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[whitespace] Fred McCarthy Just Don't Call Him Pumpkin: Other than big orange gourds, Fred McCarthy is the main attraction at Half Moon Bay's Art and Pumpkin Festival.

The Great Pumpkins

As they go out of their gourd up the coast, organic Odwalla gets juicy, and Bonny Doon Vineyards seeks closure with a surprising solution

By Christina Waters

ANY DRIVE up or down the Central Coast this time of year rewards the eyes with the sight of great fields of pumpkins. Lined up in flashy rows, piled high into eye-catching gourdesque castles, pumpkins really do take over this time of year. They're delightful creatures, actually. Very colorful, long-lasting, good to eat, fun to play with--the pumpkin does no harm and spreads orangeness wherever it goes. All the more reason to aim the VW van northward Oct. 19-20 for the annual, pumpkin-intensive Half Moon Bay Art & Pumpkin Festival.

Why? How about 3,000 tons of the world's favorite orange orb, that's why. All this squashy substance in spherical form awaits the hundreds of thousands of pumpophiles who plan to descend on the Pumpkin Capital of the World. In addition to the de rigueur pumpkin pie and pumpkin cheesecake, local cuisinartists plan to whip up pumpkin soup, bread, sorbet and pancakes, as well as other regional foods like gourmet variations on Brussels sprouts and artichokes. Half Moon Bay's own Obester Winery will offer special festival versions of merlot, sauvignon blanc (Obester makes serious sauvignon blanc, folks) and riesling. The Pumpkin Festival runs Oct. 19-20, from 10am to 5pm, on Main Street, between Miramontes and Spruce streets in Half Moon Bay. Free. For information, call 650.726.9652 or check out www.miramarevents.com.

Odwalla Organics: Not content with mere liquid greatness, our own homegrown Odwalla folks have outdone themselves with a new miniline of organic juices--orange, carrot and apple. For 20 cents more a bottle, you can feel healthy and smug knowing that nary a chemical has ever been near any of the pure, all-organic fruit squeezed into these colorfully labeled new products. How's the flavor? Real good in the case of the noticeably less fibrous orange juice. Exquisite in the case of the robustly flavored carrot juice. But it's the nonfiltered, old-fashioned-style apple juice that really fired our rockets. It tastes like autumn in another era. Get thee to a natural foods emporium and try the new organic Odwallas now, because if everybody buys organic, then bad farmers will stop polluting the world and get back to the garden the way Crosby, Stills and Nash instructed.

Big House Red Turns the Screw: This is no mere sensational headline--it's the truth! Randall Grahm, winemaker and punster extraordinaire of Bonny Doon Vineyards, responded to my query regarding the new (I'm serious) screw cap found on the 2001 Big House Red. "I was looking for closure," he confessed, adding that "for the moment, just the Big House Red and White are available in Stelvin screw-cap closures, but I am wishing to convert the rest of the line over as soon as feasible."

The reason was that putting a cork in it was proving unprofitable. Corks shrink, which means that air can often penetrate the wines, causing oxidation (yes, I know that's redundant) and hence ruining the vintage contents. "Corked" is the expression for this sad condition, which can afflict up to one bottle per case. Although Grahm turned to synthetic corks about six years ago, they too proved inconsistent. "The Stelvin screw-cap closure," Grahm emailed me, "has been around for at least 20 years and has been tested extensively, and its properties are very well understood. Doing some research on the subject, I concluded that not only does it solve the problem of corkiness, it is actually a superior closure to corks, as it permits less oxygen to permeate through the closure, leading to a slower, more elegant aging process."

Although focus groups scoffed at the screw cap (with its intimations of low-brow bulk wines), Grahm is confident that his clientele "is very well educated and generally quite open to innovation and virtually any new idea that does not involve overt cruelty to children, old people or cute and furry mammals." My research indicates that the screw-cap 2001 Big House Red is every bit the wine that its corked predecessors have been. Think how this will horrify the French. May the Marketing Force be with you, Randall.

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From the October 9-16, 2002 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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