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[whitespace] Randall Grahm Don't Put a Cork in It: Randall Grahm is screwing around with tradition again.

Requiem For a Cork

In which is revealed Randall Grahm's latest performance piece, plus online biscotti and a new gourmet express emporium

By Christina Waters

WINEMAKERS often complain that "cork" is just a four-letter word for endless trouble with ill-fitting, highly unreliable wine closures. Randall Grahm was one of many who fumed over losing a bottle per case to the vagaries of shrinking or dried-up corks. So, as usual, the irrepressible Rhône Ranger stopped talking and did something about it.

The results are available in both colors of the current Big House series of highly drinkable everyday wines from Bonny Doon Vineyards. Talk about nerve! Grahm actually put screw caps on his two low-priced bestsellers. And to make sure that nobody missed this daring move to lowbrow containment, Grahm has staged over the last couple of weeks high-profile, bicoastal "wakes" for The Cork.

Only the maverick UCSC alum could have pulled off the all black tie, black foods, black décor theme surrounding the wake for the "deceased." British wine czarina Jancis Robinson delivered the eulogy for the cork, while Randall himself--resplendent in burgundy tux--gazed mournfully into the open casket filled with--what else--corks. All this hoopla was to uncork the debut of the Ca'del Solo 2001 series using screw-cap closures. That's right, the same sort of closure featured in what we like to call "airline wine." Grahm has always been known as a risk-taker, and this gamble with screw caps just could be the biggest yet for a prankster whose irreverence is matched only by his entrepreneurial zeal.

The Big House Red is a daring and utterly drinkable blend of grapes that God never intended to end up in one bottle. Syrah, carignane, sangiovese, petite sirah, cabernet franc--they're all together now and ready to unscrew, as it were. Grahm predicts the newly capped vintages will age even better than the cork-top models. But I'll never know. These wonderful wines never last that long in my house. For even more gushing details, see: www.bonnydoonvineyard.com.

Shelley's Biscotti Goes Online: Almost too nutty and decadent to be considered merely "classic," Shelley Fryer's very substantial contribution to the realm of biscotti has the good sense to be available almost everywhere decent coffee is served.

Fryer, former baker at India Joze, has simply gone the extra mile and created oversized biscotti (the chocolate-dipped ones are pure sin) rich enough to act like a dessert and packed with enough almonds to sustain life in the Arctic.

But since you already knew that, check this out: Shelly's Biscotti are now all dressed up in gold boxes with snazzy purple ribbons and waiting to become, yes, the perfect gift. I have long since adopted the strategy of giving gifts of handmade specialty foods and wines during the holidays. Does anyone not enjoy edible luxuries? Shelley's Biscotti, obscenely packed with house-roasted almonds and hand-ground cinnamon, are gift boxed and ready for you at Shoppers Corner and Chefworks--but the newest news is that Shelley now has an online store to make holiday ordering as simple as pointing your web browser to: www.shelleysbiscotti.com. Hometown girl does very good!

Dot, Dot, Dot: The Bittersweet Express--Bittersweet Bistro's new gourmet deli and carryout annex, is open and pumping out hot panini and espressos starting at 6am, Monday-Friday, and at 7am on weekends. The quick-service feature showcases chef Tom Vinolus' desserts, pasta salads, sandwiches and, starting at 4pm each day, a complete meal packaged to go. The name says it all--Express. For when you must have something immediately (stay and enjoy your meal on the patio) or to take home and rush to your own table. Bittersweet Express is located at 787 Rio del Mar Blvd., Aptos (662.9899) ... October is Nutritional Awareness Month, and by now we've all seen the horrifying statistics about obesity in America. Obesity is big--especially among kids who think french fries qualify as a vegetable serving. Amy Hemmert has the antidote; her Laptop Lunch User's Guide is loaded with fresh ideas for making decent lunches in reusable containers. Dial www.wastefreelunches.org for surprising and delicious ideas for creative lunches and www.laptoplunches.com for a hard copy of Hemmert's new how-to paperback.

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From the November 6-13, 2002 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

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