In The Aerator Age, Do You Need a Decanter?


Like it or not, The Aerator Age is upon us and it looks like it is here to stay. While the traditionalists may be inclined to fight this trend, there are some valid reasons why this new technology has become all the rage.

Aerators tend to open up wine faster than decanting, and if you are only going to have a glass or two you don’t have to decant the entire bottle. So it brings about the question, do I even need my decanter any longer?

The answer is… it depends. Products such as the Vinturi Red Wine Aerator, Nuance Wine Finer and theRabbit Aerating Pourer have revolutionized wine service. These devices create so much aeration for wine in such a small amount of time that it allows all the bouquet and flavors to come to life within seconds. Because they are either hand-held or fit in right in the neck of the bottle, they are extremely easy to use especially for single glass service. For this reason, you will now find one of these aerators in most tasting rooms. Wineries want you to get the full sensory experience of their top tier offerings, especially since young wines that are big and tannic benefit most from this method.

That being said, not everyone wants to speed up this process. There is certainly something almost sacred about slowly pouring a bottle into a beautifully crafted crystal decanter while holding a candle to it in order to check for sediment, particularly in those older wines that may be a bit more delicate. Better quality wines will also constantly change while in the decanter, an effect you lose when utilizing the ultra fast aerators. It can be quite revealing to smell and taste the wine at different points while it is opening up, as the aromas and flavors can grow deeper and more complex.

So if you are a bit impatient and find the prolonged wait time of decanting just a nuisance, or you like to enjoy your wine one glass at a time, then you are ready for all that The Aerator Age has to offer. But if you are from the school of thought that good things come to those who wait, and believe the process of decanting enhances the entire wine experience, then keep on decanting!

But don’t forget, there is no reason you can’t utilize both options and pour the wine through the aerator into the decanter. This can result in optimal pleasure for those really young, or older, wines that need an enormous exposure to air to exhibit all they have to offer.

As always you can find all of these wonderful Aerators and Decanters at


A Vintage for the Ages In Napa…

2007 has really been a tremendous vintage for California wines pretty much across the board. Some stellar Pinots have come out of the Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast, and the Zin and Rhone blends all over Cali have been pretty rockin’ as well. However no other wine has benefited from this glorious vintage like the illustrious Napa Cabs.

The vintages in CA are usually not as important as they can be in other parts of the world, like France for example, as the climate is pretty consistent. That is why in Bordeaux and Burgundy, the vintage makes such a big difference in price and aging capability. However there are certain years when Mother Nature is at her best and seems to shine upon all the vineyards…and 2007 is clearly one of them!

What makes this vintage so intriguing is that it encompasses all levels of these Napa Cabs, from the entry level $10-15 bottles all the way up to the ultra pricey, notorious Cult Cabs. In fact for under $15 you can find some Cabs that you may mistake for much higher priced wines. Archstone, Annabella, Avalon and Aquinas are a few labels to keep on your radar…and just a total coincidence that they all start with A.

As far as I can tell the real value in these 2007 Napa Cabs lies in the $15-30 price range. You could blind taste some of these against the real “big boys” and you may have a tough time determining which is which. This is evident in some of the high scores given to some of the top quality wines in this range.

For example the Louis Martini Napa scoring 91 Pts, Maroon’s Yountville Cab grabbing 92 Pts, and the Franciscan entry level Oakville Cab fetching 94 pts and retailing for around $25-30! My personal favorite at this level is the Beringer Knights Valley Cab. It has this beautiful black fruit and sweet vanilla spice combination that just knocks your socks off!

And then there are the “big boys”. Wow, are these some fantastic wines. They are big and lush now, but have an aging potential that not many vintages have produced in CA. It’s tough to go wrong with any of the better known brands, but some that stand out for me are from Far Niente, Stag’s Leap (Artemis), Newton (Unfiltered), Chimney Rock (Stag’s Leap) and my personal favorite is the Howell Mountain Cab from O’Shaughnessy. Cheap they are not, but if you are willing to splurge on some special bottles these are worth the dough.

Much mention has been made of some the fabulous recent vintages in Bordeaux (2000, 2005 and 2009). However I find that more people in this neck of the woods prefer their Napa Cabs to the Bordeaux wines. In comparison, this 2007 vintage is the best to come along since the 1997, 1999 and 2001 in Napa. So load up while you can, as these wines won’t be available forever.


Another Dynamite Beer Dinner at The TapHouse Featuring the Brews from Smuttynose

Yes you read the title correctly, BEER dinner. Wine pairing and tasting menus are pretty common in the food world, however these craft beer dinners are just so creative, original and most of all…delicious. Do you know what kind of dish would pair with a hand crafted pilsner from New Hampshire? I didn’t either… but the boys at The TapHouse did, and that was just the opening course!

Not to get too deep into the history of Smuttynose (as I have attached a link to their website below) but they are a well respected craft brewery that makes a slew of beers that are full of flavor, high in alc (in a good way) and quite food friendly. The two main consistencies that I seem to notice throughout Smuttynose is a coriander or orange peel component in their brews, and an unwritten company rule mandating facial hair (as featured by Lead Brewer Dan Schubert). Whatever the recipe is, it’s working!

So as I was saying, the opening course consisted of the Smuttynose Wunderbar Pilsner that was crisp with a good amount of hops and a really clean aftertaste. Chef Kevin Bertrand found the perfect pairing in a Bay Scallops dish in a Citrus Buerre Blanc sauce. The citrus flavors in the scallop dish elicited the subtle orange peel in the pilsner, leaving a fresh and tangerine driven finish lingering on the palate. Stellar way to start the night.

The highlight of the pairing was clearly the Veal Loin with Foie Gras, Wild Mushroom Duxelles and a Barley Risotto matched up with Smutty’s Barleywine. In a word…genius! Someone at our table realized when you got a little bit of everything on your fork and then followed it with a swig of the barleywine it was pure pleasure. You could barely even tell the brew was an intoxicating 11-12% alc…Yikes!! However the high alc in all their beers is well hidden by the beautiful structure and natural  dark spices.

While that course was a tough act to follow, the Coffee Dusted Venison with the Smuttynose Baltic Porter was no slouch. While the brew was a little smokey with aggressive hints of olive on its own, when paired with the mildly gamey Venison it took on an entirely new character that worked out beautifully. To finish the meal off The TapHouse offered up their infamous Double Chocolate Lava Cake which they paired with, what else, the Smutty Imperial Stoudt. Talk about chocolate decadence!

This is the second of these beer dinners I have had the pleasure of attending at the TapHouse and they really have gotten this formula down pat. Of course the high quality brews from Smuttynose make the pairing a hell of a lot easier, but these guys clearly have a knack for incorporating the proper fare to bring out all the best qualities that a top tier craft beer has to offer. Well done fellas!