Among my many hobbies two prominent ones are cycling and wine. It occurred to me recently that the most irritating recurrent nuisance in each have the same psycological effects on me: in cycling it’s flats, in wine corked bottles. These appear seemingly out of nowhwere when you least expect it, and they impose a sudden, obligatory stop to your momentum. My first impulse is always, “shiit!”, before I begin readjusting.

With flats you have to delay your ride, and sometimes that of your mates, to change the tire, a slow and cumbersome process for me. Sometimes the whole ride gets scuttled if it is not a simple flat; I have had occasions when I’ve called a taxi, loaded up the bike and terminated the ride, pending a visit to my favorite bike shop to fix the deeper problem that caused the irreperable problem. With corked wine, if it’s in a restaurant, the “oh, shit” experience belongs to the waiter or sommelier; no sweat off my back. But if it’s a tasting with many friends involving many bottles (the most common setting in which I encounter this), the exclamation is definitely mine, usually after a fellow taster has made a face, spit the wine and said, “corked”. My first reaction is disbelief, “no it can’t be”, then I have to adjust to the minor sadness of the moment, “a crying shame”, wondering how good it would have been were it not defective. I usually get words of consolation from my friends as if the defect was mine.

I had two bikerides out of hell where I experienced not one but three flats. And they were not ordinary ones; they were big, “bammm!” blowouts. The most recent one occurred on the bottom of Potrero Hill in San Franciso; I walked my bike up several blocks of steep hills, loaded it into my car, and had the thing repaired. I resumed the ride only to experience blowouts again, twice, also at the bottom of the hill. My big excercise that day was walking the bike up the hill three times in a row. The second was worse. Repeated blowouts in Sausalito that stranded me several times in isolated spots and forced me to buy an entirely new wheel in the midst of the ride, which I eventually abandoned.

Fortunately I have not had multiple corked openings in the same sitting. But I did get suckered into buying a bunch of 1993 BV George De Latour Cabarnet, on sale at K & L last year for around $ 35 each. So far every bottle I opened, and they were all for our Friday night blind tasting group, have been corked. I had read accounts that the entire BV winery was contaminated with TCA, and I chose to ignore this, enticed by the price of the wine. The end result has not been much different than the multiple blow-outs: frustration and anger. I still have a few more bottles. Maybe I will give them away as Christmas gifts, along with some inedible fruitcakes that seem to also be a seasonal tradition. To people I don’t know that well, naturally.

I suppose if you want to enjoy roses you have to put up with the thorns. But they are still irritating. I don’t know which I hate worse, flats or corked wines. I’ll let you all know if a future episode allows me to decide.

M. Senegor