This was a shorter-than-normal trip for us to the festival this year.
Al had recently undergone left knee replacement surgery, and the “Corked” army feared her wrath if we spent too much time sans her in the city by the bay.
Normally we do “Corked” events at a couple other venues in addition to Noir City – last year we brought our dog and pony show to the Cartoon Art Museum & Isotope – The Comic Book Lounge.
Other than pouring shot glasses of 08 Red Brick Cellars, Tough Dame Cabernet Sauvignon & 09 Mira Luna, Tough Day Chardonnay for more than 400 guests per night while Dave was his usual caricature-drawing-machine self, it was like old home night at the Castro Theatre.
Thursday, January 26, 2012 – Bad Girls!
Mike Whipple of the Prescott hotel and best-selling author Rudy Simone augmented our crew in vintage period attire, bringing a much needed sense of style to the “Corked” army, and Mike helped us pour.
Instead of wearing my by-now-already-ripe Tough Dame Cabernet t-shirt, I was sporting a t-shirt with the Robert McGinnis cover art for “Kill Now, Pay Later” by Robert Terrall on it – I own the McGinnis rough for this cover - when a guest points to me and says “My dad wrote that! Thank you for wearing the shirt!” We made sure that Dave devoted additional time to Ben Terrall’s caricature, then proceeded to scour the Green Apple books stand for additional Robert Terrall novels.
Friday, January 27, 2012 – Blue Collar Noir
Maria Mendoza & Ron Blum from Kayo Books, our favorite bookstore, attended. I had earlier-in-the-week scored the original Duillo cover painting to 1959’s smutty-for-the-time paperback “Exotic Sinner” by Shep Sheppard (Harry Whittington) at Kayo, while Dave filled in his “Filmfax” collection.
For us, the best line of the festival didn’t even occur at the Castro. The “Corked” army was paying homage to James Sime and crew, dropping off Dave’s 2012 posters and contributing to the cash flow at Isotope, that coolest of West Coast comics shops, and James noticed that Al was on a cane. “How did you hurt your knee? Fighting crime?”
As art of our festival prep work, Dave had created a beautiful Angie Dickinson tribute for the festival’s super special guest star.
After working the festival we made sure that both Amoeba & Rasputin wouldn’t go broke any time soon. We squeezed in a lovely Park Chow breakfast with Sean McIntyre, Laura Nelson and family, where Clodagh and Dave exchanged drawings before Sean drove us back to the airport to start back to Boston.
Friday, October 5, Elli’s Wine Cellar, Weymouth, MA: The most beautiful wine shop on the planet! Dave-free, so additionally poured organic Argentine Syrah & Moscatel, as well as a magnificent (non-organic) Malbec-based blend from the Global Wines, MA portfolio.
Also, as a sneak preview, tasted my final two potential 09 Madison’s Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon blends for Global Wines, MA, with B proving to be the clear favorite of the crowd. The Elli’s customers come to these Friday PM tastings to purchase as well as enjoy the ambiance of the shop.
Friday, October 14, Abington Liquors, Abington, MA: A well-promoted event, beautifully set up and displayed by Hemal Petal and his staff for us.
Instead of Dave’s usual “Corked” originals, heading into Halloween, we chose to display some of his Universal Monsters paintings instead.
Old friend Kristine Lydon stopped by as did Russ Sorrel and his better half, now owners of The Finer Taste, Florida’s best wine bar and Florida “Corked” the comic headquarters. We sold just about every bottle.
Saturday, October 15, Liberty Wine & Liquors, Braintree, MA: I was told by one woman buying her Bud Light 30 pack, “people don’t really drink wine.”
After that comment we felt a bit like we were working the Twilight Zone. Old wholesale comrade-in-arms Bob Bradford came by to taste, Megh Burgess and Matt McArthur visited. Not a single person posed for a caricature from Dave, which has never happened before…
Thursday, October 20, The Wine Bunker, Reading, MA: Smokin’ tasting – a charity event for Reading, Kansas. Pete and Bob should be proud of this! Excellent free food for the guests, plenty of MA wine wholesalers pouring, in addition to us. Tasted old friends from Ideal Wines on our wines, and Global Wines, MA compadre Mike Lancaster sat for a caricature a la Dave.
We sold it all, out-of-Crusher & Stemmer Red, and bottle stock only left of 09 Tough Day Chard & Tough Dame Cab. Guests were stealing our tasting glasses, which we found to be odd…
Friday, October 21, Cork's Fine Wine and Liquors, Mansfield, MA: How cool is it that the “Coked” tie- in wines are sold in a shop named Cork’s? Excellent event, tasting area is elegant – tasting bar, separate counter for glassware, separate area for Dave to draw at, station for the lap top so guests could view the site.
Obviously the shop did a great job promoting this – not a free moment, and we even started early.
Tasting display, an up front display and an in the heart of the fine domestic wines display, We did our best to move every bottle for the retailer who had our wines out on multiple displays.
Long-time-supporters Tony Bithony and Bev Kelley attended,
Saturday, October 22, Larkin’s Medfield Package Store, Medfield, MA: Old friend Dave Jost had stopped in earlier and left me a note asking why we were sold out of Crusher & Stemmer Red nationwide. Dave’s folks stopped by!
Sunday, October 23, Mark Chester book signing soiree, Hassan Gallery, Hanover, MA: Dave-free, Richard & Geraldine had purchased plenty of “Corked” wine from a local retailer, and asked if I would pour.
Fun event, nice, interesting crowd. Great food made by Geraldine! Charter “Corked” army members Bob & Kathleen Cumming attended, Kathleen & my wife bought clothes in another one of the shops – that boutique owes the Hassans a thank-you note!
Mark Chester’s photos were fun and thought-provoking, he tasted and endured the pitch on all of the “Corked” wines, and gave me a postcard book of his photos as a thank-you.
Saturday, October 29, Casablanca Comics, Portland, ME: A Shipyard brewery tour got us in the proper frame of mind while Bull Moose Music got plenty of ”Corked” army money.
Rick Lowell, Laura O’Meara, and local comics creators hosted state-of-Maine librarians with food, drink, comics, original art, and a puppet show by members of the Boston Comics Roundtable.
Megh took plenty of photos to chronicle the “Corked” army invasion of Portland for the site.
A nasty pre-Halloween snow storm put a lid on some of the craziness, despite the flowing wine.
Dave did a caricature of some librarians as Chucky and Rick as Plastic Man, using Jose Luis Gracia-Lopez’s original model sheet for a guide.
We were asked back for the Maine Comics Festival and Dave traded his original event art for original Joe Simon monster art!
Friday, November 4, Eastside Market & Wine Shop, South Boston, MA: Dave-free, so also tasted Terroir Imports Cava & organic Spanish reds. As advertised, excellent traffic in one of Boston’s original-post-prohibition package stores.
Shop does a great job on our wines, as many of the customers there already knew and were buying our wines.
Sold plenty of Terroir Imports wines for Paul Clear and Global Wines, MA too.
Saturday, November 5, Pilgrim Wine & Spirits, Plymouth, MA: A right-up-front area cleared for us to work in, and the shop had assertively discounted the wines on a nice display for the duration of the tasting.
There was plenty of plaza traffic, but not so much store traffic, few tasters and fewer non-bulk wine shoppers.
Not many caricatures for Dave to do, but everyone who tasted bought.
Friday, November 11, Renaissance Wine & Spirits, Worcester, MA: A well-advertised event with a beautiful display and nice tasting area in another lovely, clean, spacious shop fighting the good fight in what could be considered a difficult-to-sell-fine-wine area. Dave unveiled his new Chenin Meunier pinup here.
Deb Nilan wore her Tough Dame Cab finery to the event. Old friend David Tiberii & his wife visited. Plenty of tasters, plenty of caricatures done, and enough sales to be more-than-encouraging. They will also be offering Dave’s Boston sports caricatures for sale.
Saturday, November 12, Ralph's Derby Street Wine & Spirits, Hingham, MA: The Grand Holiday Tasting proved to not be just hyperbole. Plenty of guests and food.
Unusually well-organized – we had an excellent area, perfect to display our art as well as pour the wines, tell our story and draw caricatures.
Caught up with old comrade-in-arms Deb Pecce, who poured for a MA wholesaler!
New England Comics’ Doreen Greeley visited, in her Tough Dame Cab t-shirt!
And we were the event’s top seller!
Thursday, November 17, Bradford’s, Plymouth, MA: Dave-free, for Global Wines, MA. Well displayed, designated tasting area, crackers. Cava made by Paul Clear, two organic whites & two organic reds Vino la tierra de castilla, plus two old world-style reds Vino la tierra de castilla made by Paul Clear. Reds moved well, Cava OK, whites were difficult to peddle.
Friday, November 18, Pops Fine Wines & Liquors, North Easton, MA: Plenty of space and foot traffic. Multiple displays, full racks, plus a designated tasting table and a separate counter area for Dave.
Dave’s Stooges art original premiered! Busy right through - almost wiped out their supply. Linda Shumway, Owner & Wine Maker, Plymouth Winery, Plymouth, MA visited and bought Crusher & Stemmer Red. Sneak previewed my San Valencia Winery, Old Vine Tawny.
Saturday, November 19, Elli’s Wine Cellar, Weymouth, MA: Great event, plenty of guests, great food in this mega-elegant shop. Nice display area with designated space for Dave to draw at – we had the best location in the store.
People came to taste & buy – poured our wines, plus five Global Wines, MA items. Everything sold better-than-expected. Sold all of their Crusher & Stemmer Red and Tough Day Chardonnay, and the lion’s share of their Tough Dame Cabernet.
Righted a previous wrong – we gave a signed poster to one of their top Tough Dame Cab customers whom I met on in the shop on her birthday, buying her weekly wine, but did not have a poster in the car at that time and felt horrible about it.
Friday, December 2, Hingham Liquors, Hingham, MA: Nice display waiting for us with plenty of food!
Huge crowds – the lighting of the town Christmas tree ceremony in the square.
Cleared out all of his stock on Crusher & Stemmer Red and the lion’s share of his Tough Day Chardonnay & Tough Dame Cabernet.
This was a particularly sweet event for us in that his neighbor in the “wine shoppe” down the street told me he was a “serious wine shop” and had no need of our wines, all-the-while making it sound like Dave & I were some sub-species beneath contempt, because he had once owned a shop in St Helena.
We worked non-stop pouring, drawing & peddling from our starting-to-set-up and we stayed late as there was still interest. Sneak previewed the new Crusher & Stemmer Red blend.
Saturday, West Concord Liquor Store, Inc., Concord, MA: Nice crowds, and food for the guests on the shop’s 30th anniversary. No one else was nearly as prepared as us, or had such an attractive display. Plenty of MA wholesalers, but no suppliers other than us.
Pam Schweppe visited, looking radiant as usual. Lots of somewhat pretentious “I don’t drink whites” or “I won’t drink Chardonnay” to wade through from many of the guests.
We sold out of reds with an hour to go, Chardonnay by the time we closed down.
Sneak previewed the new Crusher & Stemmer Red blend again.
Friday, December 9, Granite Liquors, Weymouth, MA: With Global wines, MA. Food for the guests, good traffic for us. Sold far more than the other MA wholesalers and local breweries that were pouring. Very few people buying beyond a bottle or two for themselves – did not see much in the way of Christmas shopping.
Saturday, December 10, The Main Course Market, Canton, MA: With Global wines, MA. Good traffic, plenty of real tasting-to-buyers, plenty of caricature action. Nice gourmet spreads and crackers for people to taste. Old friend Maura McAuliffe visited! Brought home a nice dinner - Neo-Tuscan bread, Greek cucumber & tomato salad, Asian snap peas, sweet & sour turkey meatballs, honey-mustard panko chicken breasts, chocolate covered grahams. 09 Madison’s Ranch Cab sneak preview.
Thursday, December 15, Murray's Liquors, Newton Centre, MA: What a tasting is supposed to be, right down to our celebratory post-tasting beer. Thought Dave was gonna propose to the lovely young lady who started discussing the Mort Drucker influences in his art on episode 26. Sold out of Chardonnay and the lion’s share of the Cabernet.
Friday, December 16, Blanchard's Wine & Spirits, Marshfield, MA: Old friends Cindy Barry, Lenny LaForest and their respected better halves visited. Sold enough that they had to re-order, and they still had a bit of Crusher & Stemmer to pour for their customers…
Salesmen from other wine companies came by to taste. Cindy’s hubby John properly identified the Dink Segal influence in Dave’s Chenin pinup, the original of which was purchased by proprietor Don Corey Jr.
Saturday, December 17, The Wine Nook, Townsend, MA: Friend Sothida Vanthan and her staff all wore Tough Dame t-shirts! Dave’s art from our previous visit on the walls! A bit of Crusher & Stemmer to pour! Old friend and Global Wines, MA salesperson Ilene Reyes visited!
Global previews: 09 Madison’s Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon, 10 Font du Mirail Ventoux & 10 Barn d’Or unoaked Chardonnay.
Nuts, cheese, bread & fruit for the guests. A great display of our wines, of which we made short work of the front six cases, while Dave drew piles of caricatures.
A wonderful way to end the tasting event season…
Saturday, July 23, The Weinery, Scituate, MA: I, Dave-less due to a long-standing art gig, was outside, but it was not as insanely hot it had been the previous few days. Plus I was under a tent, with plenty of water. I felt bad for the retailer, as the two Massachusetts wine wholesalers also booked for this event did not show…Besides wine, there was fruit, cheese, veggies, dip, and baked goods available, photography for sale, including a book of photos of Ted Williams I had never seen, jewelry and ladies accessories for the guests to peruse. I was surprised at the amount of people visiting metro Boston's South Shore from California - I met groups from Berkeley & Monterey. Both in-stock "Corked" wines sold briskly for the retailer.
Saturday, August 13, Elli's Wine Cellar, Weymouth, MA: This is probably the most beautiful wine shop we've ever visited, and that is even before you factor in the charm of the staff. If there were stuffed chairs in Elli's, no one would ever want to leave. Here we unveiled the new 08 Tough Dame Cab for Massachusetts. Elli's provided grapes, cheese, calzone and sausages with the wines, water and soda for the "Corked" schlepps. Attendance by my Weymouth neighbors did me proud. Rick Lowell and Laura O'Meara of Portland, Maine's ultra-cool Casablanca Comics, stopped by for a taste, as did old compadre Eleanor Seigneur. The "Corked" audience delivered plenty of new-to-the-shop traffic, in addition to Elli's regular customers, yielding plenty of wine sold. Local attendees told us the shop does a great job
getting the "Corked" message out. We left them a giant, mounted Tough Dame Cab label, signed by the both of us, and scored our body weights in pizza, sausages, beer (for our obligatory post-tasting libation!) and calzone to go.
Tuesday, August 23, Plymouth Garden Club, Plymouth, MA: This was a beautiful venue, on a deck overlooking the beach - the sunset alone was worth the price of admission. We met a good crowd, about 180 wine-tasting guests, but, unusual for this size group, only one person tried to help themselves, so they comprehended the concept of a tasting versus a drinking. Richard Hassan, whose wife Geraldine ran this fundraiser, helped pour, as did old friend and picture-of-elegance Kathleen Cumming. The surprise for us was that of the three Sur de Los Andes Argentine wines we also poured - Torrontes, Bonarda and Malbec- the Malbec was the one least talked about...We aimed the guests to our local "Corked" the comic retailer, Pilgrim Wine & Spirits, who was pleasantly prepared with business cards, sell sheets and abig ice bucket for the whites.
Our insanely busy Memorial Day weekend of Friday, September 2 & Saturday, September 3: Gypsy Kitchen, Quincy, MA - Mira Luna Crusher & Stemmer Red and 09 Tough Day Carneros Chardonnay got poured. The Weinery, North Scituate, MA poured the entire "Corked" line. Long-time-supporter Verona, in Rockland, MA once again poured 09 Mira Luna, Tough Day Chardonnay for their guests.
And last-but-not-least, Ralph's Derby Street Wine & Spirits, Hingham, MA: I poured the entire line, plus a few selections by proprietor Ralph Hersom, including his recently bottled, quite delicious Central Coast Pinot Noir. As a wine producer, I like doing tastings for Ralph - he is one of the best tasters in the nation. And events there with Ralph, chef Kim Savage and beer buyer Ryan O'Malley are almost party-like. Dave drew New England Comic's Doreen Greeley, one of our earliest supporters, as Honey West - a very cool choice - when she dropped by Ralph's to taste the new 08 Tough Dame.
Friday, April 29, Osborn’s Country Store, Duxbury, MA: Great wine display, plenty of store traffic, most of whom were more interested in cold Bud Light rather than tasting wine…
Saturday, April 30, Boston Comic Convention: Far more attention from the creators than the attendees, which is normal at East Coast comics venues. Dave scored a wolf man sketch from Gahan Wilson & Frank Cho’s new hardcover. Darwyn Cooke dedicated a “Man with the Getaway Face” page to me. Got a “100 Bullets” Dizzy cover rough from the Reverend Dave Johnson, he gave (“Corked” the comic) Dave a Megan sketch. Stephanie Buscema, a mutual friend of Isotope in San Francisco, invited us, along with Darwyn & the Rev, to her Teenage Satan Launch Party, with the Boston Babydolls Burlesque! We also got to spend some instructive time with Neal Adams, legend.
Sunday, May 1, more Boston Comic Convention, while our 09 Mira Luna, Tough Day Carneros Chardonnay was being poured at the opening reception for the newest location of Verona Salon, in Rockland, MA.
Wednesday, May 4, our 09 Mira Luna, Tough Day Carneros Chardonnay & 09 Red Brick Cellars, Tough Dame Cabernet Sauvignon infiltrated the NASDAQ opening bell ceremony.
Saturday, May 7, Free Comic Book Day, New England Comics, Quincy MA: We finally got to use our crossover art featuring Chenin and Kong with NEC’s mascot Bobo. [art] Ian Nichols of Fat Cat funnies contributed a sketch of the “Corked” cast for our site, www.corkedthecomic.com, under the “Where to Buy “drop-down. We saw plenty of old friends, but are still waiting for our copy of the photo of Mr T posing with a bottle of Tough Day Chardonnay…
Thursday, May 12, M3 USA, Customer Reception Cocktail Party, Sony Club, NYC: Not only did we get to re-purpose our Kong art, we were treated like the Pope and Elvis on tour by Fred Cabral & Kyle Walton. In spite of a brake problem on Amtrak, we made it with time to spare. Our turbaned cabbie was stopped by the police – profiling remains alive and well…We did not attempt to remove any of the original Audobons from the Sony Club walls, though we thought about it. Instead we used our art theft time for a visit from the newly minted Doctor of Music, Kristin Mozeiko. M3 CEO Aki Tomaru was the night’s first guest to have his caricature done. Taki prepared us a magnificent private supper and Dave did Keiko’s caricature. We maintained our NYC post-tasting traditions of drinks with Fred, my survey of the different local black & white cookies and Dave’s search for decent pizza after 10 PM in the general Times Square area.
Saturday, May 21, Wine Bunker, Reading, MA: The shop had put up a massive “Corked” display and we saw plenty of truly interested shoppers. We sold more than a case while still trying to set up, and went a huge amount of time – multiple hours - where everyone who tasted bought, no tire kickers, no junior wine critics. The Bunkah event far exceeded both our samples and sales plans. Most gratifying was to be repeatedly told by the customers that the other tables pouring – importers & wholesalers – didn’t bring anywhere near the value we delivered with their wines, their tasting set-ups, customer take-away and extras, like Dave’s caricatures.
Friday & Saturday, June 10 & 11, Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge, MA: An art controversy at the eleventh hour caused us to change our flyers. A Tough Day Rescue Kit shipping fiasco was rescued by local retailer Joe Nejaime, my wife Allison, and Winetasting.com’s Brian Elliott & Laine Adderley. We were outside Friday, inside Saturday, for two nights of receptions for the opening of the stunning Blue Sky Studios exhibit. We saw about 350 guests, including animation principals Peter de Seve and Chris Wedge, who had kind words for “Corked”.
Sunday, June 11, Route 7 Grill, Great Barrington, MA: Here we finally got to first use our intended-for-the-Norm art. [art] This event included 3 Winetasting.com wines I had put in the bottle and evolved into six wines framing a four course meal with local foods. The Route & Grill remains the preferred place to dine in the Berkshires. [menu 2 via Dave]
Monday, June 12, Nejaimes Wine Cellars, Lenox, MA: Excellent turn out for a Monday – moved about 4 cases for our local retailer in a modest amount of time.
Saturday, June 18, Wine Nook, Townsend, MA: Sothida Vanthan made us feel like visiting royalty – she put out nice cheese, fruits, and nuts plates for her customers and had the store staff already clad in Tough Dame Cab t-shirts when we arrived. We saw many other interesting outfits throughout the day too. We moved beaucoup wine for the shop, some to the multiple groups of friends of Dave who stopped by to visit. Everyone working this event seemed to really enjoy themselves more than we normally observe. We were pleased to meet mega-cool Wine Blogger Andy Geancopoulos. It’s not often we’re visited by wine writers that can reference Russ Meyer’s “Faster Pussy Cat! Kill! Kill!” and discuss Neon Park’s cover art to “Weasels Ripped my Flesh” by Frank Zappa.
Wednesday, June 22, private party, Scituate, MA: Outside under tents in a downpour, but we never stopped pouring, peddling & drawing. We suspect the local “Corked” retailer will be the biggest winner here…
Friday, June 24, Gypsy Kitchen, Quincy, MA: I stopped in to lend a hand during her normal Friday afternoon tastings, which included both of our reds, as a “special surprise guest”. While there I got to spend some time tasting with Tony from Bistro Chi and Nancy Pedruzzi McNulty, from the old Traveling Vineyard days. Love it that she has vintage Atlantic period Coltrane going each time that I’m in the shop. Dave is now doing some art for proprietor Lisa Lamme.
Saturday, June 25, Main Course Market, Canton, MA: This is one busy gourmet market! They move more Mira Luna Crusher & Stemmer Red than any of our trade accounts. Here we got to use our intended-for-the-Norm art in its final form. Moved plenty of “Corked” wines to the regular shop customers, plus lots of groups of friends & family came by. And my supper from there was terrific.
No train problems, taxi collisions or arrests! The Corked the comic roadshow's travel to NYC's Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art was incident-free. April versus January and February ...
MoCCA president Ellen Abramowitz and Oliver Baer met us at "The Night of the Vintner" at Posteritati Movie Posters on a frigid January evening, with an invitation that they felt would be the perfect venue to showcase Corked the comic and our tie-in wines. Would we like to be part of the 10th anniversary of the museum fundraiser, in the middle of Will Eisner's New York exhibition? As MoCCA members since practically day one, David and I didn't even need to discuss it.
To us, Eisner was a god. To paraphrase Alan Moore, Will Eisner gave comics its brains. As soon as we accepted, I knew what our tasting event flyer art would be: an "after Eisner" homage, with our characters Chenin Meunier and Stelvin Isinglas inserted into the October 6, 1946, Spirit splash to "Meet P'Gell" ... which Dave did a great job on.
From left: Denis Kitchen, Ellen Abramowitz,
Francis Sanders, David Griffin
MoCCA hosts Ellen, Oliver, Doug Bratton and Mell Scalzi couldn't have been more gracious. I also got to meet Karen Green, putting a face to the e-mails. Corked army recruits Fred Cabral and Joseph Scrivani helped us set up, pour and break down, freeing me up to better tell the Corked the comic story. Meanwhile, Dave drew caricatures non-stop, including Ellen's and co-curator, board member and former Spiderman line editor Danny Fingeroth’s.
Fittingly, we were stationed in the "Creators Influenced by Will Eisner" area, across from R. Sikoryak's nailed-that-period cover art for Jules Feiffer's The Great Comic Book Heroes and Neal Adams' original wrap-around art for 1978's Superman vs Muhammed Ali. Everyone attending spent some time identifying faces in the crowd on Neal's stunning Sgt. Pepper homage. (Dave's take on Pepper is in episode 8, "C.O.W.S. take over the Carneros region".) The biggest treat for me was viewing the originals to my favorite Spirit masterpiece, September 5, 1948's "The Story of Gerhard Schnobble", reportedly Eisner’s favorite tale as well.
Co-curator, underground cartoonist, publisher, author, agent and CBLDF founder Denis Kitchen discussed the possibility of having different artists produce limited edition labels for our tie-in wines with us, but admitted our two-man studio approach works pretty well as is. Wine professionals we enlisted in the Corked army include Brandy Hauman, married to Comic Mix’s Glenn Hauman; Wendy Dubit, founding editor-in-chief of Wine Enthusiast Magazine and Les Amis du Vin (it turns out she knows her way around sequential art too); and Calvin Reid from Publishers Weekly.
We laughed with kindred spirit (sorry) and original art collector Richard Pino, who purchases the art, and Juliet Balbour, who asks him, "Exactly what did you buy now?" when the package arrives at their home ... just like at my house. And we made sure the MoCCA staff knew just where to find the missing Eisner Spirit pages that seem to have been replaced by Corked the comic originals ...
Click here for an updated Corked the comic wine tasting schedule.
We arrived at our Feb. 10 wine tasting event -- an exhibit celebrating Dink Siegel's original Playboy cartoon art -- on a high note.
Late the previous evening, three awards for our 2009 Tough Day Chardonnay arrived from the 2010 World Wine Championships Wine Packaging Competition: silver medals for Creativity and Graphic Design, and a bronze medal for Style.
Plus, it's beyond gratifying for us to see our work on signs around the neighborhood, as well as in such a prestigious host venue, the Illustration House in New York City. We were humbled just knowing that the antique easels they provided for our labels and art normally exhibit originals by Rockwell, the Leyendeckers, Cornwall, Sickles, Peak, Fuchs, Capp, Wood, McGinnis and the like.
In total fanboy mode, before set-up, we studied the 15 Dinks available, with September 1963's Mirror, Mirror (pictured at right) being my favorite.
Also good for our humility: early guest Frank Scicchitano told us how he "used to do some baseball card work". Proprietor Roger Reed pulled us aside, told us Scicchitano is a fine portrait painter and much too humble, and to be sure to get his business card. As it turns out, Scicchitano did the Ted Williams painting exhibited at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, among others! That is even more poignant for me, as I normally wear a Ted Williams cap.
Our other high point of this event was when David was asked to do a caricature of 93-year-old Walt Reed (pictured below), the legendary Illustration House founder and author of The Illustrator in America 1860-2000, the bible on the subject.
Almost no women attended, which makes sense. To my surprise, there was another person from Weymouth, MA, besides myself in attendance at this NYC event ... what are the odds?
This group was much more interested in our art and comics influences than the usual guests we attract, though the wine certainly held everyone's attention. And the attending artists made sure we knew about other shows and exhibits that they felt we should visit while in the city.
The joke of the evening was that this must be the largest collection of people in one room, outside of the original magazine staff, that really did read Playboy for the art and the articles.
We used this unique forum to preview our upcoming Strut Pinot Noir label and to get feedback on our other tie-in wine label ideas. Tallying up the guests' collective resumes, this was by far the most illustration art, graphic design and comics "working artist" crowd we've ever "performed" for – especially when you realize that some of these guests' work is seen by literally billions.
A meeting at City Winery usurped our off-the-clock time, so except for lunch at Zocalo, a search for salted caramels for my wife and fancy cupcakes for the Griffin family, this New York City trip was all work. Thankfully, there were no travel issues to report.
Next stop: Tastings Wine Bar & Bistro in Foxboro, MA.
Normally, about 30 regulars attend their Tuesday Night Tastings series. For our Feb. 22 The Silence of the Corks "homecoming" event, we pulled in about 75 guests! And, as regularly happens at these Corked events, we received a request for another booking at a different venue.
Dave and I began the evening with our "we're 19 again" supper of mac and cheese and beer. Coworker Denise Kotopoulos arrived to help us, so I got to pour and pitch, she peddled and poured when needed, while Dave drew non-stop. We looked like the Manson clan behind the table in our matching Tough Dame t-shirts.
Extra cool-o-meter points: Feb. 22 was The Silence of the Lambs director Jonathan Demme's 67th birthday.
In keeping with the Hannibal Lechter-esque theme of the event, Tastings' manager Scott Shoer requested we bring "a nice Chianti" to pour before the actual Corked the comic tie-in wines. Winetasting.com’s Benedetta 2008 Chianti was delicious with executive chef Matt Maue's chicken liver pate and mashed fava bean on toast. This set the bar for Tastings' delicious small plate pairings that made our wines shine.
I brought my own bottle of San Valencia Old Vine Tawny for the hell of it. This way, the Corked tie-ins were framed on both ends by Winetasting.com house brands that I put in the bottle, and I had extra room in one of our boxes. I should have brought more. And the Tough Day Rescue Kit was the evening's surprise most-talked-about item.
We don't know which we appreciate more: the e-mails and Facebook posts from guests, or the ones bemoaning their inability to attend. Here's a smattering of both:
"Had a great evening at the Corked wine tasting in Foxboro with Francis Sanders and David Griffin. Caught up with some TTV and G&W friends, what a wonderful evening! I miss all my wine friends!" -- Lynn Martel
"Great night and can't wait for the next event!" -- Megh
"I wanted to come so badly! I ended up working late - next time!" -- Heather
"Hi Francis! I hope your tasting went well last night. I was aiming to be there all day but obstacles kept getting in the way! Let's just say it was a day for Tough Day Chardonnay! Talk to you soon!" -- Kelly
Finally, as an appropriate "thank you" to Tastings Wine Bar & Bistro for an excellent event, Dave drew caricatures of the entire staff.
Click here for an updated Corked the comic wine tasting schedule. Next stop: the MoCCA Festival Reception, April 9, in New York City.
The Corked the comic roadshow to San Francisco could not have started out better. We departed Boston's Logan Airport mere hours ahead of 14 inches of new snow that further pummeled an already-beleaguered region.
First glitch: No wine glasses, disposable or any other type, were among our supplies at the Donatello Hotel. No problem! Everything else we needed was already there (thanks Kenny!), we were 30-plus degrees warmer and didn't have to shovel snow!
We made the obligatory "we got here" visits to our three watching-the-East-Coast-weather hosts, delivering The Big Sip posters to Daryl Sparks at the Castro Theatre, checking in with Summerlea Kasher at the Cartoon Art Museum and buying our weekly new books from James Sime at Isotope. We shared a great Wednesday night meal with colleague and Corked supporter Ann Littlefield, Winetasting.com's director of merchandising, at RN74 for what we knew would be our only serious dining of the trip, as we were booked every night.
Thursday's first of many highlights came early. My wife Allison's 2:30 a.m. "It's officially a snow day – I get my personal day back" victory dance is now the stuff of legend. After answering our communiqués and putting out any fires, we scoured the city for bulk disposable wine glasses, cleaning out every place where we found them.
Now totally prepared, we proceeded to improve our friend Maria's cash flow at Kayo Books, to the tune of a vintage Bill Ward Humorama cartoon (original artwork being more addictive than crack) plus copies of The Paperback Fanatic for myself, while David improved his collection of vintage monster magazines and Ed Wood lore. And we got our Gott's (formerly Taylor's) fix.
Francis Sanders, Trina Robbins and David Griffin
The Cartoon Art Museum is a lovely venue for a wine tasting. Summerlea placed us in the spacious Graphic Details gallery, and behind us, in the Looney Tunes exhibit gallery, a generous spread of food. We enjoyed meeting artists featured in the Graphic Details exhibit, but suspect we overdid the stammering fanboy bit when Trina Robbins arrived. She did a pretty credible Lauren Bacall imitation after tasting our Tough Dame Cabernet.
We joked with partner Steve Leialoha that them coming to see us on his 59th birthday could be considered quite a let down, but made sure he had plenty of Tough Day Chardonnay in case he was thinking too hard about getting older. Our old friend vintner Philip Zorn and his better half, Petra, posed for caricatures. We admired curator Andrew Farago's beautiful Warner Brothers animation tome, and early visitor Chronicle cartoonist Mike Capozzola left a copy of his You're a Bad Man, Chubby Browne book for us with bookstore manager Heather Plunkett, to make sure we had a copy of his wine cartoon.
Our traditional post-Corked-tasting beer at the hotel bar proved fascinating ... like watching a train wreck ... as we observed a young guy from Sweden in town for Mac World attempt to pick up two street smart, far-too-much-woman-for-him middle-aged gals also in town for Mac World from DC, bumbling his "mutual jazz aficionado" approach. (Please note here that I managed to refrain from using our Tough Dame Cab tag line -- "too much for any man" -- but after viewing this scene, these ladies deserved some t-shirts!)
After an insanely long wait for Friday breakfast at Dottie's True Blue, we cleared our messages, extinguished the fires, then hit Rasputin for vinyl, CDs and DVDs, followed by a less-than-successful trip to Jeffrey's Toys. We proceeded to Hays Valley, picking up sandwiches for our supper-after-set-up at the Fatted Calf.
The Isotope tasting was one giant party. Proprietor James Sime -- aka "the guy in SF with the hair and the suit" -- is known and respected nationwide as a comics retail visionary. James was, along with late Bay Area cartoonist legend Phil Frank and our local New England Comics, among the first to embrace Corked the comic – one more debt that we owe. We actually got him to slow down just long enough for David to do his caricature.
Conversation with Smoke & Guns author Kirsten Baldock again proved to be time well spent. Old friend Sean McIntyre brought the family, eldest daughter Clodagh posed for a caricature and shot us with her web shooter ... she's clearly Sean's kid. We met multiple wine writers, including one bewitching college instructor representing the Purple Tongue Society. If I had teachers like her, I would have never cut class!
We had been warned that we were going to be received like rock stars, as the photos illustrate. James' team and DJ Bearzbub kept the crowd going all night. We used so many glasses, sell sheets and Corked booklets that emergency glass and printer runs became the a.m.'s first order of business. We tried to get our after-tasting beer at the hotel bar, but were scared off to another location by "Boogie Oogie Oogie". Meanwhile, Al had attended Noir City 9 while we worked both nights -- I don't believe she was quite mentally ready to embrace the concept of both her husbands as media stars -- and brought me back the DVD of Evelyn Keyes and Van Heflin in The Prowler, restored.
Saturday, e-mails, calls and new samples to taste were minimal. By any standards, our emergency print run was a good problem. Unfortunately, we had to buy plastic shot glasses for back up as we had raped and pillaged the city's supply of disposable stemware earlier in the week. Since Tough Dame Cab got us here, we felt shot glasses were more noir-appropriate than tumblers or old-fashioned glasses. To lessen our stress over the wine glasses, we made an Amoeba pilgrimage for vinyl, CDs and beaucoup DVDs.
Noir City, at the historic Castro Theatre, is the leading festival of its kind. For years, my wife and I debated attending as a vacation, but could never properly adjust our schedules. Since I had to work Noir City 9 this year, we finally got to attend.
Again, Corked the comic was treated like visiting royalty. Host Eddie Muller, our contact Daryl Sparks (she sat in her vintage mink for a caricature), theatre manager Richard Hildreth and the festival volunteers couldn't have been more gracious. An aside: Eddie and Richard are quite comics literate, and Daryl has wine production experience, so that team was perfect to work with us.
Our The Big Sip Posters were all over the theatre, and David prepared special caricature paper stock so that attendees could be drawn with the weekend's stars if they so desired: Ray Milland, Geraldine Fitzgerald, Ella Raines, Robert Mitchum and Jean Simmons.
Winetasting.com’s Ann Littlefield helped both nights. Thank you again, A.L.! Saturday was so busy that we had to conscript my wife into helping. Modifying Daryl's idea for driving guests to our stand, we had prepared vintage grindhouse-style The Big Sip handbills. Ann and Al, in the best Times Square porn theatre tradition, took turns passing them out along the line outside, directing patrons to our station on the mezzanine.
Robert Mitchum and Ella Raines
Old friend and Tough Dame vintner Shahin Shahabi came by and sat for a caricature. The festival and theatre volunteers did yeoman work making sure people got to us in an orderly line without a mob scene, and they enforced the concept of a tasting versus drinking.
We were also surprised by the amount of people grabbing our discarded-for-some-reason artwork from the trash. At first we thought we screwed up the recycling until we asked the Cinecityposters guy in the stand nearest us. He also sold David that elusive "A Hard Day's Night" lobby card, while I scored the noir volume of the BFI Film Classics at another stand. Ann joined us for our post-tasting drink, though she was in a single-malt mood, while we remained on the suds.
Sunday we hit Grooves for vinyl, Al's Comic Shop for missing Illustration magazine back issues and a hard-to-find copy of Power Girl #5 with David's page in it.
The final night of Noir City 9 was still quite busy, but not as intense as Saturday – no lines queued up outside. Sunday highlights included Ms. Noir City 2011, Angela Rocconi, staying at our stand when not needed on stage. While she had her caricature drawn, I tried to sell her on a Noir City 10 poster concept where this time she's the dead one on the floor, at the bloody hands of the new, younger (don't think she liked that) Ms. Noir City 2012.
We did catch one guy stealing a bottle of Tough Dame Cab (that we were pouring for free for two nights) after the first Sunday film. His mother must be very proud. At the end of the night, we were each given a cool Noir City 9 "Who's Crazy Now?" poster, signed by Eddie (the guy dead on the floor), Daryl, thanking us, and the Notorious Ang, holding that bloody fireplace poker.
Our only regrets were that we could not tie down a tasting at the San Francisco Art Exchange (original Vargas art) that fit into this trip, we missed going to the SFMOMA How Wine Became Modern exhibition, and we returned to even more snow.
There's never a dull moment when we put on a Corked the comic tasting event in New York City. On our previous visit, David Griffin and I were in a taxicab accident outside Central Park. This trip, a shoplifting bust disrupted our Friday afternoon call at Mid-Town Comics.
The trip to the city proved uneventful. Despite the weather, we had plenty of Amtrak station, conductor and RedCap help schlepping our samples, equipment and luggage right up to the taxi that took us to Posteritati Movie Posters. Then we checked in at our hotel -- Priority Club Rewards Members ... more on that later -- answered all of our necessary correspondence and got something to eat before we left to set up for our 6 p.m. dog and pony show.
Posteritati proprietor Sam Sarowitz, author of The Art of the Modern Movie Poster, and his staff filled the gallery walls with choice noir posters for "The Night of the Vintner"; I bought a scene card off the wall from John Huston's caper masterpiece The Asphalt Jungle. They also brought in delicious trays of Spanish cheeses, nuts, meats and local artisan bread, which helped our wines shine that much brighter. Obviously, in this setting, our 2009 Red Brick Cellars, Tough Dame Cabernet, was the belle of the ball.
Despite frigid temperatures, we had a great event. Sam's team knows how to throw a party! Guests were the hoped-for mix: film aficionados and professionals, entertainment industry executives, restaurateurs, wine buffs from consumers to beverage industry insiders, comics pros and fan boys, all of whom we introduced to Winetasting.com via Corked the comic tie-in wines. David made beaucoup new caricature friends, and we solicited opinions on the upcoming Strut Pinot Noir label, due to debut in episode 25.
We had previously just seen our first guest to arrive, Fred Cabral from Sony, on Taxivision in our cab, soliciting for Team Challenge Crohn's & Colitis Foundation of America!
Ellen Abromowitz from the Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art braved the weather with a small group, as she wanted to attend an event as a guest, in order to better understand how to slot Corked for her museum. Although she's an avowed California ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) drinker, she admitted to enjoying our 2009 Mira Luna, Tough Day Chardonnay. We creators love numbering the top comic and cartoon art museum directors on both coasts as fans of Corked the comic and our tie-in wines!
Trivia from the film folks: Catherine Deneuve drinks Corona with a lime – I would have pegged her for Krug Champagne. Robert Mitchum sucked all of the air out of every room he ever entered. Jack Nicholson still does so. Ben Stiller is nearly invisible in public when not on stage or in front of the camera.
Corked the Comic
Wine Trio (KIT360)
The following day we made our scheduled follow-up calls, spending the most time with Roger and (industry legend) Walt Reed at Illustration House, targeting a probable Valentine's Day weekend event to accompany their upcoming exhibition and sale of original Playboy cartoon art. I can see the flyer now... Chenin in bunny ears, Punt and the dogs in tuxes, Stelvin in a Hef-style robe ... research time with Vargas and Elvgren ...
Non-work notes: I was strong and did not buy the Reeds' Robert McGinnis “Brooks Wilson Ltd.” Fawcett Gold Medal paperback cover pre-lim to the original cover art I already own. But I did continue my comprehensive survey of local bakery black-and-white cookies through multiple tastings. Dave got his Beatles fix, helping out with the gallery's cash flow at Fab 4 Collectibles.
Our return trip to metro Boston proved to be right out of The Out-of-Towners. Apparently, Priority Club Rewards Members get electronically locked out of their hotel room precisely at 11 a.m. ... hate to see what happens to the non-Priority Club Rewards Members! I apologize once more to Dave for stopping to buy emergency khakis at JC Penny, burning some of our precious off-the-clock time because I'm a klutz on ice and snow.
Our return cabbie was unwilling to wait for us to haul our stuff out from Sam's shop before bringing us to Penn Station. As always, the RedCap help almost compensated for the Amtrak return train delays. Of course, we ended up across the aisle from the child from hell.
David and Francis on the way home from NYC ...
The train heat was not working correctly, but when the temperature is 7 degrees Fahrenheit outside, too hot is better than the alternative. The mantra for the trip became "don't flush the toilets", as the train's slower-than-normal travel was somehow linked by the engineer to the commodes. The Amtrak crew also had to cope with frozen train doors. Very little puts you on your best behavior as quickly as the sight of the conductor striding down the aisle with her sledge hammer at port arms.
Then our train made a 2 a.m. rescue stop outside of Kingston, Rhode Island, to pick up the passengers on the earlier, more expensive train that we did not take, which now sat broken down on the tracks ahead of us. My new seatmate from the deserted train proceeded to totally disable one of the car's bathrooms, somehow locking it behind her, now that the car had twice the normal passengers who all probably needed to use the formerly unflushable, now inaccessible facility.
The final insults were upon arrival: no working escalators and no live parking attendant. We were so late that the machine charged us an additional day's parking fee. We finally arrived home Saturday at 3:30 a.m., from a 7:30 p.m. Friday train, four hours tardy.
I hope our San Francisco tastings travel -- Cartoon Art Museum, Isotope the Comic Lounge and Noir City 9 -- proves to be less erratic.
Sauvignon Blanc the way it’s supposed to be! This Bordeaux blend delivers the finest price/value ratio anywhere in Sauvignon Blanc or in a SB-based blend. We located some acceptable less expensive wines, some better more expensive wines, but for beaucoup bang for your wine buck, this pushed all of the world's competitors off the table in innumerable blind tasting flights.
Napa Valley, Lake County, the Loire, Graves, Pessac-Leognan, New Zealand, South Africa, Chile, Northeast Italy ... it didn’t matter, this Entre-Deux-Mers from Bordeaux Blanc's value central outperformed them all. The family-owned Cheval Quancard brokerage house '08 white took the planet to school and taught it a winemaking lesson.
Sauvignon Blanc (70%) fruit from the Saint Vincent de Paul commune delivers structure and assertive herbal, grapefruit and pineapple flavors. Semillon (20%) tempers that assertiveness and lends creaminess to the blend. Muscadelle (10%) tweaks the wine's balance, weight and aromatics.
Vinification and ageing for six months in oak, two-thirds new, further concentrated the wine while providing a background of toast and wood to the floral herbal, grapefruit, pear and peach aromas and flavors. I plan on sipping this one with smoked salmon the entire holiday season.
This just-arrived award and review from the 2010 World Wine Championships independently confirms what I've written:
"Silver, Highly Recommended, Best Buy. Pale golden silver color. Bold fruity aromas of honeyed banana nut bread, dill hollandaise, and tropical fruit salad with a silky, dryish medium body and a buttery roasted whole nut, baked green apple and citrus finish. A very nice aperitif; serve with oysters Rockefeller."
I've been a fan of Pine Ridge going way back to when it was the Gary Andrus/Stacy Clark show. But until recently, I missed the boat on their Chardonnays. To me, the winery identity was affordable Chenin Blanc, which became affordable Chenin Blanc/Viognier, and those magnificent Cabernet Sauvignons, Merlot, Malbec and especially their sublime red Bordeaux blends.
Here to tell you precisely how far I originally missed the Dijon Clones Carneros Chardonnay mark by is some of the press on this sold-out-at-the-winery feature:
California Grapevine: "Medium-light golden yellow; attractive, floral, lemony, nectarine and tropical fruit aroma with notes of vanilla; medium-full to full body; plush, citrusy, peach and baked apple flavors with a slightly creamy mouth feel; well-balanced and structured; crisp finish; lingering aftertaste. Very highly recommended."
The Wine News: "Light pineapple aromas with hints of vanilla and apple butter. Ripe pineapple and apricot flavors with very fresh, crisp acidity. Dry, racy finish with a youthful citrus peel bite."
Wine Spectator: "Elegant and smooth-textured, with creamy lemon-citrus, ripe pear, mineral and light, hazelnut-shaded oak. Drink now."
Finally, Connoisseurs Guide: "Straightforward in its Chardonnay credentials of ripe apples tinged with the slightest hints of tropical fruits and taking on a veneer of creamy oak, this midsized bottling has a touch of oily smoothing to its texture before firming up in the latter palate. Clean, direct and wholly reliable."
Learn from my mistakes and get a few bottles while we've still got some to offer.
Fattoria La Torre 2006 Guinzano, Rosso, San Gimignano DOC, Italy
This is the Super Tuscan value of the 2010 holidays season, and the wine we use at home when feeding our inner guidos (while not feeling flush enough to open the devilishly delicious '05 Tenuta San Vito Madiere, Rosso Toscana IGT).
I know all of the category's more famous wines ... Sassacaia, Separello, Solaia, Tignanello, Ornellaia and the like; I put award-winning wines in the bottle for a living ... but when you taste the the entire category blind, side-by-side, skilled tasters like Ann, Peter van Hoof and myself score all the best wines on the table in the same elite point range, pedigree, insane price or no. The wines that score closest to the top and are at a fraction of the trophy wine prices are the smartest choices, unless over-paying is your thing.
Certainly the San Gimignano DOC augments the '06 La Torre Guinzano price/value ratio. The village is known for Vernaccia, a crisp, vibrant citrus and herbal white. The village red is the undervalued commodity, though the '06 La Guinzano is a textbook Super-T blend: 70% Sangiovese, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, already with some age on it.
It exhibits all the buzz words the food and wine press loves to type; international in style while remaining essentially Tuscan, that "seasoned" Sangiovese salty illusion, extracted berry fruit while less tannic than Cabernet Sauvignon, supported by vibrant acidity – it almost dances on the palate, Old World elegance…
The '06 La Torre works well with an encyclopedia's worth of foods and appeals to both the New World wine novice as well as the trophy wine buyer, in addition to the Old World sophisticate. And when compared with '06 Ornellaia, which I also like very much, it's about one-quarter the price.
The judges at the 2010 World Wine Championships concur:
"Gold, Exceptional. Deep garnet black color. Interesting aromas of wild strawberry compote, prune, licorice gum, and buttered spice cake with a supple, dry-yet-fruity medium-to-full body and a spicy toffee, cherry skin, incense, and earth finish. A complex beguiling wine; aerate well and serve with boar."
Have a happy, healthy and prosperous holidays season!
Holiday Food & Wine Pairing GuideNot sure which wines to serve with your holiday feast? Download a free PDF copy of our Holiday Food & Wine Pairing Guide!
Dave Griffin and I produce Corked the comic in the cracks of our schedules. It pokes fun at the California wine industry -- admittedly an easy target. I write and blend the medal-winning tie-in wines; Dave draws and designs the award-winning labels.
The most recent tie-in wine is the 2009 Red Brick Cellars, Tough Dame Cabernet, our classic film noir poster homage label. Dave's originals are in collections throughout the U.S., and a few in Europe ... more private collections than wine companies, but in some wineries.
Our earliest supporters were Isotope the Comic Lounge in San Francisco's Hays Valley, and metro Boston's New England Comics chain. The late Bay Area cartoonist legend Phil Frank (Farley) was a mentor. He arranged that we should occasionally use his characters from his old Wine Spectator strip, Chateau Dafitte, who were last seen in Corked episode 6.
We are now well into our busier-than-usual holiday season tastings schedule. Some are generated in anticipation of -- or perhaps in the procrastination of -- converting our online strip to a traditional comic book format with the help of our publisher.
Besides on Winetasting.com, which has been exceptionally supportive, we flog the strip and the wines through the comics convention circuit and via a very select group of like-minded friends and supporters. They display our wines in comics shops, galleries, vintage book and magazine shops, wine bars and restaurants. See below for a sample of our recent and near-future tasting events. Chicago is next ...
Metro Boston Area
New England Comics, Quincy; The Raven’s Nest, Walpole; Frame Center, Hanover, 1-4 p.m., Dec. 4; Tastings Wine Bar and Bistro, Patriot Place stadium complex, Foxboro, Feb. 22, time TBD.
New York City
Posteritati Movie Posters, The Art of Noir tie-in coordinated around the Film Noir Foundation’s Noir City 9 below, 6-8 p.m. Jan. 13 [date changed]; Illustration House, January 2011; Sony Dining Room, January 2011; Comic Book Legal Defense Fund; Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art; Society of Illustrators; American Illustrators Gallery.
Film Noir Foundation's Noir City 9, for us, the ultimate compliment, Jan. 29-30, 6:15 - 7 p.m., then at intermission, Castro Theatre; Isotope Comic Lounge, Jan. 28, 6:30-8:30 p.m.; Kayo Books, working around the Noir City schedule, but space is an issue; Cartoon Art Museum, Jan. 27, 7-9 p.m.
Essentially, we bring the Corked tasting room to each event. We pour our three tie-in wines (hopefully four by the time you read this, if the wine-in-bottle gods remain with me) and teach attendees briefly about each wine. Our trade-show-esque (my own word) display includes poster-sized Corked labels, plus samples of the wines and tie-ins available through Winetasting.com: T-shirts, aprons, the new Corked wine trio and the Tough Day Rescue Kit (coming soon!).
Takeaways for guests include notes on the wines and the kid-friendly episodes in a booklet. When practical, we bring laptops for guests to view Corked online. Dave draws caricatures at no charge for interested guests. The remaining original art may be viewed in a portfolio, if people are interested, which we do sell at these events, along with "mini posters" of the labels as events-only exclusives.
We are prepared to take orders for wine, wine sets and clothing at the event, but we try to drive customers to the Winetasting.com site unless we have additional staff available to help. We normally rope guests into taking photos and e-mailing them to us.
Usually guests find the strip funny, like the wines, endure the pitch and go home happy with their takeaways. We do get lots of fanboy requests on the comics convention/comics shop circuit for more T&A, though Dave knows his Elvgren and Vargas pretty well. We do get the usual few that we're forced to teach the difference between a tasting versus a drinking, and those that start to walk away with a bottle or a laptop. No dancing on tables -- though we can always hope -- and no brawls.
The most excitement we’ve had thus far was last Friday in New York. Flush from our successful Posteritati showing, we started to make our future New York City tastings appointments. Every event appears to generate more requests than we can honor, so we like to follow up each request with a visit to the potential new venue.
Working our way further uptown, right after confirming with the Society of Illustrators, our cab was hit by another -- me on the death side -- alongside Central Park East. We decided right there that there would be no more hustling Corked after the "incident en route appointment" until dinner that evening.
Mostly, we're gratified knowing people enjoy the strip and the tie-in wines, and that the wines and their labels continue to win awards. And finally, that we can now count some of the finest working writers, artists, illustrators and experts in both the wine and comics worlds among our fans.