Mail Bonding

Where faithful readers raise their voices.

This quarterly column lets you talk back. And talk you have. Your letters are fantastic, with insight and helpful tips. Keep 'em coming, my wino friends. E-mail [email protected].

A Bit of Free Press (Well Deserved)

Justin Vaughn wrote: "While in Atlanta for a conference last week, I picked up a copy of [Planet sister paper] Creative Loafing, in which I noticed your article, 'Cyber-Wine: Online Snobs vs. Valuable Wine Websites. [1/4/06]' I enjoyed the article and thought it to be very helpful to the wine enthusiast. I am the managing editor of a new online magazine — — that focuses on wine and food. We tailor our wine reviews, tasting notes and travel essays for the 'aspiring wino.' Though we plan to overhaul the design of the site in early February, I'd be interested in learning what you think of the site."

Well-organized site, with fun wine descriptions like, "Nose like pee — hostile. Taste is sweet, not too bad, but nose is so revolting that you have to hold your breath going in." More like a wine diary than a magazine, but the entries are thoughtful. I especially like the definition of a wino. Check it out.

The Anti-snob

Steve Watkins commented: "Thought your article on wine sites and the snobbery that goes along with it was great. I love the Bonny Doon site [], and do not get the snob vibe from them. Wanted to know what you thought."

I have admired Randall Grahm and his Bonny Doon Vineyard as far back as I can remember. Grahm is brilliant, creative, irreverent and star-worthy. From his perch in Santa Cruz, Calif., he has inspired many to reach out of their comfort zones to experiment and create beauty in a bottle.

Vindication, At Last

Bob Titelman e-mailed: "Thank you for giving a good review of Groth Sauvignon Blanc [1/04/06]. I have been a fan of this wine for five or so years. I have always wondered why in Wine Spectator it is rated lower than many others which, in my opinion are not as good. I am glad someone else agrees with me."

Don't fret, you're in good company. Different wine writers have different tongues, thus my departure from the venerated Wine Spectator. I don't read it and don't want to.

Owen Holmes asked: "I'm a vegan and a fan of red wine. This presents obvious problems. Could you recommend some wines — preferably that are cheap and widely available — that aren't made using isinglass, gelatin, etc.?"

Winemakers use egg whites or gelatin as fining agents, products used to remove floaty sediment created by fermentation. These natural filters work by clinging to debris like dead yeasts and leftover grape skins that are too light to sink, and carrying them to the tank's bottom. After that, the globs are discarded. Although not necessary for winemaking, fining provides bacterial stability, and without it, the final juice can be cloudy, especially whites. Unfortunately, the only other non-animal fining alternative is artificial chemicals, which can strip flavor from the wine. However, some wineries don't use the fining process at all, so there's hope for vegans. Look for labels that say "Unfined." Examples are Sonoma's Sapphire Hill, Oregon's Ponzi Winery, and kosher wine from wineries like Baron Herzog and Carmel. Many other wineries are beginning to experiment with unfined wines, so inspect labels.

Recommended Wine

Weininger 2004 Gruner Veltliner (Austria) This up-and-coming white grape is a darling of many wine writers, but hasn't quite caught on with the public. I can't figure out why, since it's crisp with lime, peach and green grass. Much like a sauvignon blanc, but smoother and less tart. Fantastic food wine — it blends in rather than takes over. Sweetness = 1; $16. 4 stars.


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