The online home of Mark “The Cork Head” Stuart, Certified Wine Professional, speaker/educator, judge, and columnist.

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January 2018
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Wine Pioneer Continues Trendsetting

While working on his M.A. in psychology, Eddie Osterland became fascinated with the world of wine. So much so that he altered career paths and became the United States very first Master Sommelier.

His unique story began in the 1960’s when wine in the United States was not what it is today. Truth be told, at the time there were actually more orchards than vineyards in the Napa Valley. To receive the best instruction available he would be forced to move overseas. Read More

Early Olympics Recap…with Wine

Isn’t is refreshing to watch athletes compete at the highest level of their sport and express the joy they have without pretense?

I was struck by an interview with Alpine Skier Lindsey Vonn as she politely and calmly answered all the questions she was asked with poise and charm…and with a conviction to be the very best.  Her passion was palpable.  Her commitment infectious.  She was simply being herself.  Expressing her thoughts.

Shortly thereafter, in the setting of a friendly Pro-Am in conjunction with the PGA Tour, Tom Brady started doing Read More

Family Winemakers of CA in San Diego

Sunday March 14th The Del Mar Fairgrounds will play host to the largest tasting of California wines in the San Diego area.

More than 240 family owned wineries will be on hand to pour samples inside Exhibition Hall at the 2010 Family Winemakers of California San Diego Tasting. Exhibitors will represent most wine growing regions from around the state, with the highest concentration being from Sonoma and Napa Counties. Owners and winemakers will be on hand to share their wines with the public at this one-of-a-kind tasting. Read More

Sports and Wine Fans Benefit from Rulings

The same week the FCC ruled cable companies must offer monopolistic programming such as San Diego Padres and Philadelphia Phillies games to alternative service providers, a Federal court upheld a lower court ruling which could open the door for Massachusetts wine drinkers to buy direct from wineries or online. Read More

Don’t underrate Rockpile AVA

So what if it only has one winery and has only bee designated as an AVA since 2002?

Every time I get the opportunity to enjoy a Rockpile wine it reminds me I need to revisit this region more often.  Zinfandel is probably the best cultivar and maybe that’s why it doesn’t get more rave reviews?  But hey, I’m a zinfandel fan. 

Drop a firm and fruity Rockpile zin on top of a classic New York steak standwich with fried onion straws and blue cheese crumbles and hide the women and children from a palate gone wild.  I’ve gotta say, that pairing is one of my all time favorites.

Most any wine shop carries a few selections to choose from.  Grab one and experiment yourself and let me know what your experience is.

Mark the Cork Head

New Year Wine Resolutions

The New Year brings with it a traditional custom where we reflect back on the past year and resolve to be healthier, wealthier, or to be a better friend or spouse. 

Each year I reflect upon my wine experiences and create a few wine resolutions of my own.  They aren’t for everyone, but can serve as a roadmap for a heightened level of physiological and intellectual bliss with each and every glass which will last beyond just 2010.  Salut!

I Resolve: Read More

The Holidays Sparkle with Wine

Quick! What is the first beverage you think of when celebrating around the holidays?

If you answered Champagne or any other sort of sparkling wine, you are not alone. Though reports vary, each year an estimated two-thirds of the sparkling wine consumed in this country is done so in and around the holiday season. Heck, the mere thought of a popping cork brings enthusiastic smiles to just about anyone who enjoys a little vino. Read More

The World’s Best Holiday Wine

From albarino to zweigelt and Alsace to New Zealand, noteworthy wines are made in all corners of the world.  Ahh…how lucky I’ve been to taste through many of the best over the years.

Each has it’s own story, and as a wine writer I embrace the opportunity to put a face on each of them as opportunities arise.  Now, with the holiday’s in full swing, there is no better time to feature what I feel is undoubtedly the greatest wine to enjoy during this festive season.  So, gather ’round and listen to a short holiday tale. Read More

Balance is the New Buzzword in Napa

Balance is the new buzzword in the Napa Valley.

The flamboyant style of many Napa wines fashionable throughout the 1990s and into the new millennium seem to have hit its peak of popularity, with the pendulum swinging back toward a more classic and age-worthy fashion.

The hedonist-driven butter-bomb chardonnays and tongue-purpling cabernet sauvignons will always play a part of Napa style, but premier winemakers are pressing the issue that balance and, therefore ageability, is better. Read More

Mark the Cork Head Favorites Awards

Once again it is time to announce the annual Mark the Cork Head’s “Favorites” wine awards.

To be awarded a favorite, the wines must be of the highest quality, widely available and affordable. This year’s list includes wines from California and around the world. Each may be confidently purchased knowing you will have a wide spectrum of wines to enjoy with friends and family.

Favorites are announced each year after tasting more than one thousand selections in the perpetual quest for great wine. If you have a favorite bottle for me to consider, please e-mail me. It might just make the cut next year.




2009 Dashwood

2009 Dashwood

2008 Dashwood Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough, New Zealand:

Lime, passion fruit, and grapefruit flavors abound, plus an outrageous Marlborough herby grassiness and a hint of white pepper on the finish. The fruit and non-fruit features integrate seamlessly in what is an excellent example of the NZ style of sauvignon blanc. Super fresh tasting with strong acidity, this is absolutely the best value I’ve tasted this year. Bacon-wrapped scallops would be unforgettable as a pairing. 13 percent alcohol, 92 points. $10. *Unfortunately this wine has become so popular it is harder to find than when this column was submitted.  Ask your local wine merchant if it is available, even in the 2009 vintage, which is very similar.


Girard non-vintage-chardonnay2007 Girard Chardonnay Russian River Valley: When chardonnay stays away from the heat of the Napa Valley it retains an entirely different character. Acidity, oak and fruit harmonize into a beautiful example of why the Russian River Valley is arguably the most important region for this varietal in the United States. Medium in body and acidity, the wine shows Meyer lemon, a whisper of toasty vanilla and a surprising rush of what reminds me of bananas foster on the finish. Beautifully balanced, this wine drinks like some of the most sought-after chardonnay from the region. Enjoy with grilled stuffed salmon. 13.9 percent alcohol, 91 points. $20 FIND IT HERE or at many major grocery stores and wine markets.

bonterra viognier2007 Bonterra Viognier: If the sensual texture isn’t enough to make you smile, the beautiful perfumed nose of orange blossom, apricot, and beeswax certainly will. A strong impression of stone minerality comes forward on the palate. This wine acts like a squeaky-clean Old World viognier. Die-hard chardonnay fans typically find a bottle of viognier in front of them at some point and are amazed at how delicious it is. A certified organic product. Decant. 13.7 percent alcohol, 90 points. $15 FIND IT HERE or at major grocery stores and wine markets.

2008 Barth Pinot Noir Rose Semi-dry bottle12008 Barth Pinot Noir Rose Semi-Dry, Rheingau Germany: Pretty and delicate aromas of strawberry with firm slate minerality and the acidity of the finest blanc de noir sparkling wine. Don’t let the semi-dry label throw you off. The sweetness is barely perceptible and only helps to round out this barely pink still wine that will absolutely knock your socks off. Try with any fresh salad, especially bitter greens. 11.5 percent alcohol, 89 points. $15 FIND IT HERE.  *This wine is offered only by this distinctive retailer, but worth the shipping to have it on your table!

Gruet Brut NVGruet Brut Non-Vintage, New Mexico: Great things are happening with New Mexican wine, and Gruet (pronounced groo-AY) continues to lead the charge with this outstanding sparkling wine. Crisp red apple flavors, followed by pear and pink grapefruit. Made in the traditional champagne method, the wine exhibits a beautiful balance between fruit, yeastiness and acidity. Buy this by the case and celebrate every time you open a bottle. 12 percent alcohol, 89 points. $15.  Widely available and major grocery stores and wine markets.



2006 Juan Gil (Photo by Karla Stuart)

2006 Juan Gil (Photo by Karla Stuart)

2006 Juan Gil, Jumilla Red Wine, Jumilla, Spain:

Above average in weight with firm tannins that don’t overpower the wine. Complex and complementary aromas of grilled plums, Bing cherries and game surrounded by a backbone of fresh herbs and a hint of blackberry ooze from the glass. Bright fruit comes alive on the palate exacerbating the blackberry and plum notes, followed by a lasting blend of fruit and lingering barrel spice. Whew, that’s a mouthful, and so is this blockbuster of a wine. 14.5 percent alcohol, 91 points. $16 FIND IT HERE.  I’ve also seen it on occasion at Costco and Beverages and More.


Kenwood Zinfandel Jack London2006 Kenwood Zinfandel, Jack London Vineyard: Characteristic ripe and under-ripe red berry aromas come together with the subtle use of oak and seasoned with a hint of clove spice. Tannins and acids are slightly elevated, but in balance contributing to a fuller body style. Zinfandel ranks only behind cabernet sauvignon among red varietal plantings in California, with single vineyard Sonoma zins among the most important. Try with a honey glazed ham dotted with clove and be very, very happy. 14.5 percent alcohol, 92 points. $19 FIND IT HERE or at Costco.

Bonus Selection:

Choclatique30piecebubblyindulgenceChoclatique Bubbly Indulgence Chocolate Truffles: These gourmet Champagne-infused truffles take chocolate enjoyment to en entirely different stratosphere. Made from 64 percent cacao, the truffle is filled with a subtly powerful Dom Perignon ganache and toppedwith a 24-carat gold leaf. Choclatique, heavily decorated at the recently completed Los Angeles Chocolate Salon, spares no expense with its products going so far as having the designers at Ferrari create the molds for these delights and shipping them in a mini-cooler to protect the delicacy of each item. $35 for a 15 piece box, or $60 for a 30 piece box. FIND IT HERE