Passion for Pinots and Pens

Deb Kinney excels in two areas of expertise

Deb Kinney shows off some of her fountain pens, of which she has a collection of about 500. Photo courtesy of Deb Kinney.
Deb Kinney shows off some of her fountain pens, of which she has a collection of about 500. Photo courtesy of Deb Kinney.

Whether it's red ink or red wine, Deb Kinney knows quite a bit about dealing with both.

In addition to being a preeminent modifier of fountain pens, Kinney, videoconferencing specialist and media coordinator with Duke Law School Academic Technologies, is also a Certified Sommelier, a wine expert. She's crafted the pair of interests over the years through a unique passion for both.

Kinney has collected about 500 pens for nearly 30 years and began repairing fountain pens in 1995. She's currently one of about 10 people around the world who modify fountain pen "nibs," the metal tip of a fountain pen that delivers ink to a writing surface. As far as she knows, Kinney is the only female who modifies nibs, which consists of using a grinder and sanding blocks to whittle a pen's tip to an exact size. She's received pens for modification from all over the world, including Tasmania, Israel and across Europe.

"Most customers either want a much finer nib or a cursive italic modification that will give their handwriting a little more pizzazz," said Kinney, who spends a few hours a week modifying nibs. "It takes a lot of patience to do it right."

Patience also paid off for Kinney in her pursuit of becoming a Certified Sommelier, for which she spent seven months studying the history, geography and geology of wine. To earn her title, she took a day-long test that requires accurate evaluation of wines during a blind wine tasting, a written essay on history and theory of wine and an exam on proper serving of wine and wine pairings.

"It became clear a couple years ago that I had a good nose and palate and could smell and taste things not everyone could," said Kinney, who enjoys a wide variety of wine styles but prefers dry wines like Viognier, Ruche or Zinfandel.

Ultimately, she wants to use her knowledge and skills to help demystify wine.

"Wine is a very personal thing," Kinney said. "I think most people are eager to learn about wine because it turns sharing a bottle with friends into a happy, fun thing."