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Dec 19, 2012 11:57 AM

Wine Country Grape Juice

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.

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  1. 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: Melanie Wong

        (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:

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

        1. 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

            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

              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

                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

                  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

                    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

                      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

                        <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

                          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

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

                            1. re: Fowler

                              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

                                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

                                  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

                          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

                            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. 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

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

                      1. re: debbie421

                        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

                          On their website:

                          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

                            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

                              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: Shrinkrap

                                  I got 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

                                    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

                            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.