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Where faithful readers raise their voices

This quarterly column lets you say your piece. Your letters are fantastic, with insight, helpful tips and some ass-kicking. It's OK -- it doesn't hurt -- keep it coming. E-mail

Wallowing in Washington

Tony in Jacksonville writes: "Thank you [for the column on Washington wines, Feb. 16, 2006]. Finally, someone has brought the obvious to light. Now, if only we could get the retailers to see the light. I live in Jacksonville, Fla., and the only Washington wines you see are Columbia Crest and Chateau St. Michelle. What gives? Wines like the Dunham Cellars you mentioned and Leonetti Cellars are as good if not better than the top Napa Cabernets -- at less than half the cost. At the lower end of the scale (price-wise), you have wineries like Sagelands, Powers, Arbor Crest, Kestrel, Kiona, Maryhill and Novelty Hill ... who are all making excellent wines from Washington."

I am seeing some movement in retailers carrying Washington wines. Hold tight -- Florida has the second-largest wine consumption rate in the country, so maybe someone will hear you.

Airline Wine Woes

Barry declares: "Certainly AirTran's wines are pretty ordinary, but Northwest's Stone Cellars is really not a 'great' wine, but maybe a 'good' or 'better than most being served.' It is a Beringer 'budget'-level product that sells for around $6 in the usual-size bottle."

'Tis true, Barry, and perhaps my choice of adjectives for Stone Cellars should be called into question. Well done.

Sacking Sake

Roy from Atlanta bemoans: "Thank you for at least trying to raise the appreciation for sake in your recent article [March 23, 2006], but the "Feel the burn; sake is not for the faint of heart" headline that was the lead-in to this article foreshadowed the disappointing result which followed.

"I do not fault you heavily, as there are no real opportunities to taste quality sake in Atlanta, and it is unavoidable that sampling the local choices will lead a person to the conclusions you make.

"I lived in Japan for several years and had the opportunity to taste a wide variety of sake and understand it for what it truly is. Sake in its higher forms is akin to quality vodka, with a slight yet distinctive taste that is an amazing complement to the rice-heavy menu of the Japanese diet.

"I have yet to find a liquor store in Atlanta that carries any quality sake. The prices indicated in your recommended sakes speak to this problem.

"Do you know of any quality spirit that can be obtained for $28 to $35? ... I am not saying that only expensive sake is good, but because the variety is so limited, you can be confident in the assumption that the sake being imported is the 'king of sake,' just as Budweiser is the 'king of beer[s].'

"Sake is a drink that is not being enjoyed to its fullest here because it has not been recognized as profitable by the marketing forces of companies that can bring it efficiently within our reach. It is a maligned drink because the average American's experience with sake is akin to their experience with tequila. Slam it down, pinch your nose, and hope you get laid before you pass out. Maybe you'll even remember the experience, but in the end, even if you don't remember the girl, you will probably blame any bad experience on the drink."

Recommended Wine

Spellbound 2002 Petite Syrah (California). SW = 2. $15. Sultry yet fun with bright cherry, flowers and ripe fruit that dances all over the mouth. Definitely has some stereotypical petite Syrah beefiness to it, but the tannins are tame. A fantastic everyday drinking wine. 4 stars

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