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Wine Without Pretense: Relax, theres a tool for that
Champagne bottle wrench and stopper.

Wine Of The Month

The wine: Tower 15 "The Swell" 2010.

The grapes: 31 percent cabernet sauvignon, 28 percent malbec, 27 percent merlot, 14 percent petite verdot.

The source: Paso Robles region of California’s Central Coast.

The verdict: Here’s another Bordeaux-style blended red that just flat-out tastes great! It’s full of fruit flavors, soft tannins and the kind of siren appeal that whispers, "Pour another glass." I really enjoyed this well-made table wine with hand-crafted lamb-burgers. It’s truly a good food wine, with just enough backbone to shake hands with hearty fare … and not come out fighting with it. This is a purely California wine. Its name comes from the classic lifeguard tower and meeting spot of Pacific Palisades. You might want to throw a Beach Boys CD on the player while you sip this with a burger or two … or all by its lovely self.

The price: About $24.

My son-in-law and my oldest grandson drive me nuts (they argue that for me it’s a short walk). They must have the latest electronic gadgets — iPads, iPhones, iPods, Nooks, Kindles, smart phones, smarter phones ... stuff I’ve never heard of, and never will understand.

But winos, too, need gadgets. And, yes, some are closely linked to the electronic universe that surrounds us. There are wine apps, wine networks, online wine shops and thousands of Internet wine reviews — some good, some bad and some revolting.

Today, however, let’s take a look at some of the basic equipment a wine lover needs to have on hand.

First, you need to get into that bottle. Unless it comes with a screwtop you will require a corkscrew.

You can spend $50, $75 or more for the fancy rabbit-ear openers, or the electronic and battery-operated corkscrews. No thanks. I’ve used two rabbit ears and both broke — one, the first time it was used.

My choice? Check out the photo of the Screwpull and accompanying foil cutter. This is my new one, about six months old. But I have one that’s 10 years old and still is yanking corks with ease ... and I yank a lot of corks.

Here’s why the Screwpull is my first choice. The foil cutter lops off the top of the foil covering the cork like a hot knife through butter. See the four little circles? Those are sharp blades. You twist the foil cutter around the top of the bottle and, voila, the cork is exposed. The Screwpull body drapes itself over the neck of the bottle, allowing the screw to center itself on the cork. The screw is long, thin, sharp and Teflon coated. And unlike some new corkscrews, the Screwpull works as well on synthetic corks as on natural corks.

Have leftover wine? You can push the cork back in but there’s a hole in it and air can get into the bottle. The best way to keep leftover wine fresh is not only to ensure no additional air gets in, but to pull much of the existing air out. That’s where the vacuum pump comes in. The one I use is a two-piece contraption. Place the bottom piece over the neck, pop the pump on top of that and pull out the air. It will create a seal that will enable you to pick up the bottle by holding onto the bottom piece. But don’t push your luck.

For shorter term storage, look for the colorful little wine bottle stoppers from Rabbit. They’re food-grade rubber and stainless steel. They’re cute and handy.

One of the newer gadgets is the aerator. And I can tell you the few I have tried really do what they claim: Improve the flavor and aroma of even young wine by exposing the wine to more air as it’s being poured. The one shown, by Trudeau, plugs into the bottle and separates the wine being poured into three separate streams, thereby aerating that wine. I’ve done side by side tastings of the same wine aerated and unaerated. The difference is noticeable.

Like Champagne or sparkling wine? There are two gadgets you should have on hand. The first is the Champagne wrench, shown at bottom. Every so often you’ll run into a Champagne cork that feels cemented in place. The wrench’s two handles give you a better grip, and the teeth on the inside chomp into the cork, giving you more leverage. Remember, you don’t want to agitate a sparkler by shaking it around while you wrestle with the cork. That’s why the wrench is a handy tool.

Next, how do you keep leftover bubbly fresh for the next day? A Champagne stopper, of course. But since the wine inside constantly gives off carbon dioxide through the bubbles, you cannot just stick a cork in the bottle. It will pop out and there goes the freshness.

The stopper has a heavy spring inside to lock it onto the neck, and the two arms have tabs that lock under the ridges of the bottle neck. Push down, click into place and those joyful little bubbles will stay at home.

Now ... where do you find these gadgets? I always recommend starting with your local wine and spirits shop. Not there? Check the home/kitchen departments in larger stores. Specialty stores such as Williams-Sonoma generally have good selections. And if you can’t find them anywhere else, go online, which is where I found my Screwpull.

Randall Murray is a Gainesville-area resident. He can be contacted at His column appears on the first Wednesday of the month and on

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