solo and Euro-partner wines, and while not strictly disappointed (after all, what do you expect for fifteen bucks?), I wasn't in a hurry to try them again. I think I still have a bottle or two of their Heart of Darkness 2001 Madiran -- they might be about ready by now.

Posted by: WatchfulBabbler at December 19, 2004 11:03 AM

Agreed, I'm partial to the cork and the vacuum pump to reseal, I'm sure that's not proper either. But the screw-top might be appreciated over time...4th or 5th bottle? That would be the blind taste test...but in that case opt to flip the tap on the box.

Posted by: jen at December 19, 2004 11:12 AM

Nothing to do with corks, but I hate those synthetic ones.

I was going to put this somewhere else but you disappeared the posting...to go is to come.

Posted by: cloquet at December 19, 2004 11:23 AM

Brad, do you also have a problem with screwtops on $100 bottles of whiskey...?

Posted by: ogmb at December 19, 2004 11:41 AM

(after all, what do you expect for fifteen bucks?) =======

Wow, how about an excellent bottle of wine from any country of origin except the U.S. of A.? What is with the US that our products invariably fall into one of two categories: cheap and unreliable, or world class and ridiculously overpriced? Any economic explanations?

Posted by: ogmb at December 19, 2004 11:45 AM

The good bonny Doon wine that I now is Cigare Volante, which I remember as a lot more than $15.00, but worth every penny (in this country, it's £24.00, which is not far south of $40.00). the cheaper wines were overpriced. And I did once visit the winery to check. Who could resist something called the critique of pure riesling?

Posted by: Andrew Brown at December 19, 2004 01:26 PM

Am I the only one around here that remembers Bonny Doon as a nude beach instead of a damn trendy winery?


Posted by: PigInZen at December 19, 2004 11:10 PM

Sommelier: "Would monsieur care to sniff the bottle cap?"

Posted by: rea at December 20, 2004 06:39 AM

I have had any number of excellent US wines for $15 and under-- although I don't really care for the Bonny Doon "Big House Red" or "Big House White." I *love* their dessert wines, "Vin de Glaciere" and the sparkling Moscato. The Framboise is OK but needs to be mixed with soda or a dry champagne.

For a great deal on US wine, try the Bogle chardonnay-- it's about $10 a bottle and tastes like maybe twice that. Coppola makes a $14-ish syrah that is quite excellent, if you like the Big Syrah Flavor thing.

[Oh yes. The Bonny Doon desert wines. Yes. Yes! YES!! YES!!!!]

Posted by: verbal at December 20, 2004 08:16 AM

Count me in for synthetic cork over screw tops, too. I relish every opportunity I have to use the Chateau Laguiole corkscrew I bought on my first trip to Paris.

I would direct folks to a photo of this fine instrument, but I may not access the Laguiole web site at work because SmartFilter (oh, the irony) classifies these makers of fine culinary instruments as a "Weapons/Mature" site.

Posted by: B at December 20, 2004 01:41 PM

The screwtop propaganda has got out of control.

Five per cent of bottles of wine are corked? This simply isn't true. It couldn't be, or nobody would drink wine. This would mean that if you drink five bottles a week, you'd expect to get a corked bottle every month. I don't know what the source is for this figure, but the screwtop industry seems to have got it into the mainstream.

And second, screwtops *do* taint the wine. There are two factors at work; first, you get a plastic taste from the sealing plastic itself, and second, the hermetic seal prevents the wine from aging in the normal manner. Brad is right on this one.

Posted by: dsquared at December 20, 2004 02:53 PM

For shame, Brad. Talk to somebody who brews and bottles his own beer (and wine), sometime.

The only reason to use cork anymore is this: you are still bending over backward in deference to all those elitist snobs who regard everything else as an attack on the traditional (and anti-reasonable) forms of conservative aristocracy.

And no, the hermetic seal does *not* prevent wine from aging normally— not any more than a wax-over-cork seal prevents wine from aging.

Embrace the Stelvin™ closure. Progress is progressive. Give Bonny Doon Vineyards the props they deserve for raising a one-finger salute to the WineAristocracy™.

Posted by: s9 at December 20, 2004 04:38 PM

Bonny Doon's Big Red is a great, low cost wine. Earthier than the Australian shirazs, which I also love, and extremely drinkable. As for the Stelvin cap, it's not your father's screw-top Boonesfarm. Educate yourself, young Brad, you will not be sorry if you do!


Posted by: Jennifer at December 20, 2004 06:42 PM

I've not seen Cigare Volant on the shelves in ages, alas; nor Old Telegram, nor have I seen the amazing Bonny Doon Cassis and Framboise. Grahm has also been doing some roving winemaking in France: Domaine des Blagueurs is a very good example of the funky vin de pays from the south, since it takes its grapes from the astonishing Borie de Maurel vineyards.

(Still, I have my annual supply from Sean Thackrey, the best small-scale winemaker in the world, to my reckoning. With corks.)

Frankly, we won't know if screwcaps/hermetic sealing affect aging until they start screwcapping massive, give-em-15 reds. And since Grange or Cheval Blanc aren't going to try it... well, it'll take a brave maker of age-till-it-hurts reds to put it to the test.

"Brad, do you also have a problem with screwtops on $100 bottles of whiskey...?"

Um, whisk(e)y, like all distilled spirits, doesn't age in bottle. And I suspect the alcohol content is sufficient to kill off most airborne nasties, too.

Oh, and the main reason why the sommellier sniffs the cork is to check for the musty sulphuric odour that's the mark of a corked wine.

Posted by: nick at December 20, 2004 10:38 PM