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Arts Clayton, Hwy. 138 Package Store host wine-tasting

With Thanksgiving and Christmas on the horizon, local residents will soon have a chance to sample approximately 30 different wines to possibly serve with their holiday meals.

Arts Clayton and the Stockbridge-based Hwy. 138 Package Store are scheduled to team up next week for their fifth annual "Holiday Reds and Whites" wine-tasting event. The event, featuring wines from the package store's selection, is set for Thursday, Nov. 10, from 6 p.m., to 9 p.m., at the Arts Clayton Gallery, located at 136 South Main Street, in Jonesboro.

"This is our big holiday wine show," said Hwy. 138 Package Store Co-owner Kathleen Higgins. "We have partnered with the art gallery, which gives us a wonderful venue to hold our wine tasting, and it also benefits the arts, because all of the proceeds go to Arts Clayton."

Wine-tasting 101

There are five basic steps involved in wine-tasting, according to Hwy. 138 Package Store Wine Manager Bill Ramey. Following these steps will allow a person to truly experience a wine, he said. The steps, in order, include:

Checking the clarity of the wine

Ramey said people should first look at the wine, to see if it is clear, or cloudy. He explained, if the wine is good, you should be able to see light through it, to some degree. He said it is rare to come across cloudy wines, however, because of technological advancements in the wine-making field.

Swirling the wine

Next, you should hold the wine glass in your hand and swirl the wine, Ramey said. He said this will release of the aroma from the grapes used to make the wine. He added that first-time wine tasters, who are unfamiliar with how to properly swirl the wine, can sit the glass on a flat surface, and gently roll the glass on its base.

Sniffing the wine

This step ties into the reasoning behind swirling the wine. Ramey said wine makers place perfumes in the wine, so that the aroma becomes part of the wine-consuming experience. He explained you have to tip the glass, and insert your nose completely in it, close to the bottom of the rim, to be able to smell the aromas.

Tasting the wine

Ramey said a wine taster has to take a considerable amount of wine into his, or her mouth, to get the full wine-tasting experience. He said the taster should take in enough wine to completely cover his, or her tongue. He added this is important because different parts of the tongue pick up on different taste sensations.

Spitting the wine out

The Hwy. 138 Package Store's wine expert conceded this step is "disgusting," but he also said it is necessary when a person is tasting a wine. Ramey said the taste of a wine can stay in a person's mouth if they swallow the wine, prohibiting them from fully experiencing the next wine they sample at a wine-tasting event.

Attendees are being asked to give $20 donations at the wine-tasting, with the proceeds going to Arts Clayton's Building Fund, according to Arts Clayton Executive Director Linda Summerlin. Higgins said organizers are expecting up to 130 people will attend the event.

The package store co-owner said the wine list for the event is still being compiled, but she added the price range for the wines that will be available is $10 to $25, per bottle. People who order a bottle of wine during the wine-tasting event, will receive a 15 percent discount on their purchase, she added.

"Everyone, right now, is searching for good value wines, so we try to give them a full range [including], several different types of value wines for the main varietals, such as merlot, chardonnay, up to the sweeter wines, such as moscatos," Higgins said.

"We always feature some champagnes at our holiday show, because it is big for the holiday season, and wines that compliment the holiday meals."

Higgins and Summerlin added that wine and art have a "natural" connection with each other. "They just go together," Higgins said. "Wine-making is an art itself. And, I think most people that appreciate wine, also appreciate art."

Summerlin said the event is typically "festive," and popular with Arts Clayton supporters. She said it serves a dual purpose of generating some additional sales for the package store, and generating additional foot traffic in the Arts Clayton Gallery and additional support for the local arts group.

"It's really a lot of good fellowship, and an opportunity to taste new wines," Summerlin said. "What we [Arts Clayton officials] really get excited about is seeing the new wines that the Hwy. 138 Package Store has each year, and we end up purchasing them during the holiday season."