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California Winery Attempting to Improve the Image of the Screw- Top

Aired June 7, 2000 - 2:55 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Well, it's enough to make any self- respecting wine lover cringe. But that's not stopping one California winery from replacing the traditional cork on one of its premier vintages with -- dare we say it -- a screw-top.

Eww!

CNN's Rusty Dornin reports the controversial move is gaining few converts in California wine country.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): When it comes to fine dining and fine wine, there are some traditional sounds.

(SOUND OF CORK POPPING)

But how about a $135 bottle of wine that sounds like this.

(SOUND OF UNSCREWING BOTTLE)

The Plumpjack Winery in Napa Valley, California, wants to pour its premium cabernet from a bottle with a screw-top cap.

GAVIN NEWSOM, PLUMPJACK WINERY: Everybody has done screw-tops with inexpensive wines, the cheap 2.99 bottle of wine. That's what people equate.

So we decided to take our best one, the best wine we've ever produced.

DORNIN: Some wine experts argue the cork is needed to age wine properly, but bad corks can spoil wines. Philanthropist and Plumpjack co-owner Gordon Getty believes screw-tops make a better seal.

GORDON GETTY, PLUMPJACK WINERY: And there isn't really much of an argument in favor of the cork except that it's been around so long. And I said, well, if others are afraid to be first, I'm not.

DORNIN: Some agree and are applauding the move, but glad somebody else is providing a new twist.

(on camera): Would you like to see screw-caps on your wine? BOB MASYCZEK, BELEAU VINEYARDS: On the Beleau private reserve, it would take some talking to marketing to get that one across, but I would -- as a winemaker's standpoint, I would love to see it.

DORNIN (voice-over): Vintners fear the screw-top will cheapen their image.

ROBERT MONDAVI, WINEMAKER: To me I wouldn't do it, only for the simple reason he's more game than I am and I'm more conservative.

DORNIN: A conservative industry where change can sometimes be blasphemous.

(on camera): Fine wine is the focus of the Napa Valley Charity Wine Auction, where cases can go for upwards of $60,000. For some wine drinkers here, the screw-top's time has yet to come.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A screw-top -- doesn't sound like good wine to me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A screw-top just doesn't have the class.

DORNIN (voice-over): Plumpjack is betting it does. Screw-tops have been placed on half of the bottles and 300 cases of its '97 vintage, just enough to create controversy. But if it fails, they won't be pouring all their profits down the drain.

Rusty Dornin, CNN, Napa Valley, California.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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