HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >
What are you cooking today? Get great advice

Wine Country Grape Juice

debbie421 Dec 19, 2012 11:57 AM

Hi all! I recently went to Chez Panisse, and when they learned no one in the party drinks, they offered us a high end grape juice that was clearly from a vineyard. It got me to wondering, are there any local wine country vineyards that produce some sort of non-alcoholic grape juice? I'd love to set up a grape juice tasting so I can also enjoy the beauty of wine country with my wine drinking friends.

  1. h
    hyperbowler Dec 19, 2012 12:17 PM

    That was probably the Navarro Pinot Noir or Gewurztraminer. It's a great excuse for a trip--- they don't sell their juices retail. You can, however, get it shipped to you. Get on their mailing list.... early in the summer, I got a case during a special when shipping was only a penny per bottle.

    Excellent topic, btw--- I'm very interested to see other suggestions!

    2 Replies
    1. re: hyperbowler
      Melanie Wong Dec 19, 2012 04:08 PM

      Not straight juice, but have you tried Vignette soda?

      1. re: Melanie Wong
        hyperbowler Dec 20, 2012 01:06 PM

        (Re: Melanie's post) mmm... vignette soda. From their website, it looks like they now have Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Rose, and California Brut.

        The single serving sizes are common around Berkeley. Not sure how common the 750ml bottles are, but I picked up Pinot Noir 750ml bottle on sale at Buyer's Best Friend for Thanksgiving. Damn near finished the bottle myself.

        BBF's website also sells an Australian winery's sparkling grape juice. I don't recall seeing it at their retail location, but wasn't looking too hard: http://www.bbfdirect.com/pc/patritti-...

    2. Robert Lauriston Dec 19, 2012 12:18 PM

      The best is Navarro's, I believe that's what they serve at Chez Panisse. It's generally not available retail except direct from the winery.


      1. a
        absc Dec 19, 2012 12:51 PM

        Like the others have said, it is probably the Navarro. I've been served it in the past at Chez Panisse.

        1. g
          greymalkin Dec 20, 2012 01:53 AM

          I adore the Navarro Grape Juice, though I find the Gewurztraminer is more interesting than the Pinot (which tastes more like a really good Welch's).

          If you want some others to try: Castello di Amorosa also bottles a fairly good grape juice made with their Muscat grapes. As you might expect it is sugary sweet without so many of the floral honey notes I find in the Navarro Gewurztraminer, but it also seems to linger less on the palate. I have not tried their Riesling grape juice yet.

          I have heard a rumor that Kunde Estate may also bottle their unfermented grape juice but can find no confirmation that they still do it and haven't been there to ask in person.

          While trying to find out more on Kunde,I found this which sounds a lot like Navarro's Verjus (which is really nice to cook with, btw).

          This website lists a lot of grape juices although I know nothing about this company and do not know how current/legit the listings are. Some of the bottling years listed are pretty old! I've kept some grape juices for a few years and they definitely start getting a little ferment-y and off-tasting after 2-3 years.

          14 Replies
          1. re: greymalkin
            Robert Lauriston Dec 20, 2012 08:45 AM

            I tasted a ten-year-old Navarro Gewürztraminer once and it was great. It had developed in many of the ways good wine does.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston
              greymalkin Dec 21, 2012 12:19 AM

              I don't drink alcoholic beverages at all so I'm very sensitive to the taste of alcohol fermentation, and it tastes bad to me. I've tried an 8 year old Navarro Gewurztraminer, a 4 year old Navarro Pinot, and a 7 year old Amorosa Muscat. All three were less sweet than the fresher ones, allowing some of the other flavors to come out more. So I can totally see what you're saying.

              But the tradeoff was a fermented flavor that made it taste spoiled. Like milk that's gone slightly off. I couldn't enjoy the taint of bitter-sour. It really was just me though, others who drank them didn't even notice. But they were all folks who drink wine and beer or at least like the taste.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                hyperbowler Dec 21, 2012 01:01 AM

                I had a 2008 at a party earlier this summer. I have no idea how it had been stored, but unlike a more recent bottle, it had some off flavors. In particular, it had a slight amount of that diesel aroma you get from aged Reisling. Not my thing, but I could imagine other people finding it desirable.

                1. re: hyperbowler
                  Robert Lauriston Dec 21, 2012 09:00 AM

                  The "petrol" quality in old Riesling is generally considered a plus rather than a defect, though it might be an acquired taste.

                  1. re: hyperbowler
                    maria lorraine Dec 27, 2012 11:58 PM

                    Sounds like the Navarro grape juice actually fermented.

                    That diesel aroma is called fusel, and actually it is an alcohol that results from fermentation, or several alcohols. It's just not regular alcohol -- ethyl alcohol (ethanol).

                    It's the result of a fast fermentation, and chemical deficits during fermentation. Though I'd call it characteristic of some Riesling wines, I certainly wouldn't call it desirable or a plus. Especially in grape juice that's supposed to be alcohol-free.

                    1. re: maria lorraine
                      Fowler Dec 28, 2012 07:05 AM

                      Hi Maria,

                      Forgive my ignorance, but are you and Robert speaking of the scent of diesel fuel itself or the scent from diesel fuel burning (exhaust from a diesel truck, for example)? In my very limited experience they are two different scents in wine.

                      1. re: Fowler
                        maria lorraine Dec 29, 2012 04:06 AM

                        <scent of diesel fuel itself or the scent from diesel fuel burning (exhaust from a diesel truck, for example)? In my very limited experience they are two different scents in wine.>>

                        That's a good sniffer you got there, Fowler.

                        I think we may be talking a matter of degree, from a little diesel to an overpowering amount. Diesel in a wine can be so stinky it smells like a direct whiff of gasoline. I've had some Kracher Austrian stickies that smelled that way. A heavy toast on the inside of barrels could, theoretically, also lend a smoky character (4 methylguaicol/creosol) to the wine. So that might be what you're smelling with the diesel/smoky combo. Sounds nasty. I don't recall experiencing this, but it may be because I was so put off by the heavy diesel I couldn't subject myself to figuring out anything further.

                        1. re: maria lorraine
                          Fowler Dec 29, 2012 03:51 PM

                          Thank you for the reply, maria lorraine.

                          "So that might be what you're smelling with the diesel/smoky combo. "

                          No, definitely not the "combo" as you put it. I am just trying to ascertain if you and Robert are thinking of the scent of diesel fuel itself or the scent produced when diesel fuel is burned and we smell the results of combustion. Two different scents in Riesling and two that should not be confusing.

                          1. re: Fowler
                            Robert Lauriston Dec 29, 2012 04:41 PM

                            I'm happy to say I've never encountered a wine that smelled like diesel exhaust.

                            1. re: Fowler
                              maria lorraine Dec 29, 2012 05:19 PM

                              I've smelled pretty bad diesel in wine, so much so it smelled like I was in back of a idling truck that was sending out black sooty exhaust that smelled of tar, unspent fuel and extreme nastiness. I think that's still diesel, just a lot of it.

                              1. re: maria lorraine
                                Fowler Dec 29, 2012 06:32 PM

                                Thanks maria lorraine. We are probably thinking along the same track but perhaps I did not articulate my thoughts as well as I should have.

                                Indeed...that powerful smell of exhaust coming from an idling truck. That is what I was thinking and apparently you were thinking that as well.

                                I now see that Robert has responded and states he has never "encountered a wine that smelled like diesel exhaust".

                                I am not sure (based upon his original comment on the subject) if we should consider him lucky or unlucky? He said the "petrol quality" may be a plus as opposed to a defect.

                                Confusing to say the least.

                                1. re: Fowler
                                  Robert Lauriston Dec 29, 2012 06:49 PM

                                  People who are fans of old Riesling tend to like the TDN aroma, in context. I've never has one where that dominated the nose.

                                  I can see how it might put people off, the way that tar does.

                        2. re: maria lorraine
                          Robert Lauriston Dec 28, 2012 09:30 AM

                          The "petrol" bouquet in some old Rieslings has nothing to do with fermentation. 1,1,6-trimethyl-1,2-dihydronaphthalene is
                          developed during bottle aging from carotene precursors.

                          Fusel oils are an entirely unrelated group of chemicals produced by yeast during fermentation.

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston
                            maria lorraine Dec 29, 2012 03:51 AM

                            TDN, the molecule to which Robert has referred, is one source of petrol aromas (kerosene, turpentine, camphor/naptha) in Riesling, Gewurtz and Muscat grapes.

                            Only the chemical precursors are there in the grapes and grape juice. It takes bottle aging or fermentation for TDN to release its aromas(go from a bound state to an unbound state. For that reason, one finds TDN only in grape juice that is aged, but it can occur early on in wine (and in greater intensity in both grape juice and wine) when the grapes are grown in too hot a climate or with too much foliage.

                            I thought the Navarro grape juice might have undergone fermentation but it has/does not -- it is sterile filtered to remove the yeast on the skins.

                            Fusel results only from fermentation, so it isn't the source of the petrol aroma the grape juice.

                  2. d
                    debbie421 Dec 23, 2012 07:58 PM

                    I reached out to Navarro and they'll set up a juice tasting just like you'd do a wine tasting! We probably won't go out for a month or two, but I'll post a review.

                    9 Replies
                    1. re: debbie421
                      Shrinkrap Dec 26, 2012 07:21 PM

                      That is SO what I've been lookng for. Such a drag to live so close to Napa and not drink .

                      1. re: debbie421
                        Robert Lauriston Dec 27, 2012 10:53 AM

                        They make only two juices, Gewürztraminer and Pinot Noir. At last report they were sold out of both for 2011 and had not released the 2012s yet, so make sure before driving all the way out there.

                        They also make the best verjus on the market, but that's for cooking, not drinking.

                        1. re: Robert Lauriston
                          gordon wing Dec 27, 2012 11:02 PM

                          On their website: http://www.navarrowine.com/shop/

                          the 2012 Gewurztraminer and Pinot Noir juices are listed as "Buy Now" $11.00 for 750ml discount for half cases and full. And as you noted: the 2011 juices are both sold out.

                          1. re: gordon wing
                            Shrinkrap Dec 27, 2012 11:30 PM

                            When I put in my zip code I'm seeing discounted shipping at $0.01. Can that be right? That would be sweet since Mendocino isn't exactly bay area.

                            1. re: Shrinkrap
                              Fowler Dec 27, 2012 11:37 PM

                              Shrinkrap, Yes that is correct. From time to time Navarro offers $0.01 shipping if you purchase a case. I believe they currently offer that deal.

                              1. re: Fowler
                                Shrinkrap Dec 27, 2012 11:45 PM


                                1. re: Shrinkrap
                                  Shrinkrap Jan 9, 2013 10:44 AM

                                  I got my....gulp...case of juice. This is a lot of grape juice. Does anybody know how well it keeps? Some of what I've found suggests it doesn't "age" well.

                                  1. re: Shrinkrap
                                    Robert Lauriston Jan 9, 2013 11:08 AM

                                    Depends on how you store it. Keep it cool, like wine, and it will last for years.

                                    The 10-year-old Navarro Gewürztraminer juice I tasted was one of the best non-alcoholic beverages I've had. We had it at a party and everyone liked it.

                          2. re: Robert Lauriston
                            Estella H. Jan 7, 2013 09:42 PM

                            Actually, my husband and I love sipping their verjus! We pour about 2 oz each (chilled) and sip it slowly. It's very tart and refreshing.

                        2. e
                          Estella H. Jan 7, 2013 09:42 PM

                          A budget-friendly version is Trader Joe's sparkling chardonnay juice for only $2.49 a bottle -- I prefer the Navarro Gewurztraminer, but that's a lot harder to come by.

                          1. h
                            hyperbowler Jan 9, 2013 10:21 PM

                            I'll be damned. Chow in Lafayette has bottles of the 2011 Gewurt. and Pinot Noir for $10.95.

                            7 Replies
                            1. re: hyperbowler
                              Robert Lauriston Jan 10, 2013 08:38 AM

                              Restaurants can get it, provided they order some wine, too. Navarro just won't sell it to wine shops.

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                hyperbowler Jan 10, 2013 08:53 AM

                                Right, they seem to be going against Navarro's policies, so I was surprised to see it. It's not on the menu--- it's only available in the market and wine shop section of their space.

                                1. re: hyperbowler
                                  Robert Lauriston Jan 10, 2013 08:57 AM

                                  Navarro doesn't try to dictate its restaurant customers' policies. They just won't sell juice to retail wine shops. Places that are both can get it.

                              2. re: hyperbowler
                                PegS Jan 10, 2013 10:49 AM

                                Ohhh, what a find! Thanks! As much I love it, it's still a bit of a hassle and kind of a major outlay to order a case from Navarro. It would be great if I could get single bottles locally.

                                Decades ago there was a specialty food market in the basement of what was then SF Centre that sold bottles. I think I first discovered the grape juice there, before even trying it at Chez Panisse.

                                1. re: hyperbowler
                                  Stephanie Wong Jan 10, 2013 12:23 PM

                                  Did they have of the Verjus?

                                  1. re: Stephanie Wong
                                    Robert Lauriston Jan 10, 2013 12:34 PM

                                    Some past sightings of Navarro verjus:


                                    It's far superior to every other brand I've tried.

                                    1. re: Stephanie Wong
                                      hyperbowler Jan 10, 2013 12:40 PM

                                      I didn't notice the Verjus and might have inquired about it had I remembered its existence. There were about 10-20 bottles on the top of a display case and it's conceivable a Verjus was hidden in the center. Their supply is visible as you enter the restaurant--- I wouldn't have gone into the market area had I not recognized the label from across the room!

                                      They've apparently stocked them for a few months.

                                  Show Hidden Posts