Sunday, December 2, 2007

A Good Corkscrew

For a number of years, I used a waiter's corkscrew similar to the one pictured to the right to open my bottles of wine. It's a simple but very effective piece of engineering: you use the small knife to cut off the foil capsule, then twist the worm into the cork. Finally, you swing the funny-shaped piece of metal down onto the lip of the bottle and use the handle as a lever to pry the cork out. There are probably millions of such corkscrews in the world, but mine was special.

Back in 1997 or so, just as I was starting to get into wine for the first time, I bought a bottle of Kunde Estate Zinfandel (I think that it was from Sonoma County, but I'm really not sure). Not more than a few days after making the purchase, I happened to be flipping through the Houston Chronicle's weekly wine column; and I saw that lo and behold, the columnist happened to review the wine that I had bought. He did not like it. In fact, he hated it. I recall the words "tar" and "asphalt" being used. Well, I figured, I had already bought the bottle; there was nothing to do but to drink it. And so I did. And I thought that it was very good -- it tasted like fruit, not like a freshly-tarred road. This, of course, taught me something about wine reviewers, namely, that their reviews are only useful insofar as their palate and preferences match your own. In the case of Michael Lonsford of the Houston Chronicle, his palate and preferences were very different from mine, and so he wasn't of much use as a reviewer to me. This is not to say that I know more than he does or my palate is better than his. In fact, the reverse if probably true. But that doesn't matter. I can't use his reviews to predict whether I will like a wine, and so I have learned not even to try.

Anyway, after drinking and enjoying my bottle of Kunde Estate Zinfandel, I wrote a letter to the winery manager telling the story about the bad review and my good experience. She wrote me back a nice note thanking me for my words and including a waiter's corkscrew with the Kunde Estate logo embossed on the plastic handle. And that's where my waiter's corkscrew came from. I now mostly use an imitation Screwpull corkscrew because it's easy and it's perfect every time, but I still have and cherish my Kunde Estate waiter's corkscrew.

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