Monday, April 13, 2009

A Glass Act

I've been a big fan of the wines of Calera (Hollister, California) for a very long time. My admiration extends all the way from their single vineyard Pinot Noirs to their Viognier. I think winemaker/owner Josh Jensen does an especially laudable job with this difficult white grape from the Rhone. (Jensen has had more practice than most Americans, having planted it way back in 1982)

I brought the 2007 Calera Mt. Harlan Viognier ($28, along to my friends' Easter dinner yesterday because it's such an Easterish, springish sort of wine- so bright and flowery with brilliant notes of honeysuckle and all the lively acidity that Viognier can possess – and yet so rarely does. (Most show a great deal of ponderousness instead.)

The wine was a hit, of course. As was its cork. "Glass! That's a glass cork!" my friend Kathy exclaimed, turning it over in her hand. She passed it around for the others to inspect. Her husband, Michael just said, "That's a really nice wine." (Michael is the official Easter Chef. He makes a seven sometimes eight-course meal– one year he even cooked, for the first time, from the French Laundry cookbook. The man is that fearless.)

Jensen is pretty fearless too. He planted grapes long ago in a place that no one thought Pinot Noir or Viognier could do well and is currently one of only a few American winemakers who are using glass closures (there are a few wineries in Washington State that are using them as well). Josh began experimenting with these closures (they’re called “Vino-Seal”) about four years ago and now finishes several of his wines with glass corks.

Glass corks more expensive than many standard corks (about 60 cents each at last report) and I haven’t been able to find any conclusive studies on their long-term effectiveness but Austrian and German winemakers have been using them for a number of years. There’s actually a factory in Worms that produces them and the prestigious Geisenheim Institute in Germany has indicated the closures have their approval. They have mine as well though for less scientific reasons: My father was in the glass business and as he would say, “Glass always looks good.”


  1. Our mutual friend Pam serves a white blend called Abraxas closed with glass -- it is definitely worth a try.

  2. In Alsace, Domaine Weinbach uses them. I think they're cool and hope we see them in more wines, rather than plastic corks.