In the summer of 2012, entrepreneurs Rolf DeDamm and Michael Prendergast took the ongoing wine rivalry between France and the United States to another level. With a particular love for champagne, the two decided to challenge French wine tool makers with a first, the creation of a production champagne saber made in the USA.
Sharing a deep love for wine, wine culture, fine art, handcrafted tools, and all things exceptionally well made, master craftsman Michael Prendergast and Chilean expat Rolf DeDamm, who’s called Seattle home since 1967, created the brand “Tool Couture” to launch their line of luxury tools – A line of functional works of art.
Tool Couture’s Concept: Carve out a niche space designing and fabricating fine handcrafted tools in Seattle, Washington, USA – Tools designed to appeal to connoisseurs world-wide. The Vision: Create beautiful functional heirloom-quality artifacts to be enjoyed for generations. Tool Couture tools are designed to last for a thousand years or more. That’s part of the appeal and charm of the brand. “It’s among one of the most important elements in the design,” said Co-Founder Michael Prendergast. “Functional art designed to last forever” he said just before sabering a bottle of bubbles.
And when you think about it, making luxury tools in Seattle, Washington, USA, makes perfect sense. Seattle has a rich history in technical innovation and metal fabrication stretching back over one hundred years. It is the birth place of movements in art, architecture, music, coffee, beer, wine, spirits, glass-work, wood-work, steel-work, technology, and now Tool Couture.
The Champagne Saber:
Made of hardened carbon steel, stainless steel, and space-age polymers, honest materials are the corner stone of all Tool Couture products. But art is just as important – According to Prendergast, “everything we produce must stand on its own as a visually stimulating and emotionally engaging sculpture.
Once that threshold is met a secondary threshold of high functionality must be met to qualify for production.”
The champagne saber’s mission centric approach to the task at hand (opening bottles of champagne), allows even a tentative novice to use the tool with ease and enjoy success. “Another important part of the design was to create a tool that would be fun and easy to use regardless of skill level. Most of the people that we teach to saber are absolute beginners” said Prendergast.
Why make a champagne saber? Despite the fact that sabering champagne is a tradition that spans hundreds of years, there has never been a production champagne saber made in the United States. DeDamm, inspired by historical precedence, related the following story to Prendergast about the legendary Paris Wine Tasting of 1976: “The Paris Wine Tasting of 1976 or the Judgment of Paris as it is sometimes called, took place on May 24, 1976. It was a historical blind wine tasting event that ultimately recognized the United States as a global powerhouse in wine production. Nine top wine judges from France participated in the blind tasting and rated California wines superior over the best Chardonnays from France, as well as the best Cabernet Sauvignons from Bordeaux. Hollywood made a movie about the event in 2008 called “Bottle Shock.” At the end of the day, the French were stunned, the world was amazed, and the United States was on the map as a major producer of the world’s best wines.” After hearing the story, Prendergast said to DeDamm, “we can make a way cooler and much better saber than the current production work coming out of France.” And so the journey toward creating Seattle based Tool Couture began …
According to popular lore, sabering champagne was introduced by Napoleonic French Cavalry Regiments (circa 1795). Some say sabering came into vogue as a prelude to romance. Others say it was a battle field convenience. Likely, it was a little, or a lot of both.
Today, people who saber champagne are about celebrating life. They have a penchant for understated elegance, romantic traditions, a little flare, and just plain fun.
Prendergast and DeDamm spent months in the design studio testing prototypes and perfecting Tool Couture’s flagship saber, finally settling on v.6.0 above. The saber feels solid and substantial in hand. When you hold it you realize that this luxury tool will easily last for hundreds of years. If you hold the saber at the two-o’clock position on the bottle, its balance feels perfect. Drive the saber straight down the seam, holding your angle of attack at about 45 degrees, and you’ll experience an effortless strike, followed by a delightful “pop!” Raise the bottle into the vertical and voila, you’re pouring champagne!
Today, Tool Couture’s first production run of 200 sabers and stands is expected to be available for sale by the 1st of January, 2014. Expect to purchase directly from the manufacturer and then online. And expect the sabers to sell quickly. These champagne sabers are one of the coolest most unique gifts you can give a person who appreciates wine, and fine crafted artifacts. When Chef William Belickis, Owner of Seattle’s Mistral Kitchen received his Tool Couture saber, he said, “I guarantee I will use this saber more than anyone in the world!” Belickis sabers bottles of champagne at his restaurant on a daily basis.