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Not a Snob in the Whole Bunch at Wine Expo : After all the swirling and the sniffing, the real test is in the tasting

May 07, 1987|KAREN ROEBUCK

A complex yet balanced crowd nosed through a varietal spread of wines and appetizers on a dry, clear, sublime Sunday afternoon in effervescent King Harbor.

In other words, more than 1,000 people roamed from table to table, choosing from various foods and 150 wines.

And the weather was nice.

The casually dressed tasters were attending the fourth annual Redondo Beach California Wine Exposition to learn about wines and enjoy them.

They gathered in small groups in front of winery representatives, swirling, sniffing and tasting wines from commemorative glasses.

The winery reps were there to show off their products, to demystify wine making and to take the snobbery out of wine drinking.

"Whatever your palate tells you, is what you should drink," said Frank T. DeLacey, area manager for the Weibel winery. Armed with "The Wine Snob Dictionary," DeLacey was prepared to explain to uninitiated tasters the language of wine critics and connoisseurs.

The first dictionary entry, for example, reads:

Balance n.: 1. Physical equilibrium. 2. The proper harmony of a wine's qualities, i.e., acidity, tannin, fruit, sugar, etc., e.g., A "well balanced" wine has a 3.0 grade average, two varsity letters and is captain of the debate club.

The dictionary also noted that a "pleasing bouquet means it smells good."

DeLacey also passed out another guide, "How to Choose a Wine Without Being a Snob," which explained which wines go best with foods ranging from quail to peanut butter to buffalo to corn flakes.

The guide recommends not only a Pinot Noir or a Cabernet Sauvignon to accompany buffalo, but also a snow shovel and galoshes.

Bruno Dalfonso, a wine maker for the Sanford winery, had a somewhat different anti-snob campaign, but he agreed that wine "shouldn't be heralded as anything special."

He said he was at the expo to educate people about Sanford's wines and to take the mystery out of wine making. "Everybody tries to make it so mysterious and religious, which it's not," Dalfonso said.

Wine making is not an art, he added, but a craft. "The artistic endeavor is in the label, really," he said.

But promoting his product and educating wine drinkers weren't Dalfonso's only reasons for attending the expo, which was billed as Southern California's "largest outdoor wine tasting."

"I get to meet great people and spend some time in the sun," he said.

The expo's outdoor site distinguishes the event from other wine-tasting festivals, which are usually held in hotels or convention centers, said Maryann Carroll-Guthrie, chairman of the event. Music was provided by a reggae band, unlike the classical music usually played at such events.

The Redondo Beach expo was hosted by the Chamber of Commerce and sponsored by King Harbor Assn., an organization of harbor business representatives. The wines, food, tables and decorations were donated, and proceeds from ticket sales--about $10,000--will benefit the Chamber of Commerce and eight local charities, Carroll-Guthrie said.

Tasters, who paid between $17.50 and $20, said their money was well spent.

"I wish they would charge more so not so many people would come," said Colleen McElree, 31, of Redondo Beach. She said that she has attended many similar events, often at $40 a ticket.

Mary Murphy, 25, of Redondo Beach said the expo was educational and a good opportunity to try many wines in one place. "Everybody's here to have a good time," she said.

"And to get a buzz," added her friend, Abbe Marholin, 32, of Hermosa Beach.

Rick Kochhar, president of the Texas-based Wine Consulting Group, compares wine-tasting events in his newsletter, "Grape Expectations."

The main attraction to the Redondo Beach expo, he said, is that it is "outside on the beach."

"In Texas, everybody would be in jackets and ties because they still think of it as a hoity-toity event."

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