‘Cork Dork’ coming to Tri Valley to demystify world of wine
By Lou Fancher
Until she embarked on an 18-month crash course to become a master sommelier, the only effect that drinking a bottle of wine had on Bianca Bosker was drunkenness.
Today, armed with Master Sommelier Certification and a new book, “Cork Dork” (Penguin), the New York City-based writer, former Huffington Post Executive Tech Editor and wine enthusiast comes to Danville’s Rakestraw Books on April 4.
Unraveling the mystery and magic of wine, she says, opened for her a panorama of taste sensation and more. Visiting up-and-coming California winemaking regions such as the Tri-Valley, the 30-year-old writer says is exciting.
“California wine history is relatively young, compared to Europe, but the varietals and experimentation is fantastic. There are values to be had going beyond the designer brands,” she said.
Similarly, readers of Bosker’s memoir will discover a wealth of valuable information. The 330-page paperback includes—— science and facts about wine’s chemical structure, 7,000-year history, sensory attributes, impact on human brain development and more.
Bosker’s story expands with how commercial winemakers engineer their products to massage the flavors; at what price point a wine is good enough and anything pricier is “prone to B.S” or impacted more by pedigree than by excellent taste; the role of Ann Nobles, a UC Davis professor whose “kindergarten of the nose” greatly defines how we talk about wine.
“Insider” information comes in her exposé of the intense obsessions, fetishes and rules that guide sommeliers — forego toothpaste, lick rocks, walk clockwise, never pour backhand —and the lexicon used by high-end restaurants to label customers.
Practicality arrives with recommendations for selecting wine and insights on sommelier lifestyles and the certification process. Adding considerable delight, Bosker writes with a brisk, laugh-out-loud sensibility — often, at her own expense as she bumbles her way from acrobatic cellar rat to aristocratic sommelier.
But Bosker’s narrative gains greatest momentum and relevance from the transformation that took place not only in her mouth, but in her mind. Turning from her tech-centered life and tuning into the sensory world of wine, she says brought “sense-fulness” and greater self-confidence. “I could have ended up the same person as when I started, but my transformation took place at the table. I began to get emotional and intellectual rewards from wine. I found new pleasures in unlikely places,” she says.
The exploration into wine caused her to rejoice in California’s deep wine history, and New York City’s international scene that reflects a rich immigrant culture with novel wines from Greece, Lebanon and other unexpected locations. “There’s a connection to place,” she says.
Friends and some readers of the book ask her most often if the wine they drink is tacky or if wine that experts say tastes like pepper actually has pepper in it. “Readers want to know first steps, what to drink, how they can put into practice what I write about.”
There’s no such thing as a bad wine, although there might be a wine one person prefers and another person dislikes, she adds.
For Bosker, a wine that causes curiosity is best. “Some wines are not serious: they’re the wine version of a wikipedia article. Others are poems or intriguing John Cheever stories. What I enjoy most about drinking wine is looking for a story. Even in one sip, I can get something from Yellow Tail: additives, wine made by focus groups, but even so, a story.”
The best thing about writing “Cork Dork” she says is “having a conversation with hundreds of people” who like nothing more than to explore the nuance and richness in a glass of wine.
At the Danville book reading and signing, a master sommelier from The Vine will select and pour wines for tasting.