Besides being my favorite Shakespeare play, The Tempest features a very cool spirit named Ariel, rescued at one point from a tree in which the poopface Sycorax was holding it. A 19th-century production featured Ariel’s descent from the hoosegow in a literal ball of fire—it took 140 stagehands to get the scene right, but not before a mishap or two claimed its share of hair and skin. As you can imagine, no drinking was allowed on the set, lest another misstep close the show before it opened.
Today, that sanction could easily be relegated to the scrapheap, and the stagehands would have had Ariel to thank. This time, see, I’m talking about Ariel Wines, a division of J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines out of San Jose. Not only does this Napa producer craft some top-notch nonalcoholic wine; it’s the only vintner to consistently win awards when pitted against the hard stuff. Alcohol is a natural byproduct of fermentation, but the Ariel guys filter it at the last minute, something you’d never know from the taste of the company’s splendid Rouge. Plum and cranberry essences are all over the place here, and the beverage’s dry side invites pairing with salads; it’s great by itself over ice, too. Meanwhile, if you like Cabernet Sauvignon, you’ll love this—Cabernet is the main grape in the mix, with the aromas of several other reds relentlessly swirling around it. Yum!
Six other Ariel flavors are yours for the taking from your fave wine store; amid the absence of alcohol, they’ll cost you a pitiful $4.49 to $6.99. Those sound almost like 19th-century prices, set to gladden the hearts of those poor stagehands. They could have safely toasted the night away in a nod to the success of the show’s most dangerous scene—and the low cost would have left that much more disposable income for reconstructive surgery.