Family finds fair uncorks much fun

Sunday, September 14, 2003

It's sure to leave a bad taste in the mouths of many wine lovers.

But California wine maker Randall Grahm believes metal screw caps are better than corks. He's converting his entire production line to prove his point.

Grahm believes corks have outlived their usefulness and wine drinkers need to face up to it without getting bogged down in sentiment.

"We like the sound of the cork, we like the ritual," he says. "We have to get over it. It's like the Mass is no longer sung in Latin. Get over it," he tells the MSNBC network.

Personally, I don't want to get over it.

I like uncorking wine. It makes you feel that it's a quality wine even when you only spent $7 on a bottle at your local supermarket.

Sammy Sosa probably feels the same way, at least when it comes to practice bats.

But outside of baseball, cork is a good thing.

It gave the SEMO District Fair staff something to do during the wine competition last week.

This marked the first year for wine competition at the SEMO District Fair.

As an intrepid journalist, I got the job of covering the competition.

I never envisioned it would take five hours for three judges to taste 83 bottles of wine.

This isn't a spectator sport. Watching judges smell, swish and swirl glasses of wine makes you want to send out for pasta.

It's not like watching a fine dinner party. There's a whole lot of spitting that takes place since the judges don't want to consume large quantities of alcohol.

As a result, it's a little bit like watching professional baseball players during a pitching change except that it lasts longer.

Fair staff members repeatedly stuffed corks back into the colorful bottles after they were judged.

All those opened bottles reminded me of all the Diet Coke and Sprite cans that Becca and Bailey open but fail to drink up.

My daughters seem to forget all about the cans once they've opened them. From time to time I've tried to salvage the drinks, placing the cans in the refrigerator overnight.

But Becca and Bailey don't like the carbonated beverages after they've been left open in the fridge.

Perhaps I should try to cork the cans. Maybe the flavor would last longer and I could avoid the nightly drink dumping in my kitchen.

Fair officials say the wine competition was a sweet success.

Maybe so. But Becca and Bailey didn't care about the wine. It's the rides that got most of their attention and most of our money.

They also liked the fair food and getting their picture taken with a baby tiger. There's also a monkey at the fair. For a quarter, the monkey tips his hat.

The fair is full of attractions. But perhaps the biggest attraction of all is the people.

For 148 years, it's been an excuse to start a conversation and have some simple fun.

Sure it costs more now than in the old days when antique tractors weren't antiques.

But everything costs more.

The trick for most parents is to come away from the fair without having mortgaged the farm.

To those who find fault with the fair, I have some advice: Put a cork in it.

Mark Bliss is a staff writer for the Southeast Missourian.

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