Category Archives: Barware

Review: CapaBubbles Sparkling Wine Cap

capa bubbles 300x246 Review: CapaBubbles Sparkling Wine CapCapaBunga makes a pretty cool rubberized still wine stopper. It would therefore make sense that the company would want to do the same thing for sparkling wines, which are frequently resealed after opening and saved for another day. The problem of course is that you can’t just jam a cork into the neck. The gas in the wine would pop it right back out. Same goes for CapaBunga’s still wine stopper.

For decades consumers have relied on hinged sealers that grip beneath the flared lip to keep the wine sealed and the stopper in place. CapaBunga thought it had a better idea. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t really work.

The CapaBubbles stopper is a two-piece unit, a plastic base and a rubberized top. The base consists of two half-moon shaped pieces that bear screw threads on the outside. In theory, you just snap the hinge around the neck of the bottle, beneath the flared lip, to start the process. The top piece of the CapaBubbles then — again, in theory — screws down onto the base, creating a seal up top.

Neat idea, but in practice it’s a disaster. The major problem is that the necks of sparkling wine bottles are all kinds of different sizes, and the CapaBubbles doesn’t fit on them all. In my testing of a variety of different bottlings, I went two for four in getting the base to fit around the neck of the bottle. The other times the bottle neck was just too fat for the base to fit around it — and in one of the two successes I had, I just barely got it to work and only by peeling off the foil around the bottle’s neck completely. Even if you do get the base unit around the neck, screwing the top down on top of it is not a sure thing. Expect lots of trial and error — and often significant force — in getting the pieces to actually come together and make a solid seal.

Given its limitations and the fact that the CapaBubbles costs about two or three times as much as a typical hinged stopper, my rating is probably generous.

D / $16 / [BUY IT HERE]

Review: Tattle Tea Tea & Wine Infusion Kit

tea wine infusion kit wide 1 300x131 Review: Tattle Tea Tea & Wine Infusion Kit Tea drinkers and wine drinkers can finally come together, thanks to Tattle Tea’s straightforwardly named Tea & Wine Infusion Kit. In case there’s any mystery: You’re infusing the wine with tea. Tattle Tea provides the bags of tea (premeasured to work with a single bottle of wine), you provide the wine. You can get the three-bags-of-Rooibos-tea kit along with a nice pitcher that has a built-in strainer to get the tea leaves out ($30) or with just three bags of tea and no pitcher ($8).

Directions are easy: Dump the tea and a bottle of white wine into the pitcher and refrigerate overnight.

How’s it taste? Awful! OK, I’m being harsh, but this mix of tea and wine is just not for me. The nose is interesting — very tea forward and alluring — but the body messes with your senses in an off-putting way. Maybe it’s the wine I chose (a sauvignon blanc), but I just did not like the mix of earthy tea and tart fruit flavors. Compounding the issue, in the course of a day in the fridge, the wine had clearly oxidized quite a bit, giving the concoction some vinegary notes. Maybe if this is done with very high end wine and only for a short time (or in a sealed container), results will be better.

But why risk it?

no rating / $8 to $30 / tattletea.coffeebeandirect.com

Cool Goodies from HomeWetBar.com

port sippers 300x238 Cool Goodies from HomeWetBar.comJust a brief interruption to your holiday weekend to shout-out HomeWetBar.com, which sent us a sampling of its wares so we could let our readers know about their product line. Specifically, we’re checking out a couple of items from the store’s online catalog.

These Port sippers are incredibly cute (pictured), if not entirely functional. I’m still not sure if I enjoy sipping Port through a glass straw, but they do make for a nice conversation piece. By the by, they’re much smaller than you think, not much bigger than a large shot glass. At $30 for a set of four, they’re a great gift item.

We’re also checking out this three-quart copper ice bucket, which offers some old-world styling but still has plenty of functionality build in. A plastic insert is easy to clean (though it gives it a slightly cheap feeling) and the decorative tongs are a nice touch. $60, and you can get an engraving on the tongs if you’re so inclined. Looks good on my bar!

Lots of fun stuff in their catalog at reasonable prices. Consider me a fan!

Two for the Road: Mobile Drinking Gear from NiteIze and Hydro Flask

Camping, road-tripping, picnicking… there’s always an excuse to take your favorite tipple on the road. Here are a couple of gadgets designed to make that easier.

GetLit 150x150 Two for the Road: Mobile Drinking Gear from NiteIze and Hydro FlaskNite Ize makes a series of safety-oriented products, including this bunch of unique bottle openers. The S-Biner series is a carabiner and bottle opener in one. Designs vary, from the simple S-Biner Ahhh carabiner with an opener built in to each side, to the KeyRack+, which has six tiny carabiners attached to its base, to the S-Biner GetLit, which has a heavy duty, rubberized LED built into it. It’s perfect for those moments when you desperately need assistance in the dark, but also have a beer handy. Under $10 each. niteize.com

hydro flask growler 150x150 Two for the Road: Mobile Drinking Gear from NiteIze and Hydro FlaskHydro Flask recognizes that everyone loves reusable steel water bottles but recognizes that the typical 12 oz.-sized bottle won’t get you very far on your camping trip. The Hydro Flask Growler packs a full 64 oz. of whatever heals ya into its belly, and the vacuum-insulated body means it helps to keep your beer cold, your toddy hot, or your Pinot at a perfect 58 degrees. The wide mouth makes filling (and emptying) easy. $50 hydroflask.com

Review: The Pretentious Beer Glass Company

You are pouring your beers into glasses, right?

PBGC 525x297 Review: The Pretentious Beer Glass Company

The Pretentious Beer Glass Company is the solo effort of Matthew Cummings to bring custom, homemade glassware into your home. Each glass is carefully handcrafted on a lathe and the personal individuality manifests itself within the finished products in the form of slight variations in angles, thickness, and dimensions. Matthew is quick to note that because each piece of glass is unique, final sizes can vary, but part of the appeal stems from receiving a one-of-a-kind glass.

Currently, the Pretentious Beer Glass Company manufactures six types of glasses, pictured above. From left to right: Hoppy Beer Glass, “traditional” Ale Glass, Subtle Beer Glass, Malty Beer Glass, Aromatic Beer Glass, and in the following picture, the Dual Beer Glass. While the names of the glasses clue drinkers in to what beer style works best, both the site and packaging contain recommended styles for each vessel.

PBGC Dual Glass 525x412 Review: The Pretentious Beer Glass Company

A quick breakdown of the glasses…

Hoppy Beer Glass: Similar to a snifter or tulip. This is great for IPAs and other beers within the pale ale family, as well as bigger Belgian beers and sours. Etched finger cutouts contribute both visual appeal and added grip.

Ale Glass: The jack of all trades within the set, the Ale Glass is fashioned after a pint glass, with a twist. The added moustache adds a touch of class to your favorite beer and can handle your typical American-style ales, German bocks, or whatever comes in between.

Subtle Beer Glass: Reminiscent of a stange. Perfect for those lighter, more delicate brews such as pilsners, kolsches, witbiers, and assorted lagers. It features facets and indents to distort the density within the glass in order to trick how light shines through the liquid.

Malty Beer Glass: This glass is not only pretty, but also functional! Perfect for unfiltered and bottle-conditioned beers, the Malty Beer Glasses utilizes concentric levels to separate yeast sediment from the beer.

Aromatic Beer Glass: This glass has a wide bowl and draws comparisons to a stemless wine glass or snifter. The shape helps concentrate the nose while the protruding bottom further aids nucleation to improve head longevity and intensity. Beers with a focus on esters and imperial strength work well with this glass, especially double IPAs, stouts, barleywines, tripels, and quads.

Dual Beer Glass: Do you love Black & Tans but hate tinkering with spoons to perfectly layer the beers? The Dual Beer Glass solves that problem and opens the door for more creativity: This glass is divided down the middle so that two separate beers can be poured into their own compartments, then combine while taking a sip. Outside of the traditional stout and IPA (black and tan) classic, I’ve had success with weizenbock + tripel, stout + tripel, and lambic + stout mixtures.

The Pretentious Beer Glass Company is currently a small-scale operation, but it does offer custom orders and may start expanding into wholesaling in the future. Glasses are sold individually, in sets of four within a style, or a full set of glasses which contain all of the styles except the Dual Glass.

$35 – $170 per set of four / etsy.com/shop/PretentiousBeerGlass

Review: Soireehome Tempour

tempour 300x268 Review: Soireehome TempourThere are wine gadgets and there is the Tempour, which aims to do pretty much everything you could possibly do to a wine in a single, somewhat crazy package.

The elongated cylinder literally has it all. From the bottom up: Stainless steel chilling rod, aeration vent, sediment filter, pouring spout, and a stopper up top. The whole thing comes apart, so you don’t have to use the chilling rod if your wine’s already cold, and a cleaning brush is also included.

In practice, the Tempour works fairly well, though imperfectly. The “drip free” pouring spout isn’t exactly dripless, and the aeration system — which is submerged in the wine — is no more effective than simple sloshing wine out of the bottle. The filter system seems to work well, though it keeps wine pouring on the slow side. However, the big draw is the chilling system, and unfortunately it’s just not that effective. While it can gently chill a room-temperature wine (cooling down a too-warm red), but it didn’t really do much to keep a chilled white wine cold at the table. There ratio of wine to chilling-device surface area is just too high to be effective, and as you drink the wine, this ratio only gets worse.

Overall: Neat idea, great design, but hit-and-miss effectiveness.

B / $30 / soireehome.com [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]

Review: GrOpener Bottle Opener

GrOpener 525x525 Review: GrOpener Bottle OpenerRecently we received a sample of a unique new bottle opener, dubbed the GrOpener. Despite the somewhat lewd sounding name, the GrOpener is actually a portmanteau of the words ‘grab’ and ‘opener’, both of which frame a rather straightforward description of how the product works.

Touted as a bottle opener that is swift and easy to wield, the GrOpener is proud to exclaim that is only requires one hand to operate, leaving the other free to channel surf, munch on snacks, or hold another beer. On a more serious note, it is also a useful tool for those who only have the use of a single hand due to disability, amputation, arthritis, or otherwise.

In its video promotions, GrOpener creator Mark Manger effortlessly pops bottle caps off in a single, fluid motion without fail. During my own trials, I found the GrOpener to be a little more temperamental; at times, the caps flew off, while others required a little more force and maneuvering. Also, the impact of the metal opener hitting the bottle while opening would sometimes cause more highly carbonated beers to start foaming over.

As a bottle opener alone, the GrOpener is a fine product, but I found some of the other features to be the most useful and distinguishable. For starters, while prying the caps off, it does not bend or otherwise deform the caps, which is beneficial to those who collect them or seek to recycle them for homebrewing purposes. The GrOpener also contains a small magnet near the business end to not only help it latch on to the cap, but also attracts it after removal for easy recovery. The magnet also secures the GrOpener to the refrigerator doors for convenient storage. For those pesky can tabs that never seem to lift easily, the backside of the GrOpener also doubles as a lever.

While I am clearly not as deft as Mr. Manger in opening bottles in dramatic flair, the GrOpener still performs up to expectations. Bottle openers typically serve a single, relatively simple, purpose, but the utilitarian forethought exemplified in the GrOpener is nice to see. It is light, magnetic, opens caps without distorting them, can be used single-handedly, and the index finger hole doubles as a secure attachment point to carabiners for travel.

A- / $16 / gropener.com

Wine & Beer Gadget Roundup

Lately we’ve received a whole bunch of “stocking stuffer” sized gadgets suitable for wine and beer fanatics. Rather than review them individually, we’re rounding them up here in a mega-gizmo post. Thoughts follow.

bottleopener01 300x225 Wine & Beer Gadget RoundupHermetus Bottle Opener & Resealer – Sometimes you don’t want to drink that entire half-liter of beer, but if you’ve pried off the crown cap, what do you do next? The Hermetus is several gadgets in one, but the most noteworthy is that it reseals beer bottles. Just slide the lip of the bottle through the aluminum groove as far as you can: The groove pushes it against a rubber pad and seals it tight. Turn it upside down, shake it up, no worries — the beer won’t come out. It works on both U.S. and Euro bottles, and it includes a standard opener as well as a claw-like opener designed to help with stubborn twist-offs, too. Instructions engraved on the reverse remind you of all of this in case you’ve had too much. A / $9 kaufmann-mercantile.com

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Etch Your Own Flask… And Win One!

drinkhacker collapsible cup 300x224 Etch Your Own Flask... And Win One!Hip flasks are a dime a dozen these days — but one you get to engrave yourself, with your favorite logo, initials, a picture of your kids, or whatnot, now that’s worth checking out.

PersonalizedFlask.net may be a rather obvious name, but it’s a website that makes, well, personalized flasks. They are stainless steel items, engraved by laser with the design of your choice. Pick off the rack initials or go crazy and upload your own images. The company sent me some credits to try it out, and I did.

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Experiment: Ice vs. Whiskey Stones vs. Tilt Chilling Sphere

ice stones and spheres oh my 300x224 Experiment: Ice vs. Whiskey Stones vs. Tilt Chilling SphereThe drinking industry’s war on ice is in full force. Fearful that ice will water down their precious booze, entrepreneurs are suggesting alternative chilling systems to bring the temperature of their hooch down.

But do they work? Ice is effective at chilling a drink because it melts, releasing near-frozen water into your dram. Can alternative technologies do the job, too? There are whiskey stones (soapstone cubes), or the new Tilt Chilling Sphere, a metal spheroid that you fish out of your drink with an included hook, which doubles as a cocktail pick. How effective can these non-melting chilling systems be?

We did the science, folks!

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Review: Soiree Bottle-top Wine Decanter & Aerator

soiree 86x300 Review: Soiree Bottle top Wine Decanter & AeratorWe’ve covered wine aerators in the past and are generally bullish on their utility. The problem, of course, is bulk. Where do you keep this thing? And what do you do about all the wine dripping off of it when it’s not hovering over a glass.

Enter Soiree: A wine aerator that attaches to the top of a wine bottle and aerates as you pour.

Great idea, but the execution doesn’t quite work. The main problem is that, to get your aeration going, you have to turn the bottle of wine virtually upside down. This takes a massive leap of faith that the Soiree is not going to fall out of the bottle’s neck… and even more confidence that you can successfully turn a full bottle of wine over 180 degrees and manage to get that wine to land on target in the glass. This is tough. Turning the bottle back over when you’re done, without spilling, is even tougher. Continue reading

New Glassware: Bormioli Rocco Tre Sensi Wine Tasting Glass

tre sensi glass image 150x300 New Glassware: Bormioli Rocco Tre Sensi Wine Tasting GlassDoes the world need a new wine glass? In the world of tastings — where glasses are typically too small — maybe they do.

Italian design firm Bormioli Rocco just launched the Tre Sensi, a wine glass designed to enhance the tasting experience. At first glance it looks like any other smallish glass. Further analysis reveals a deep whirlpool-like indentation in the center. This helps with swirling and aerating the wine.

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Review and Giveaway: SKIL iXO Vivo Wine Bottle Opener

skil ixo vivo kit 300x181 Review and Giveaway: SKIL iXO Vivo Wine Bottle OpenerI’m not one to swoon over the romance of drinking wine, but even I find that de-corking your bottles with a power drill is a little nutty.

SKIL, unhappy to dominate the world of DIY construction and IKEA desk-building projects, is entering the wine world in the only way it knows how, by offering a tiny power drill with a corkscrew attachment.

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Wine Gadget Review: Air Cork

Drinking newly opened wine: Fun. Drinking three-day-old wine: Less fun.

Myriad tricks to preserve opened bottles of wine exist, ranging from vacuum pumps to nitrogen gas sprays to using smaller bottles to store leftovers. All are designed with a single goal: To get oxygen out and keep it out.

In my (exhaustive) experience, the best I’ve found so far is the pump system. It’s easy, reusable, quick, and it works fairly well. The pump may have to move aside now. In my testing, Air Cork seems to work somewhat better.

The gadget is a little strange-looking, to be sure. A hand pump (shaped like a cluster of grapes) is attached to a rubber balloon via a hose. You put the (deflated) balloon into your half-empty bottle of wine, just touching the surface of the liquid, then pump it up. A seal is formed with the glass as the balloon fills, so no air can get in or out.

Some nice advantages with this approach: Unlike witth a hand-pump vacuum, there really is no air left in the bottle once the balloon is in place. Pumps leave air behind, there’s just no way to get it all out. Another nice benefit: the hose hangs out of the bottle and doesn’t add any height it. Vacuum pump systems require a stopper which adds another inch to the bottle — which usually means it won’t fit in your refrigerator standing up.

Some problems with the Air Cork: It has to be given another pump every couple of days, as the balloon will slowly deflate over time. It also has to be cleaned (just with water) after each use, unlike the pump system. And of course the contraption does look a little silly. (And like all preservation systems, it is not suitable for sparkling wines.)

But it works, and it works well. I tasted opened wines that had been sealed with the Air Cork for one, two, and three days and could barely detect any oxidation in any of the samples.

I’m sold, and I’ll keep using Air Cork (probably continuing to test it in conjunction with pump systems, with an eye toward even longer-term storage) in the future.

UPDATE: Additional testing with the product has been less effective. Further reporting to come in Wired.

A- / $24 / aircork.com

Air Cork Wine Gadget Review: Air Cork

Review: Vinturi Spirit Aerator

Recently I wrote in The Daily about how air is the friend of wine, but that aeration can help your spirits, too. I’ve noted in many reviews myself that spirits — especially tequila — can improve if you let them sit in the glass for an hour or two. There are plenty of gadgets out there that can give you a shortcut to decanting or otherwise aerating a wine, but spirits haven’t received the same focus.

Until now, thanks to Vinturi, whose wine aerators are well regarded (even by me). Vinturi recently released a Spirit Aerator, and the operation is pretty much what you expect: Booze goes in the top, air gets sucked in through the sides, and the whiskey or whatnot is deposited into your glass. The only difference with this iteration of the aerator idea is a magnetic locking system that lets you pour the spirit, have it held in the upper basin, then release it into the glass only when you push the button. There are also measurement lines in the upper basin so you can use the Vinturi Spirit as a makeshift jigger.

Vinturi sent me one of these and I tried it out for myself. I used a pretty tough and burly whiskey — Woodford Reserve Double Oaked — that I figured would benefit from a little air in it. I compared it to the same whiskey poured straight from the bottle, using the same pour amount and an identical glass.

Sampling them blind, there were clear differences between the two whiskeys, starting right with the nose: One had a heavy alcoholic burn — lots of vapor in the glass — and the other had more of what you’re looking for in a Bourbon: wood, fruit, vanilla. The effect was slightly less pronounced on the body, though the latter whiskey tasted milder, with more fruit (cherry and apple) components to it. Clear victory to Vinturi — unless you really like boozy alcohol characteristics.

Two things worth noting by way of caveat, though. First: If you have a Vinturi wine aerator, you can get the same effect by using it without buying a separate gadget (you just miss out on the release button). Second: The effect fades over time as non-aerated spirits open up naturally. Still, this device offers a very handy and effective shortcut at bringing out the best in any spirit.

A- / $34 / [BUY IT HERE]

vinturi spirit Review: Vinturi Spirit Aerator

Review: Parlage Perlini Carbonated Cocktail System

I have to confess, this device has been sitting in Drinkhacker HQ for close to a year now. It is, simply, a system for carbonating cocktails, sans seltzer. Now I love cocktails, and I love gadgets, so why have I feared this thing? For one reason, really: I’m reluctant to drink anything if I have to watch a video to figure out how to use it.

In the end, the Perlini Carbonated Cocktail System is not as complicated as it looks. Packaged in a metal attache case, there are dozens of components inside, and the presentation is decidedly off-putting. But that video (and this one, though it’s in French) does clear everything up nicely.

At its heart, the Perlini is a cocktail shaker. You load it with ice and ingredients, then seal it shut. There’s a valve at the top to which you attach a CO2 dispenser — those little metal canisters — and pressurize the contents of the shaker. Shake it up, then let it rest for 15 seconds. Release the valve, and you’re ready to pour — the top has a built-in strainer. A CO2 cartridge seems to last for quite a while, though I’m not sure exactly how long since I’ve yet to empty the first one. 10 cartridges come with the kit.

There are numerous ways to add sparkle to a cocktail — from simply adding club soda to using an iSi canister. At $199, the Perlini system is pretty much the most expensive way I know, but it also lends itself to cocktails better than most thanks to its design. I tried it with numerous recipes and was impressed by the results. It was also easy to use once I got the hang of it. The only catch: It’s not dishwasher-safe.

Ultimately I’m not sure I’d spend this kind of cash on a carbonator when I could have a couple of bottles of my favorite whiskeys for the same price, but as wild barware novelties go, Perlini is pretty much untouchable.

B+ / $199 / perlini.biz

LG’s “Blast Chiller” Refrigerator Ices Down Your Beer in 5 Minutes

IMG 0239 224x300 LGs Blast Chiller Refrigerator Ices Down Your Beer in 5 MinutesWaiting for a drink to get cold enough in the fridge or freezer is one of life’s biggest frustrations. The scientists at LG have turned to science to solve the problem. I saw this in operation today at CES. It’s so crazy… it just might work.

Enter the Blast Chiller – a new feature in LG Electronics Inc.’s premium refrigerators available later this year – which promises to turn that room-temperature 12-ounce can brew (or soda) frosty in five minutes. Want to chill a bottle of wine? Eight minutes. It’s the same amount of time to cool two cans at the same time.

LG said the new technology blasts the cans with icy-cold air gusts with the power of a jet engine. (This is not a joke.) In order to ensure that ice crystals don’t form, the system gently swirls the cans while the cold air blows.

Two Crazy Drinking-Oriented Stocking Stuffers

We can’t really “review” these things, but both are cheap enough to make great stocking stuffers for the younger drinker (by which we mean the college kids) in the family. Grown-ups need not apply.

The ShaKoozie combines a beer koozie with the shower. Velcro lets you attach the koozie directly to the shower wall, so you never have to be without your Silver Bullet. It’s so crazy it just might work! $10

Power Hour Shot Glass USB 300x201 Two Crazy Drinking Oriented Stocking StuffersAli Spagnola’s Power Hour Drinking Game Album is a shot glass and USB thumbdrive in one. The thumbdrive contains 60 drinking songs, all a minute long. The idea is you consume one shot — of beer — each minute, letting the music be your guide. After an hour you’ve downed five full beers and, presumably, you’ll have quite a story to tell. I’ve normally heard this done with 100 minutes and 100 oz. of beer — which sounds far, far crazier. $30

Identify This Drinking Vessel!

This antique was unearthed on a visit to Texas and dates back to at least the late 1800s. But what is it? What was it used for? About 4 inches tall, it looks like an egg cup for a quail egg or a tiny wine decanter… but neither of these seems to fit. Photo below, with a billiard ball shown for scale.

Ideas on what it is? Post ‘em here.

mystery glassware Identify This Drinking Vessel!

Review: Vinturi Travel Wine Aerator

Whoa. Someone just took a standard Vinturi Aerator and ran it over with a truck. This pint-sized version is just like the original… just slimmer.

The original Vinturi Wine Aerator is controversial enough: The idea is that you pour wine through this plastic tube, air gets sucked in, and the wine spits and dribbles out the bottom. It’s loud and a bit messy but it basically works: Tannic wines (or anything needing decanting for reasons other than heavy sediment) do benefit from a spin through the Vinturi. It’s a marginal improvement, but it’s an improvement nonetheless — and enough to merit giving a Vinturi as a gift to the wine nerd who has everything.

Now Vinturi has another idea up its sleeve. After a silly detour into white wine decanting (come on, people), the company has designed a Vinturi for travel use. That’s right, just slip it in your purse and boom, you can aerate away at The Olive Garden.

While the Vinturi Travel is basically just a shrunken version of the same product (though it looks like a resizing mistake, the photo below is accurate), it suffers from a few flaws that make it less purchase-worthy than the original. First, the size change leaves it with a tiny opening at the top. It’s tough to get a perfect pour into that opening without making a mess — though the Vinturi Travel is still plenty messy as it is.

It is also still quite loud, loud enough to turn heads from a table away as people wonder what the hell that slurping noise is. And yeah, that really is the rub: Is anyone really going to use this thing away from the comfort of their own home? Let me put it this way: The kind of wine you’d drink at an establishment where this would be acceptable wouldn’t be the kind of wine that needed aeration.

B / $36 / vinturi.com [BUY IT HERE]

vinturi travel Review: Vinturi Travel Wine Aerator