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Friday Slide Show: Wine Corks Share This on LinkedIn   Tweet This   Forward This

25 August 2023

Back in the days when our olfactory sense was sensitive to the pleasures of the world, we much enjoyed taking a sniff of the bottom of the cork from a freshly opened bottle of wine.

It reminded us of our youthful summers on Curtis Street in Albany, Calif., where downstairs in the basement Grandpa had installed a few wine barrels to age the grapes crushed in the huge Tina in the next room. It was the same smell.

Grandpa made wine because that's what he and his friends had always done. Prohibition made it a necessity but he wasn't going to buy whatever the forerunner of Charles Shaw was at the time.

Every year, he and Pasqual and Luigi would drive up to Napa and buy a truckload of grapes. They'd dump them in the Tina and Dad (as a boy) and anyone else with legs would jump in and crush the grapes. It would quickly go to their heads, Dad used to remember.

The resulting juice would be stored in wooden barrels in the small, dark, adjacent room. We seem to recall three of them. There was no doubt some provision for grappa as well.

And then the wait would begin, interrupted only by tastings to see how the wine was maturing. Grandpa didn't believe much in forecasting the bottling. It was ready only when it was ready.

Nobody in the family makes wine any more, although we do have a cousin who's used his genes to make beer.

But, as the slide show indicates, that doesn't stop us from drinking it.

And the other night, playing with the cork as we have a tendency to do, we stopped to look at it more carefully. We discovered it was actually a small work of art itself.

We wondered if there were other exemplars of the art in our big pitcher of old corks, which we refer to as a clock because we empty it only when a certain nephew visits. So we took a look at years and years of corks (time for a visit, buddy) and found a few worth photographing.

We have been reviewing a Joby lighting kit intended for video but we thought it would be perfect for this sort of thing. And, indeed, it was. We locked the Olympus E-PL1 with 14-42mm II R kit lens and a Lensbaby macro converter on the front to a tripod, aimed the diffused key light on our black background with corks and took a few shots before midnight.

We made the mistake of leaving the camera on Aperture Priority so the exposure varied depending on the cork arrangement. The next night we reshot the job using a Manual setting and liked the results even better.

Both nights were informed by a bottle of wine and the smell of Albany in the 1950s.

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