Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Things That Go Bump ... at the Irish Lion Pub & Restaurant

Haunted Establishments with “Spirits” Series

The Irish Lion - Bloomington, Indiana

The wind is rising, the leaves are changing, and it’s time for our annual trek to some haunted restaurants and libation locations around the country. To kick things off, here’s an Irish pub with a bit more than the usual spirits you’d expect to find at the bar …

The Irish Lion
This cool little restaurant and pub is located in Bloomington, Indiana. The Irish Lion has been in operation since 1982 serving authentic Irish pub grub like stews, steaks and mutton pies for over 30 years. The bar features over 100 whiskeys, over 130 Single Malt Scotches and a stunning array of Irish and European imports on draft.

Woorley Tavern
The building began as the Woorley Tavern and Hotel Bundy European in 1882. The vintage bar was crafted during the Civil War era. Upstairs was  a brothel and the hotel advertised that “companions” were available to spend the night with customers.  The building has been restored with cast iron columns, stained glass and an original mahogany Brunswick back bar - the same one featured in the opening of the TV show "Cheers." 

Inside the Tavern
The tavern and hotel began operation in 1882 and continued until well into the 20th century, but in 1920 Prohibition began and the tavern closed. The Great Depression brought an end to the hotel and during the 1930's some dark and tragic events happened on this site.

Empty and Forlorn
From 1935 to 1957, the building was used for a multitude of purposes. After Prohibition the building was once again used as a tavern and also as a billiard hall. Several people died here during this time but records are sketchy as to who they were and the causes of death.

 In 1979, the McConnaugh family purchased the building and set about restoring it to its 19th century glory before opening it as the Irish Lion Restaurant and Pub in 1982.

Bar  Area

Employees and customers have witnessed strange occurrences in the building, both in the downstairs pub area and upstairs in the banquet room. Former employees tell of liquor bottle flying through the air at the bar, sometime aimed at a specific person. Other times wine and beer glasses shatter on the shelves for no apparent reason. Employees clean up the restaurant and bar after closing only to open in the morning and find that the bar area had been ransacked and was in total shambles. There had not been a break-in; nothing was missing, just destruction of liquor bottles and glassware.

Banquet Room
Customers have reported feeling a presence upstairs in the banquet room, which was once a bordello. It appears that some of the girls have decided to linger … Customers have inquired about the large party going on upstairs when the banquet room has been cleaned and closed for the evening. When someone checks, there is no one to be found and the second floor is dark. 

 To appease the pub spirits, bartenders usually leave a shot of whiskey at the end of the bar.  Apparently this keeps the spirits happy as there have been few incidents reported in recent years.

If you’d like to experience some excellent Irish food, a host of Irish beers on draft, and the ambience of spirits of the past, check out the Irish Lion, located at 212 West Kirkwood Avenue in Bloomington, Indiana. The pub is open daily from 11 a.m. to “late night.”
For more information visit The Irish Lion.

Indiana University
And while you’re in Bloomington, check out a few of the other haunted venues for a spook-tacular visit to the Hoosier state:

That old college “spirit” is thriving at Indiana University where several students and at least four faculty members are said to roam the buildings and grounds.

Stepp Cemetery

The Stepp Cemetery, in the Morgan-Monroe State Forest, is also rumored to be haunted, some say it is one of the most haunted places in south-central Indiana.

 Maybe some spirited guides have contributed to Bloomington's slogan: "Come. Stay. Replay."

~ Joy

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Imbibing to Music

(A short sabbatical is in order - So, for the next few weeks, we'll take a look back at some older posts: This one is from 2012 about the affects of music on wine drinking.)

Music is said to have charms to sooth a savage breast, but did you know it could also influence what wine you buy?  And, it can also affect how that wine tastes to you, depending on what type of music is playing.

Numerous studies in the past twenty years have indicated that music and wine are closely linked, and that music can heavily influence a person’s decision about which wine to buy.  Wine, it seems, echoes our surroundings and our feelings.  This may be part of the reason that professional wine judging events are held in silence; to give the judges a chance to “hear” the wine and interact with it.

A study on the type of music played in grocery stores and how that influenced  what wines were purchased was administered by Adrian North and colleagues in 1997 at Leicester University.  Nearly 80% of shoppers in the study purchased the type of wine that corresponded to the kind of music playing in the background; When French accordion music was playing, 77% of wines purchased were French.   When traditional German music (Oomph music) was heard, 73% of the wine sold was German. But when 44 of the store customers were asked if they believed the music had affected their choice, only one person said yes.

The results of this study suggested that you would be 3 to 4 times more likely to purchase a wine that matched the music playing in the store as a wine that did not match it.

Stores and restaurants have known for quite some time that playing classical music will influence shoppers to purchase more expensive wines, and to spend longer in their establishments, thereby purchasing more wines and food.

The pace of the music can also influence how quickly and how much you drink.  Reports have shown that when faster, upbeat music is played, restaurant and bar patrons drink more alcohol, wine and beer.  But when slow, mournful music is heard, drinking slows, sales decrease, and the restaurant or bar gets (depressingly)quiet.

The rationale for this music-wine connection says that playing happy music with a happy wine, (Chardonnay or Muscato) will open it up more, making it more enjoyable. Chardonnay may be perceived as being confident and fresh when paired with pop music. 

A darker, moodier wine (think Cabernet or Syrah,) paired with low, brooding music will make both seem darker and morose.

Simply put, music can change our perception of the taste of the wine.  If the music and the wine have the same basic feel or values, they will pair well together and compliment each other’s vibe.

That means  music may help the wine seem even smoother or fruitier when paired with certain songs.  If paired poorly, the wine may test harsh or astringent.

Clark Smith, winemaker at Diamond Ridge Vineyards, has been testing these theories and drawing some interesting conclusions. According to Smith, “Red wines need either minor key or they need music that has negative emotion. They don't like happy music. With expensive reds, don't play music that makes you giggle. Pinots like sexy music. Cabernets like angry music. It's very hard to find a piece of music that's good for both Pinot and Cabernet.” “Red wines need either minor key or they need music that has negative emotion. They don't like happy music. With expensive reds, don't play music that makes you giggle. Pinots like sexy music. Cabernets like angry music. It's very hard to find a piece of music that's good for both Pinot and Cabernet.”

Adrian North (of the grocery–music study mentioned above) has also done a scientific study into the  wine-music correlation at of Heriot Watt University in England.   His latest research shows that background music influenced the taste of the wine by up to 60%.  Of 250 students studied, the results showed that the music did effect the drinker’s perception of the wine on a consistent basis.  Again, Cabernet lends its self to moody, heavy “powerful and heavy” music and a Chard responds better to “zingy and refreshing” songs.

North’s study offers four types of music, a song suggestion and the wine to pair it with.  Here are just a few examples:

Wine                           Type of Music             Song & Artist                          
Cabernet                  Powerful & Heavy     Won’t Get Fooled Again-Who
Syrah                       Subtle & Refined         Canon –Pachelbel                 
Merlot                      Mellow & Soft           Over the Rainbow – Eva Cassidy        

Chardonnay             Zingy & Refreshing         Atomic – Blondie

Want to try it yourself? Clark Smith offers a one-hour recorded seminar called Mysterious Resonances. “By utilizing brain scan technologies that enhance our understanding of music, Smith demonstrates how harmony in wine and music are linked”. The cost is $9.99  and the seminar is available at

The wine-music connection is intriguing.  It may someday encourage winemakers to recommend music selections on their wine labels to pair with their wines - A sort of balance in harmony.  Wine and music, just another way to enjoy!

~ Joy

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

To Cork or Not To Cork ...

(A short sabbatical is in order - So, for the next few weeks, we'll take a look back at some older posts: This one is from 2012 about wine closures.)


The purpose of a wine closure is to keep the wine in and the air out.  When a winemaker decides on a closure s/he considers many elements including, regulations, tradition, style of the wine, cost, and consumer perception.  Cork has been the favorite wine closure for hundreds of years, but other options exist and studies have been conducted throughout the world, trying to pinpoint the one that is best.

Here are just a few options with their benefits and their peccadillo’s.

Corks have been used to seal wine since the seventeenth century when Champagne maker, Dom Perignon used them.  Cork is a natural, flexible material that seals well and lends an air of tradition and sophistication to a bottle of wine.  But due to the extensive demand for cork, another viable closure would help to easy the demand on the cork oak tree.

While cork has been an easy closure to work with and does a relative fine job of sealing wine, there are some problems.  The main one is cork taint.  This happens when TCA (2,4,6-trichloroanisole) contaminates the cork.  The result is a mold that grows on the bottom of the cork and leaches out into the bottled wine. Cork taint gives a musty smell, and a ‘wet-dog’ or moldy taste to the wine.  This is referred to as a “corked” bottle. Research indicates that between 5 to 10% of all bottled wines spoil due to cork taint.

A major advantage of the cork closure is that it is porous and lets some oxygen interact with the wine.  This allows for better aging by letting the wine develop secondary characteristics like new aromas and flavors. This is especially desired with reds that are to be cellared for years.

Cork is also seen as the ‘greener’ solution for wine closures since it is biodegradable.  And, let’s face it, there’s romance, tradition, and a bit of drama all wrapped up in the presentation and sniff of the cork, as well as that resounding ‘pop’ when a bottle is opened!

Synthetic Cork
Synthetic corks are made from high-grade polymer plastics.  While it is a suitable alternative for natural cork for the short term, synthetic cork has not fared well in keeping oxygen out for longer periods of time.  Since it does not retain its seal over the years, it is suggested synthetic corks be used on wines that will be consumed within five years of bottling.

Synthetic corks are used in less than 10% of all commercially bottled wines in the world.  In Italy, synthetic corks are used mainly for white wines.  Natural corks are used for red wines and the more paramount wines that require aging.

Overall, consumers have grudgingly accepted them.  While they do not crumble or break apart in the bottle, synthetic corks do not provide any clues about the wine such as freshness or aroma.  They do, however, provide the required “pop’ when pulled!

Screw Cap
Screw caps, made from aluminum, were developed in the late 1960’s and used commercially in the 70’s. Most U.S. consumers equate them with cheap wines and find screw caps to be unacceptable.  But in other parts of the world, screw caps are slowing gaining in popularity, thanks in part to New Zealand and Australia.

At the beginning of 2000, winemakers from Australia and New Zealand decided to end their problems with cork taint by using screw caps on their wines.  In 2001, 1% of New Zealand wineries were using screw caps.  By 2004 it had risen to 70%.  Australia followed suit and now the majority of non-sparkling wines in Australia use screw caps.  Even the United Kingdom is learning to embrace them.  In 2003, 41% of consumers viewed a screw cap wine as acceptable; that number is up to 85% as of 2011. (Just over 10% of Americans find a screw cap to be acceptable on wine.)

Some advantages to screw caps include easy of use and no tools required. Other countries (Spain, Italy and France) are also reconsidering the screw cap for wines that are to be consumed while young.  A screw cap also helps a wine retain its fruitiness, freshness, and aroma. For wines that are to be consumed within 3 to 5 years, screw caps are fine.

But for wines that are to be aged, screw caps are not the answer. Since they do not allow any air into the wine, which aging reds need, that can reduce certain sought-after qualities. And, that ritual “pop” of the cork is missing.

There are two other alternative wine closures that are being used in the market.

The glass/plastic closure is known as Vino-Seal or Vino-Lok.  The stopper has an inert o-ring that creates an airtight seal, thus preventing oxygen from getting to the wine.

The glass closure was introduced into the European market in 2003 and has been used by over 300 wineries.  While easy to use and attractive, there are some drawbacks for use in the U.S.

Unfortunately, compatible bottling equipment is only found in Europe, so to use it in the U.S. would require hand bottling, or a major investment in new bottling equipment and shipping it over here.  Also, one topper cost 70¢ - a tremendous expense compared to other closures.

Zork is the newest wine closure on the field.  Launched in 2010 in Australia and New Zealand, the closure is made from 100% recyclable food-grade polymers.  The closure is similar to a screw cap expect that it “pops” when opened. 

To open, you pull the tear tab at the bottom and unwind to the T-top.  Once opened, the closure becomes the T-top with its reusable cork.


New research, the “Bottle Aging – Closure and Variability Study,” is now being conducted by the University of California, Davis, in partnership with the PlumpJack Group.  The study, which was announced in June, will compare the effectiveness of natural cork, synthetic cork, and screw caps on keeping a wine at its utmost quality. 

Two hundred bottles of Cade Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, crafted by a winery owned by the PlumpJack Group, will be used in the study. The study will establish what the range of differences is for each closure. Findings are expected to be published at the end of 2013.

In Conclusion
For alternative wine closures to really catch on, they will have to first gain the trust of winemakers and producers.  These are the people who know and understand wine science, and want to use the best closure available for each of their wines.  That may mean that a winery or producer might use two or three closures; each wine topped with the best closure suited for it.

Considering that most wines bottled today are meant to be consumed within three to five years, screw caps may make sense to many wineries and producers, especially those targeting a younger wine drinking crowd who are more versatile and more accepting of change.

Then there are those of us who love the tradition, the romance, and that exciting sound when you pull out the cork – the “pop” that just says “Relax and Enjoy!”

~ Joy