Smile Politely

4th Annual Gala Wine Tasting pours Friday

More than 250 wines from Casablanca to Illinois, and everywhere between (both directions, that is), will be poured Friday night at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts from 5:30–8:30 p.m. during the 4th Annual Corkscrew Gala Wine Tasting. Nearly a year in the making, this event pulls together some extremely diverse wines sourced worldwide.

The Gala benefits the Orpheum Children’s Science Museum in downtown Champaign and will include not only the tasting and music from the Aduro String Trio and DJ Tim Williams, but also a silent auction. Of particular note to wine enthusiasts, some of the silent auction items include specialty bottles or difficult to find wines, but Orpheum planners also found plenty of auction items to appeal to the sports, fashion, and entertainment enthusiasts, as well. According to Sonya Darter, Executive Director of the Orpheum, some of those include Ryder Cup tickets, dinners with the athletic coaches, a weekend in Chicago, and photography packages.

But what about the smörgåsbord of wines?

Todd Fusco, manager of the Corkscrew in Urbana, said, “We pick wines that are interesting … that are all around the world … we have a nice wide [price] range. There’s a wine for everybody.”

If you expect to find a list of 250 wines a little overwhelming, the professional advice from Fusco is to study it beforehand for those vineyards or wines that appeal to you. He suggests, because it is unlikely that you could finish all 250 wines, starting with wines you know you’re interested in, then moving to things that are crazy or outside of the box. Fusco attends a couple of tastings on this scale a year, in addition to tasting thousands of wines annually for the store, so knowing the challenges a large wine tasting can bring, he posted the list online (a link also available from their Facebook page) so interested tasters could review the list ahead of time.

Although every table is worth checking out, after scanning the list, the first importer I noticed was Louis/Dressner (table 7), because I’ve enjoyed these minimalist, hand-harvested wines since I started paying attention to what wine I was drinking. Eric Solomon (table 6), another importer on the list, shares similar accolades for respecting the locale and history of their wines and allowing them to reflect the flavor of the region. Eric Solomon also won Food & Wine magazine’s Best Importer in the 2006 American Wine Awards. A rich set of American wines that will stimulate conversation is the last Pure Wine table (16) where they’re pouring everything from the highly-rated Priest Ranch Napa Sauvignon Blanc to the Mayacamas Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, a wine that is good now, but will age well in the bottle for at least another 15 years.

However, as Fusco pointed out, “The list is pretty impressive this year. I was pretty happy with it.” So check it out on your own and select tables and wines that fit your personal tastes.

The $20 per person ticket price includes a souvenir glass and access to the tasting from 5:30–8:30 p.m.. Early VIP entry can also be purchased for an additional $10 fee, and the ticket price includes food and an additional hour of access to the wine purveyors beginning at 4:30 p.m. Wine can be purchased at the end of the evening on an order form and picked up at a later date at Corkscrew. Ticket proceeds and a portion of the wine sales benefit the Orpheum Children’s Science Museum. Darter says if the Orpheum reaches its fundraising target, it will add some new exhibits to the museum floor.

Purchase tickets at the door or in advance at Corkscrew, the Orpheum, or online.


All photos by LimeLight Photography.

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