That's what I was caught saying while waiting in line at the Beer Store today, eyeing two cases' worth of empty wine bottles. The clerk must have thought I was nuts. "Don't ask," I replied with a shrug.
Let's rewind a bit. After yet another catastrophic incident with my corkscrew (this time, the cork split, half of it stuck in the bottle, the rest crumbled indelicately all over the table and in the glass) I decided I really needed to practice more. Without getting copiously drunk. So I needed dummy bottles.
My first stop of the morning: Corks Winery. This small DIY winemaking enterprise was the brainchild of Bill Milonow and Chris Davis 14 years ago. It has since grown into a successful franchise throughout Ontario. I remembered it from the coupon books that show up in our mailbox from time to time; it seemed like the perfect place to find everything I needed for service exam drills.
I moseyed in and chirped, "I'm a sommelier student" right off the bat, so as to avoid any sort of weird "huh?" response that would come when I asked for wine supplies without wanting any actual wine to go with it. I needn't have worried. Bill barely batted an eyelash as he pulled up a Ziploc of corks and a sleeve of foil wraps for me. He admitted that this was the first time he'd ever fielded a request from a wine student, and generously offered to do all the corking and wrapping for me. What a guy!
"How many bottles have you got?" he asked.
Oh yeah, BOTTLES. Kinda need those. My collection of empties in the garage had recently been cleared out; I was down to one lonely bottle. We both came up with the same solution: hit the Beer Store.
So fast forward again to me in the Returns line. The woman with the caseloads of dead soldiers helped me trade out the screwtops and PET containers for the standard bottles, peeling off the stray bit of label here and there and apologizing that they weren't washed. All of this is done before a bemused audience of Labatt and Laker-toting gents who probably think I'm going about this drinking thing all wrong: they're better FULL, sweetheart.
But my benefactor was keen on hearing more about the program, and we ended up chatting out in the parking lot. "Wow, you get to introduce people to all sorts of great wines!" she exclaimed, and wished me luck on the exam. (There you go, folks - random acts of kindness, alive and well in the nation's capital.)
My two cases in hand, I drove back to Corks, where Bill and I set up an assembly line, me at the sink filling bottles with water, him manning the corker and hot iron to fasten the foils. We had a hilarious commentary going on, describing the "wine" as clear, colourless, quite refreshing but lacking any serious depth, clean and crisp on the palate, and so on. In no time flat, I had my test subjects packed to go, all for the cost of just the corks and foils. Bill waved away my offer to pay for his services. "Glad I could help. Next time, come back and we'll fill some of those bottles up with wine!"