Have you ever heard of the steam powered corkscrew?
Chances are you haven’t – which isn’t strange. Why?
Because there is only one in the world, located in the Corkscrew Inn B&B in Vancouver. Invented by business owner and Air Force veteran Wayne Meadows the steam powered machine took years to build and can now be admired by visitors to the corkscrew museum located in the B&B.
The Vancouver bed-and-breakfast comes with everything you would imagine a corkscrew themed guest house would have, from stained glass featuring historic corkscrews to walls decorated with wine openers you’ll see nowhere else but in Wayne’s location.
For those who prefer to read you will find the full interview below.
Interviewer: For our listeners would you maybe tell us a little bit about yourselves. You just told me before we got started that you made wine, but what is your background and what started your fascination with corkscrews?
Interviewee: I was born out on the prairies in Saskatchewan on a farm, and then I got into electronics and the Air Force and then I got into computers back when computers were first being transistorised. So I’ve been around a long time and then I got into encryption and then satellite. And so I had offices I set up in India, China, Singapore, England United States. So I traveled a lot.
Interviewer: Yes, something very different than what you’re doing now, isn’t it?
Interviewee: Yeah, now I’m in theory retired.
Interviewer: Right, in theory. So I can imagine that you’re still staying busy. Is that right?
Interviewee: Oh, yeah.
Interviewer: Yeah, and how did the idea of starting a corkscrew theme bed and breakfast, how did that start, where did that come from?
Interviewee: Wow. I went to buy a loaf of bread and I walked off the street and there was this tumbledown house three doors from my house and I thought, well I’m going to retire in six months, I should buy that and do a project to fix it up. Anyway, I came home told my wife and she said don’t tell me your problems. And anyway turned out that they was all rental and it was too much of a mess to fix. It needed to be gutted and restored. But I didn’t want to do that because renters would just wreck it. Then I went with friends up to the wine country and stayed in a B&B and I thought I
could build a B&B. Then I thought but I’m not going to run a B&B. So that was the end of that.
But when I bought the house here, I had a woman living upstairs that lived there for 10 years or something and she sold food to restaurants, hotels and what have you. And she was grumbling about her job one day and I said “Well, how would you like to move up the street and run a B&B” and she said, “Oh, that sounds interesting.” So I said, okay, we’ll build a B&B.
Then naturally we eventually started thinking about what are we going to call it. And it couldn’t be by the way or something. It had to be some word that people would stop and go, what’s that. Eventually after about a year we thought hey, how about the Corkscrew Inn. I got lots of corkscrews.
Interviewer: How many corkscrews do you have?
Interviewee: I tell everybody the same thing; 3,000 plus or minus a thousand.
Interviewer: That’s a big margin but that should give me a little bit of an idea of how many you actually have. And then what types of guest do you normally get at the Corkscrew Inn? Are corkscrew aficionados from around the world, are they visiting you or what type of guests do you get?
Interviewee: No, mostly guests don’t care about corkscrews.
Interviewee: But we have a corkscrew collecting Club called the CCCC, which is Canadian Corkscrew Collecting Club. So we’ve had three meetings here in Vancouver. The meetings they are somewhere in the world every year.
Interviewer: They are in England this year, aren’t they? Will you be visiting because we will be at that meeting and we could have a glass of wine.
Interviewee: Oh, yeah sure. We always go.
Interviewer: Well, then you’ll be able to meet us because we’re been invited so that’s a great opportunity for us to get to know each other a little bit better, I think. That’s great.
Interviewee: Okay. Well the people running it said there were some surprise guests. So I think you must be a surprise guest.
Interviewer: I’m sorry I spoiled that for you then.
Interviewee: Doesn’t matter.
Interviewer: That’s good to know. And more about corkscrews, which type of corkscrew do you use yourself because you have 3,000 give or take 1,000. Do you have a favorite? Which type of course should you use?
Interviewee: Well, I’m pretty weird. I’m a winemaker and good corks are very expensive and there’s a problem with tainted corks, so I reuse the corks because if it’s a good one it’s a good one forever. And that means I don’t want to punch a hole in them and therefore I used in [inaudible 0:4:46].
Interviewer: All right, so you don’t have–well then, your favorite for different reasons, but do you find that some corkscrews are much easier to handle or do you think the modern corkscrews they don’t stack up to the older ones or…
Interviewee: I think that probably the most useful modern one is the scruple.
Interviewee: Particularly good if you’re opening a thirty-year-old port or something because the corks are always just about gone.
Interviewer: Yes, very crumbly.
Interviewee: Scruple will usually get most of the cork out.
Interviewer: Alright, that’s good. Obviously corkscrews they’ve developed greatly over the years. So you have your older models and now these days there’s the more modern ones. And since you’ve been in wine, wine making and corkscrews for a long time, what are some trends that you have seen? Maybe for example, electric corkscrews and what are your thoughts on that personally?
Interviewee: Well corkscrews are going away because everybody’s going to screw caps but I like the ones made in the 1700s, 1800s.
Interviewer: So the 1700s, 1800s. What was particular great about those years?
Interviewee: They were very skilled metal people in those days and they made some beautiful things out of steel that you couldn’t find anybody today that could make it.
Interviewer: I will do a little bit more digging into the 1700’s and 1800’s and see what they came up with then and maybe we can use it for some inspiration for ourselves. You already mentioned it that a lot of wine makers are switching to screw caps. Then there’s companies that are switching to wine in cans for example, different types of closings, consumer behavior is changing. Millennials for example, they prefer to have wine in smaller portions which makes sense when you talk about wine in cans. Do you see anything developing that you feel is interesting or don’t you in general really like where the industry is going?
Interviewee: Well, the only interesting closure I’ve seen recently–I hate the plastic corks, they’re terrible. In Europe I see glass caps with a little neoprene ring on it, it just clicks in. Those are pretty neat. We don’t see them at all in North America.
Interviewer: Right. And in the wine industry in general, is there anything that you see changing that really caught your attention?
Interviewee: No, I don’t know. Well corks have been a problem forever and so by and large people are moving over to screw caps although the high-end wines, least expensive wines they tend to stick with cork because many people think that the screw cap is not as good, which is incorrect.
Interviewer: That’s interesting! We already arrive at our final question which I think personally might also be the most important question. What do you think makes a good corkscrew? What are the characteristics for a good corkscrew? I mean, you must have seen a lot of them through the years. What do you think really makes a good one?
Interviewee: I like to say that: A, people invented all kinds of stupid corkscrews over the years and there’s ones that are so complicated they’re way too expensive–never sell. There’s other ones that always break and gets thrown away and there’s other ones that just don’t work very good. So if you’re a collector what you want to find for a very rare corkscrew is one that was too expensive to make, always broke and doesn’t work very good.
Interviewee: Then you have a rare corkscrew.
Interviewer: So for you, the ones that don’t work very well they’re actually the ones that are most interesting?
Interviewee: And the most expensive.
Interviewer: Right. That is good to know. Then, for the people that are listening and want to learn more about the Corkscrew Bed and Breakfast, The Corkscrew Inn, where and how can you learn more about you?
Interviewee: Go to our website.
Interviewer: Go to your website, right. So that’s Corkscrewinn.com, isn’t it?
Interviewer: All right, perfect. Well, Wayne thank you so much for your time…
Interviewee: I just want to–there’s lots of corkscrews in the museum. The museum has the world’s first steam-powered corkscrew which I invented the machines and it’s also got the world’s first Meccano Corkscrew, which I also invented.
Interviewer: Well, I would personally love to learn more about that. Wayne, thank you so much for your time, and who knows we might shake hands later this year in England and I hope to speak soon. Anyway, thank you for your time.
Interviewee: Okay, thanks.
Interviewer: Thank you and have a great day.
To learn more about the Corkscrew Inn and the accompanying museum, or for more videos of some of Wayne’s inventions make sure to visit the Corkscrewinn.com website.