A good aerator can make all the difference

Gypsy wine

According to the Persian legend of King Jamshid, wine was discovered about 8,000 years ago. The story goes that the king banished one of his harem girls after she had angered him. The harem girl became so distraught that she searched for something to end her life. Finding a box of old, rotten grapes, labeled “poison” in the kitchen cupboard – she took a deep drink. To her surprise, she started to feel quite happy and no longer wanted to end her life. The harem girl took her discovery to the king – who also tested the grape liquid. After he, too, became quite cheerful, he proclaimed that from that day forward, all grapes grown in his kingdom would be grown for the sole purpose of making wine.
While we will never know the precise way wine was discovered – we do know for certain that it was discovered and not invented. Although wine can be made out of any fruit, the grape is the only fruit in the world that contains everything it needs to convert itself into wine: the right amount of natural sugar, flavor, acid and yeast. When the grape skin is broken, the naturally occurring yeast on the skin comes in contact with the sugar inside the grape, and converts the sugar into alcohol.
So, bunches of grapes, just sitting in a container and without any human intervention will eventually become wine. Perhaps Benjamin Franklin summed it up best with his famous quote: “Wine is constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy.”
Talking of discoveries, my sister, Linda, recently gave me a wine aerator that has become my new favorite wine gadget. Called Host Adjustable Wine Aerator, it’s an adjustable aerator that instantly decants any wine from one to six hours. It is amazing how well it improves the flavor and softens tannins – making inexpensive wines taste two- or three-times the price. You can find it at Bed Bath & Beyond for $29.99 (or less with coupon).
I decided to see what kinds of deals I could find at our local Trader Joe’s and test out my new wine aerator. Besides my usual standbys, I discovered four new excellent values, including a Cabernet, a Sangiovese, a red blend and a white blend – three of which were less than $6.99.
My first taste comparison was the Columbia Crest Grand Estates Cabernet Sauvignon. I poured a small amount straight from the bottle into one glass and another small amount using the Host Adjustable Aerator into another glass. The aerator made a noticeable taste difference – bringing out the dark fruit flavors and smoothing out the finish. At $6.99, this Cabernet is the perfect burger wine.
Quite possibly the best deal on the continent is the 2012 Chariot Gypsy red wine blend – for only $4.99. Tasting of juicy red raspberry with a touch of oak and vanilla, it’s a crowd-pleaser and a great party wine. Buy a case before it’s gone.
After learning I was going to write about a few of their wines, Sean, one of Trader Joe’s checkers, said, “You have to try the Grifone Sangiovese – it’s the kind of wine that gets better with every glass.” From Italy and only $3.99, I popped it in my cart. Not very complex – but very easy to drink with some nice cherry and spice flavors. It would go well with a pasta marinara or roast chicken. This was another wine that definitely benefited from a good aeration.
The lone white wine in the bunch was the Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc and Viognier blend from Napa. With its floral aromas, tropical flavors, zesty acidity and an off-dry finish, it’s a fantastic value at $11.99. I’ll definitely be sipping this wine with my friends on the patio this summer.
The upcoming Spring Passport weekend – from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 29-30 – is a great time to discover our local wineries, including the three newest: Sunlit Oaks (Gilroy), Ross Vineyards (Morgan Hill) and Lightheart Cellars (San Martin). Tickets are $30 and cover Saturday and Sunday at any of the participating wineries. For details, visit the Wineries of Santa Clara Valley (WSCV) website at www.santaclarawines.com.
Bev Stenehjem is a wine columnist for South Valley Newspapers. Reach her at [email protected] and check out her blog at www.gilroydispatch.com/blogs/grapevine_news/

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