First Taste: Bar Cleeta

THE STAFF OF Bar Cleeta is tired. They’re assembled, almost in their entirety, around a backyard chessboard, where knee-high chess pieces are shuffled back and forth, a server and a sous chef doing their best to outwit each other. Around them, the rest of the staff sits watching, passing beer cans and a whiskey bottle among them. It’s 4 p.m. on a Saturday, and right now, they should be working—polishing glasses, rolling silverware, heating pans and simmering the first sauces of the night. But to

Cork Dork: Bubbles of Freedom

NO MATTER your personal beliefs about the current presidential administration, you have to admire its penchant for pageantry and pomp. And while a recent Energy Department memo referring to fossil fuels as “molecules of freedom” got understandably roasted online, I immediately knew this rebranding didn’t just have to stop at fossil fuels. You see, American sparkling wine has always had an image problem. Everyone is familiar with Champagne, the French sparkling wine from the region of the same n

Cork Dork: Chardon-yay!

WE’VE ALL been in this situation: You’re standing in your local wine shop, staring out at rows and rows of bottles. You came here with a purpose, a bottle of chardonnay, but now, with dozens of options in front of you, how are you supposed to know which one to get? It’s a simple but perilous choice because, as I think all wine drinkers can attest, there’s a lot of bad chardonnay out there in the world, and it’s my job as your wine sensei to guide you past the swill to the sublime.

Ballet Arkansas And The Love Of Dance

“GUYS, IT’S GOING to be a rough morning on you today.” There’s a nervous laugh from the dancers of Ballet Arkansas as they walk onto the rehearsal floor. Michael Fothergill, the company’s executive and artistic director, warns them, “We’re going to take it slow, but pay attention.” The six dancers, three men and three women, split apart—men off to one side, pretending to wait in the stage’s wing, while the women nestle themselves into the room’s back corner, a makeshift stand-in for what, come t

Cork Dork: Why I Drink

IT’S A QUESTION that I get asked often enough that you would think I’d have a go-to answer. In truth, I have several, but "Well, it gets me drunk," isn’t the answer my mother likes me to give at family reunions. The real answer, my truest one, has been a hard thing to pin down because to me, the answer to “why wine?” is “why not?” A simple question deserves a simple answer, right? But what does that really mean? Well, erm, that’s where my answer gets a little more complicated.

Cork Dork: Tasting A 1927 Port

IT WAS the oldest thing I’d ever tasted—barely 2 ounces of a 1927 vintage port wine. It was just a month shy of its 90th birthday when I had it, and in those interceding years it had changed from the red, ripe and harrowing wine of its youth to something softer, more demure. Where once had been wild strawberry and dark chocolate, there were now stewed plums and cooked hazelnuts. But more than the simple flavors on my palate, what struck me most was the single, indescribable flavor of time.

Cork Dork: Revealing Walla Walla

DRIVING INTO the southeast Washington city of Walla Walla, I found myself presented with something of a visual oxymoron. On either side of the highway, desk-sized tumbleweeds rolled right out of a Saturday-morning cartoon while just ahead, growing taller by the mile, were the still-snowcapped peaks of the Blue Mountains. It was mid-April in the Evergreen State and I was on my way to Reveal Walla Walla, the annual invitation-only wine auction where each year this booming wine region premieres its

These Are The Wine Pairings Southern Food Deserves

I HAD BEEN expecting the email all day, but I was still nervous when my phone buzzed signaling its arrival. Attached was a menu for a wine dinner at The Capital Hotel. I had agreed to help with wine pairings, but it was the theme that made me nervous: a traditional Southern Sunday supper of hushpuppies and Cobb salad, chicken and dumplings and collard greens, smoked ribs and mac and cheese. With carrot cake, of course. It isn’t that I don’t love a challenge. But Southern food, with its unique m

Is This The Best Wine Ever Produced In Arkansas?

The story of John Trickett was first presented to me as a legend. I guess that’s to be expected—the world of wine is full of legends, historic vintages and vineyards, winemakers whose renown stretches with time, leaving behind the factual for the fantastic. And what is wine if not a bottled fantasy, a fable under cork? But the legend of John Trickett is a legend in reverse, a story that, in its unspooling, becomes concrete. I heard it first in whispers: a recluse who lived alone in the Ozarks and had made the greatest wine in Arkansas. It was the kind of story
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