Sunday, October 24, 1999

High society, Antarctica style: Wine tasting draws connoisseurs to Coffee House

Published in the Antarctic Sun

Vivaldi was on the stereo. Golden light glowed on the polished wooden walls. The McMurdo Coffee House was warm with cheer and conversation over wine Thursday evening. The recreation department sponsored a wine tasting of six “regional” wines: Australia and New Zealand have excellent wine-producing regions which supplied the evening’s beverage samples.

“Six wines to go!” cried one eager taster before walking up to the first of six tables.

All the wines found fans in the group, who happily held out their plastic wine glasses for more. The wine tasting itself won great fans.

According to an enthusiastic Coloradan who called himself simply Kyu, “You have to have certain things that keep you in touch with the outside world.” His favorite was the Church Road Cabernet Merlot, a New Zealand red wine. “I wish they had more wines, so they could do this every week.”

The old Quonset hut, the type used during the Korean War, was jammed with people taking advantage of the free wine, as well as the shop-price bottles available only during
the tasting.

Even a soon-to-depart McMurdo winterer braved the crowd for some quality wine. Liz Muck, from Steamboat Springs, Colorado, is a Merlot fan whose favorite among the evening’s selection was the Villa Maria Cabernet Sauvignon, though she also liked the Delgats Reserve Merlot. She said she was a bit intimidated by the number of people, but was glad she’d come.

“It’s a very good idea,” said Christine Foreman, a Dry Valleys research grantee from Toledo, Ohio.

Another fan agreed: “I think it’s a great idea; I love wine,” said Kenda Andersen, a construction general assistant from Montana.

“It’s fun opportunity for a new person to meet everyone,” said Vicky Miles, a recreation finance clerk from Denver. She didn’t taste all the wines, but while she was busy serving samples, she overheard lots of comments about the wines, among which there was no clear winner. “There was no consensus among the tasters,” she said.

Bill McCormick, from the Field Safety Training Program, liked the Penfolds Bin 389 Cabernet Shiraz. The wine tasting gave him hope for McMurdo’s future. Remembering that the wine bar was to be torn down for lack of use a few years ago, he said, “I toast the actual place itself.”