Lesson #1: Own a corkscrew.
I have a Lesson #2, but that will be for another day.
So, when I went to Total Wine (which opened up right next to where I work on my birthday) I had two missions. Not only did I have to find my way to the "non-alcoholic" section through tens of thousands of bottles, I had to find a corkscrew.
After I entered, the first thing I realized is that this was much more organized and well labeled than anywhere else I'd been. The place was so big I had no idea where to start. So, again, I had to ask that question. The man who answered sounded like car salesman. "All my non-alcoholic stuff is right over here." My stuff? Surely I wasn't talking to the owner nor the winemaker. "I've got Merlot, Cabernet, Chardonnay, Brut." I saw they also had several types and sizes of Martinelli's. "Heh, Martinelli's" I said half to myself. "Yeah," he said "That's really popular during the Holidays." Really? I didn't know. Did you just see that in the training video? (I'm sorry, I'm sorry, they were really nice and helpful, this guy was just too much eager and not enough genuine.)
They had, as far as I could tell, all of the Ariel and Fre stuff, in addition to the Martinelli's. It was all in a small section labeled "Non-Alcoholic." I was secretly hoping to find a Carl Jung or some varietal grape juice, or *gasp* even some EGA. But I can't complain, so far they had the best selection, they even had both major brands, not just one or the other. So I grabbed the Ariel White Zinfandel (to compare to the Fre I'd recently had) and then got pointed to the accessories aisle.
I don't want to say they had tons of accessories, but the variety and absurdity of some of them was impressive. Some were absolutely essential, like corkscrews, and in being so essential (and the task being somewhat difficult - I can imagine certain people who, due to whatever physical circumstance, would have a hard time popping the cork out) there were many types. I think I even saw a battery operated one. But some of the accessories seemed like they were relying on an ignorant but enthusiastic wine fan to think they needed all of these things to "truly" enjoy their drinks. Some were just plain weird.
Anyway, I got me a simple, cheap butterfly corkscrew (something like this), it seems to work well.
Anyway, I get home with the Ariel in hand and find out my wife has prepared the perfect birthday meal. Cheese. Lots of it, too. Brie, a wet Goat's Milk, a dry Sheep's Milk, Blue Cheese and Extra Sharp Cheddar. In addition to that, there was a fondue with Irish Swiss and some of the cheddar, and home made bread to go with it. Throw in some apple slices and pear slices, and we had quite the meal!
My Experience: We had a lot of things to try it with, it was soooo much fun. In general, it was less floral smelling than the Fre White Zinfandel, but still quite fruity. It was a bit darker smelling (that is to say it smelt more of dark fruits or berries) than the apple-ly and rosy Fre. This time we had it somewhat under room temperature, which I liked the taste of better, but makes it a bit harder to smell. It seemed smoother, less tingly, and just a touch less strong than the Fre, perhaps slightly sweeter. Less acidic, so it didn't cut through the food as well as the Fre. The finish was bland and watery, and short.
Works as a Wine Alternative: (This section is intended for wine alternatives that are not dealcoholized wine)
Did I Like it: Both my wife and I found this one much more enjoyable than the Fre. It was great with a variety of the foods we had. Lets give it an 8 out of 10.
Would I Recommend it: Yes, I think this is a particularly easy entry point for people who are new to this.
Who Might Like it: It's not strong, it's not bold, it's not adventurous, but it is safe.
(See the Fre White Zinfandel post here)