Bartender Chat: Mike Kurth of Cork Soakers

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Six weeks ago, the owners of Lucky's Pub on St. Emanual opened Cork Soakers wine bar across the street from Lucky's. A wine bar opened by sports bar owners? Yeah, we were curious, too.

"The owners wanted to open a laid-back, unpretentious wine bar where people could come in wearing jeans and a T-shirt," Mike Kurth told us. Kurth is the manager of Cork Soakers and was wearing a baseball cap and jeans himself. "Don't worry if you don't know much about wine," he said. "I'll find you something you like."

So, where did Kurth learn so much about wine? "I took the Wine Appreciation class at the Hilton School," he told us. "In the '80s when I took the class, wine was still very intimidating. But my professor, Kevin Simon, taught us that wine should be fun." From that point on, Kurth was hooked. He wanted to learn all he could about wine, which he did by reading wine books and working in restaurants. "Anyone who says they know everything about wine is lying," Kurth laughed. "You can always learn more." His favorite wine bible is Hugh Johnson's The World Atlas of Wine.

Kurth's favorite wines are big, bold, hit-you-in-the-face Cabs from Napa Valley. But the night we visited, he recommended the Gary Farrell Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2007. It had a nice spicy aroma, but the flavor was smooth and fruity. We liked it so much, we took a bottle home with us. That's the great thing about Cork Soakers. It's a retail shop as well as a wine bar. And the majority of the wine list is available by the glass.

We can see why this place has become a local hot spot. It's cozy and inviting, with a great wine list. Soon they'll also open Epicurean Express, a small specialty grocery store, next door. How can they go wrong?

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