This page is reserved for friends of WineGuyMike™ who are passionate about things in life that relate to Wine, Beer, or Spirits. Generally speaking beverages are shared socially. WineGuyMike™ and his friends try to capture these life moments and experiences so we can share them with you. Thank you for joining us, we raise our glasses and say “Cheers to you.”
A blog post from Montana KPAX-TV celebrity Jill Valley.
I’m on a quest to find a good non-alcoholic wine, emphasis on the “good”. I know, why bother, right?
In fact, while researching the topic, I went to the wine lover’s page (wineloverspage.com) where I was told the search for an authentic, non-alcoholic wine was probably futile. The suggestion? Forget about it and look for “Quality fruit juices, sparkling water, good coffee or tea.”
I started investigating the non-alcoholic wine option because even one glass makes me feel hung over the next day. But I still enjoy the taste and ritual of wine. And non-alcoholic wine lets you blend into social or business situations where you don’t have to explain why you’re not drinking. So I thought I’d give it a try.
I went to Albertson’s on Brooks and although they have an extensive wine collection, no non-alcoholic options. CVS pharmacy has a terrific wine selection but only had Fre’, a product made by Sutter wines. CVS stocks it next to the Reunite (on ice, that’s nice) and the other wines in the giant glass jugs with twist tops which should make anyone suspicious. It was $4.99 with a twist top and wasn’t that good. I tried it years before but thought maybe technology had moved this brand ahead. If you’re the kind of person who likes to mindlessly sip wine while reading a book, this would work. Although mindlessly drinking alcohol might point to a deeper issue but I’m not your mom….so.
Then I called Liquid Planet. They had to ask the wine manager if they even carried non-alcoholic wine. They found one bottle and put it on hold for me. This brand seems to be the brand of choice, according to my internet search. This was a 2006 Ariel cabernet with a cork and a rich color. The label says it’s a ‘premium dealcoholized” wine that contains less than one half of once percent of alcohol by volume. And it cost almost ten dollars. I figured that was a good sign. It was ok. It takes getting used to. And I believe nonalcoholic wine has a value of zero points on the Weight Watchers plan instead of 4 for the real stuff. So there’s that.
The process, according to the Ariel website reads as follows:
“Some of ARIEL’s varietal wines are aged in small oak barrels, and all are fined and filtered according to traditional winemaking methods. Finally, more than 99.5% of the alcohol is removed through our gentle cold filtration process. This process, which uses reverse osmosis, allows alcohol to be removed from ARIEL while retaining many of the qualities found in traditional wine!”
Here’s a picture of how they do it.
Reverse osmosis! Cool.
The wine was moderately satisfying, much better than Fre’ but still not quite right. Ariel’s website brags of winning tasting contests head to head with real wine. Hmmm.
I found the Carl Jung website which helped me legitimize my search. It says “alcohol-free wine makes sense in today’s health conscious environment. They are more than just a fad, they are a new habit” even though I’m starting to get looks from the store employees when I ask if they have non-alcoholic wines. I have yet to order any Carl Jung. There is a website called nonalcoholicwinesonline.com where I can order it. It’s understandably the shipping that makes it an investment.
This company has German roots but you order from Canada. The company has been de-alcoholizing wine since 1909. This one sound promising. I also e-mailed Vandalia, a brand where I could buy a case of cabernet for $200. I also emailed them, hoping for a sample and a tip on where to find it around Missoula. They don’t sell it in the region and I don’t want to drop $200 bucks on a non-wine without tasting it first. I have not heard back.
I found this notation on the Yale-New Haven hospital website where they address the medical benefits of red wine:
“In 1997, researchers at the University of Wisconsin concluded that purple grape juice also reduced blood clotting. Another study by researchers at University of California at Davis, confirmed the findings that non-alcoholic red wine contains the same antioxidant profile as red wine. However in a 1998 study, Japanese researchers found that while grape juice still had antioxidative benefits, it did not significantly lower LDL cholesterol levels compared to red wine.”
My next call was to the Pattee Creek Market, often noted for its good wine selection. The manager told me about a product they just got in, called PureBlue UnWine and unlike its de- dealcoholized brethren, its 100-percent juice. And at about $9.00 a bottle, I expected it to be really good. It was mostly blueberry juice with some cabernet and other varieties of grapes all squeezed into the bottle. Tasty stuff and very good for you. My daughter liked it. Kind of pricy for a regular drinking juice, though.
I didn’t see what I was looking for at WalMart. The Wild Vines “wine”….really just wine coolers in a bottle… have about half the alcohol content than many of the wines I checked out at the store. They’re just so darn sugary sweet.
While at IKEA in Seattle last month, I found a can of sparking pear juice that is delicious and would make a great option for a fun virgin cocktail.
This is a revealing passage from the webpage Wine Lovers Page, written by Robin Garr. The two U.S. brands I have tried are Fré and Ariel. These brands are widely available in wine stores, but I’ve found the whites to be bland and the reds actively unpleasant. It’s my opinion that three issues are at work here: First, the de-alcoholizing process is intrusive and seems to damage the wine, even though the makers claim otherwise. Second, alcohol is a key component of the customary flavor (and texture) profile of wine, and wines without it seem to be missing something; they seem lightweight and thin. Finally, to be blunt, these are inexpensive wines made from marginal grapes.
So let’s throw out the idea that we can get a good non- alcoholic wine and embrace the inner juice of the grapes! Sweet Water Cellars offers dozens of different juices from all the common wine making grapes and you can even select the region where the grapes are grown.
Here’s a sample of their offerings:
This exceptional grape juice is 100% Merlot and made the same way as great Bordeaux wines. All the grapes are from old vines, low grape productions per vineyard, in organic culture. This product is totally natural, the grapes freshly pressed immediately after the harvest. The Merlot grapes are chosen from artisanal vintners.
The husband and wife team of Niels and Bimmer Udsen established Castoro Cellars in Templeton, California, in the early 1980s. It is one of the oldest wineries in the Paso Robles American Viticultural Area (AVA). In addition to the grapes grown in their own vineyards, Castoro Cellars buys fruit from more than 20 other local growers, seeking out those willing to invest the extra effort necessary to produce high quality fruit. Their 2009 bottling, a blend of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot juices with just a touch of sparkle, is a perfect example of that commitment to excellence. Bottles range in price from ten to twenty dollars.
A wine is considered alcohol free if it has less than one percent
While it is physically impossible to remove all of the alcohol in non-alcoholic wines, these drinks meet the alcohol-free legal standard. The tiny amount of alcohol in alcohol-free wines is not enough to make you feel drunk and is actually less than you might find in a glass of fresh orange juice.
Alcohol-free wine can be enjoyed in any situation where you would have a glass of wine. It is great with dinner or at restaurants, parties and corporate events. Non-alcoholic wine is a great choice when you need to stay focused and alert, if you are going to be driving or if you are expecting a baby. If you are on medication that doesn’t allow you to drink, you can still enjoy a glass of this wine.
Sadly, it’s probably true that the world of wines has no patience for those of us who enjoy the social aspects and tradition of a fine wine but not the aftermath of alcohol consumption no matter how hard they try. The alcohol has a lot to do with flavor that clearly can’t be replicated once it’s removed.
So, I toast you with a juice box and wish you luck. Bottoms up!
A guest blog post from Lisa who blogs at MarriedToWine.com
This wonderful post has been shared with us by my Twitter friend Lisa who you can also follow on Twitter @MarriedToWine. Lisa works in the California wine industry and she was kind enough to write this poignant piece for the WineGuyMike™ blog. I encourage you to read more from Lisa at www.MarriedToWine.com
The Unspoken Language of Wine
My husband owns a beret and eats organ meats that smell like rotting flesh (I’m looking at you, andouillette). He’s French alright (and a winemaker to boot). I listen with envy when the poetic stylings of his romance language, well, unintentionally romance recipients of either sex.
Me? I’m linguistically impaired. English is the baloney to my bread—there ain’t no room for saucisson. When he speaks in his native tongue, I am able to enjoy only the sound. Perhaps it’s better that way? I get the visceral experience without drowning in the details of whatever mundane thing he might be saying. In my mind, he’s always reading poetry.
Once, when we were visiting family in France I was trying to impress his godparents. They asked if I spoke any French. Loaded with intention but lacking knowledge, I replied, un petit pois, which doesn’t mean the little bit that I intended, but rather a little pea. As in the vegetable. Fortunately for me, we live in California where my need to incessantly communicate is cushioned by the English-speaking populous. Although, the same crippling insecurity I have in speaking French first reared its ugly head when I was new in the wine business.
One of my early jobs in the wine industry was running a lab. I was required to taste on a professional level. But I didn’t yet know wine or how to taste. So, the first thing I did was learn the vocabulary. Was it fruity? Vegetal? Nutty? Spicy? Floral? Pungent? Earthy? Or chemical? These are common taste and smell sensations that we have all experienced through food, plants, and the air. Just by living (eating, tasting, drinking, breathing), I already knew what these words meant.
We all have taste buds and can learn to associate a taste sensation with a descriptor. Once I knew that, it removed a lot of the mystique, which allowed me to explore and take more risks without worrying about embarrassing myself (which I still do, I’m sure, I just don’t care). I firmly believe that it’s the language of wine, rather than wine itself, that scares off many would-be consumers.
After a while, I stopped vying to understand the exact words coming out of my husband’s mouth. I instead began to appreciate hearing something foreign and beautiful. It is this exact principle that gave me the freedom to embrace wine. All the hoity-toity jargon had previously scared me off.
We need to eschew lofty wine language. Case in point: my husband, I, and a dear friend treated ourselves to dinner at a to-remain-unnamed, Michelin-rated restaurant in San Francisco run by a certain dreamy celebrity chef (let the guessing begin!). All three of us indulged in wine pairing menus. But the sommelier was insufferable. Between the three of us at our table, we had a combined twenty-three years experience working for wineries. Certainly, we were not lacking wine knowledge.
Regardless, we could not understand a damn thing our sommelier mumbled regarding any of the six-plus wines we tasted. He used acronyms for grape varietals that only those who speak about wine use to sound educated and illusive. Never once, in our combined twenty-some-odd years, had we heard the growers of grapes, or the makers of wine, use some of the terms that he spewed at us that night. It was painful. I can only imagine how it would have felt for those with a more casual interest in wine. My guess is that it would have scared them off permanently.
Having two different native languages, my husband and I still struggle occasionally with nuances of verbal communication. We learned to communicate first through our senses. Really, love is no different than wine. It is intimidating. We struggle to understand it. And feel self conscious when we can’t find the right words. But if we rely on our instinct and lean on our existing sensory-knowledge, a lifelong love affair with wine is imminent.
Lisa has worked in the California wine industry since 2005. Between that and being married to a French winemaker, wine is her life. But words are her sustenance. She blogs at www.marriedtowine.com, and confesses that she actually does try to learn French, but is failing miserably.
Past Guest Posts
I would like to introduce you to a new wine loving friend of mine from the Lone Star State of Texas. My Sister-in-law Becky has been asking me to write about some wine and wineries from Texas, well Becky here you go. Warren Gale is a great guy and here is a little bit about his mission.
Warren’s goal is to reach out, by the way of a wine blog, to novice wine drinkers and the drinkers of wine who have a limited budget. He hopes to inspire his audience to reach out to and explore wines from vineyards they have not experienced and try wonderful wines they produce.
This review is a two-fer; two for the price of one! My wife Karen and I enjoy having our next door neighbor, Dave, over for dinner on Sunday’s and we all like pork ribs. I caught a great sale on pork ribs about a month ago and bought 4 racks. We’ve had them on two occasions now – but with different wines.
Wine #1: Llano Blush, Americas Table Wine
Well, of course, Texas Barbeque deserves a Texas wine and the Blush was a great choice. The bouquet was aromatic and caught everyone’s attention at the table before it was poured.
Served chilled, it was sweet with a tender fruit flavor that was full but not overpowering. It sported a nice, crisp finish leaving us with the desire for more.
Wine #2: Chapel Vineyard’s Merlot Reserva, 2010
This Chilean wine was a delight. Visually, while being poured, it caught our attention due to the small purple colored bubbles and its deep purple shade in the glass. The bouquet was robust with the scent of berries and cherries creating a delicious invitation to taste the wine. My experience with wines from South American wines has left me with the feeling they were a little behind in achieving the quality found in other countries. NOT this time! The young wine was ripe with the flavors announced at the opening. Its texture was smooth across and around the tongue with a solid and fulfilling finish. I really enjoyed this wine and I will be watching for more fine wines from Chapel Vineyard.
Which one did I prefer with the Barbeque, you ask? The Llano Blush. I know what you are thinking, “yeah, but he’s from Texas”. True but I grew up in New York State! Both wines were excellent and I know the Merlot Reserva would win out in pairing with a good beef entree. Try them and see if you don’t agree!
Llano Blush, America’s Table Wine, Llano Estacado Wines,
Purchased at Wal-Mart’s
Price: $5.47 + Tax 8.5 Corks
Merlot Reserva, Chapel Vineyard, 2010, from Chili
Purchased: Laithwaites Wine
Price: $7.00 8.5 Corks
Barbecued Pork Ribs, Mash Potatoes, and Cream Corn
The ribs were washed in cold water, having been frozen and thawed. We had two racks of ribs and each one was wrapped separately in aluminum foil, one of the two with barbecue sauce added. Place in the over at 250 degrees and cooked for 4 ½ hours. Results were extremely tender meat that was falling off the bones! Enjoy!
I’m not sure whether it is pairing and cooking, or cooking and pairing. It seems to be a conundrum that is constantly changing. Tonight it was cooking and pairing. We were having a shrimp salad that looked wonderful in the cookbook; and it was. As a Shrimp dish, I choose a white wine; I choose the Clos Du Bois Pinot Grigio. It proved to be an excellent choice. Its freshness was appetizing. The seductive floral and lemon favors poured in deliciously with a low amount of tannins which registered lightly on in the rear areas of my tongue. It had a smooth, almost buttery texture and it consumed finishing with a moderate, but gently finish. I wish this had come in a 1000ml bottle instead of 750. This California gift, a 13% alcohol gem, is a wonderful wine to behold.
Clos Du Bois
Produced and bottled by Clos Du Bois, Geyersville CA.
Price: $9.97 9 Corks
Scenic River Riesling is a delight from the get-go. This Qualitatswein (quality wine) comes in an unusually long bottle with a front window that looks through the wine to a landscape painted by the grower, Heinz Ames. Grown in the Mosel Valley this wine opens with a fresh and promising aroma of fresh fruits causing the wine drinker to ponder, momentarily, the delights hidden within. Served chilled, this wine felt cool, crisp and refreshing as my first taste was taken Sweet, but not too sweet, yet rich with fruity flavors. All this was followed by a long, subtle, velvety finish. This is a perfect wine to be paired with German food, which is what I did, yet it can stand alone as an outstanding cocktail wine.
Note for beginners
Two additional categories of Riesling to be noted here are:
Spätlese – meaning “late harvest”
typically semi-sweet, often (but not always) sweeter and fruitier than Kabinett. Spätlese can be a relatively full-bodied dry wine if designated so. While Spätlese means late harvest the wine is not as sweet as a dessert wine.
Auslese – meaning “select harvest”
made from selected very ripe bunches or grapes, typically semi-sweet or sweet, sometimes with some noble rot character. Sometimes Auslese is also made into a powerful dry wine. Courtesy of Wikipedia
The quality improves from Qualitatswein to Spatlese then to Auslese.
Purchased at Walmarts
Price: $12.97 + Tax 9 Corks
This was an unusual dinner event in our house. There was no real recipe for dinner this time, dinner, yes, recipe, no. Now how can that happen you ask? I have this wonderful friend, Richard McHenry aka also affectionately known as “Padre”, to his friends and a retired Episcopal Priest. We enjoy breakfast together almost every Wednesday morning. As we left the restaurant last week he asked me to step over to the trunk of his car, as he had something for me. Now you might laugh but he had a trunk full of German food, all purchased from the Vermont Country Store. He begins handing me Bokworst, Sauerkraut, German potato salad, red cabbage, 3 grain bread and a box of assorted cheeses. It probably looked like a drug deal going down to the passersby, but it really was just the way “Padre” says thank you to his friends. I am blessed that “Padre” is my very good friend.
Dinner was warmed, as not necessary to be cooked. If you are not familiar with the Vermont Country Store you should be. Here is their web site:
Note: For those of us still young in dog years pay particular attention to Brands from the Past
Normally I wouldn’t have picked a similar varietal so near another like “Thea”. This wine, however, came about after a discussion of a recipe with a friend instead of the other way around. That recipe is posted below. The combination of this wine and this dish made for an exciting evening of culinary anticipation.
Nobilo, a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, was our choice of wine to go with this “hot” dish, and it was served chilled. It was delightful from the get go. The aroma of fruit was apparent from the start, a bouquet of fragrances and I new then that this would be a better than average wine. This 2010 wine had good “legs” and a delightful clear appearance with only a twinge of yellow so characteristic in many white wines. With the initial sip the tip of my tongue alerted me to the sweetness of this wine and the side of my tongue gave me a hint of acidity that was just right with a proper, but low key, finish. This seemed to be the perfect wine for this dish. It will go well with other spicy foods as well as with fish, rich cheeses or consumed all by itself!
Nobilo, Regional Collection, Marlborough Region, Sauvignon Blanc, 2010
Sold thru: www.WineChateau.com 30% discount by case.
Purchased at Tom Thom Grocery Store
Price: $13.99 + Tax 9 Corks
Rob is a professor at The University of Montana and is a friend of WineGuyMike™. This man is more passionate about sharing and teaching than anyone I know. Once winter passes and spring turns to summer Rob and I will be organizing a star-gazing gathering with wine. Watch for guest blogs from Rob, he is an incredible writer and I’m happy to have him join WineGuyMike so we can share our life’s passions with you.
Rob teaches English literature for a living and spends his free time hiking, gardening, and stargazing. His mantra, “wonder does a soul good.”
The Cheapest Show on Earth
Like wine tasting, stargazing can be incredibly expensive. A top of the line Celestron refractor telescope will cost you a little under $10,000, pretty close to the going rate for a case of 1996 Chateau Lafite Rothschild Pauillac. For a quarter of a million dollars you can purchase a Takahashi FCT-200 Fluorite ED Triplet Refractor or a bottle of 1907 Heidsieck & Co. Monopole Champagne (http://stylecrave.com/2009-05-08/10-bottles-of-wine-you-cant-afford-to-uncork/). With telescopes, of course, the numbers can go even higher: the Subaru reflector on Mauna Kea in Hawaii cost 300 million. The Hubble space telescope cost 7 billion.
I like to look at the photographs made by the Hubble telescope at such great expense (available to all online at www.hubblesite.org or www.nasa.gov), and then step outside into my backyard and gaze for free at the same celestial wonders. With my naked eyes I can’t see what Hubble sees. I can’t make out much detail in the Great nebula hanging from the belt of Orion (http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap061120.html) and I can’t resolve any of the 100,000 individual stars in the Great Globular Cluster in the constellation Hercules (http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap040511.html). But stargazing always has been less than 50% vision and more than 50% imagination and experience.
What Hubble, or any other telescope, can’t see is the panorama of the Milky Way, that awe-inspiring swath of star stuff stretching (at this time of year) from Cygnus the swan to Sagittarius the archer. Hubble doesn’t see the swaying trees or the mountain or skyscraper-edged horizons that are part of the naked-eye star-gazer’s view, nor does it hear crickets or train whistles or rustling leaves. It can’t smell lilacs or lavender or cut grass on the night air.
For me, a bottle of wine is pretty much the same ballgame. It’s an occasion to take in and enjoy the full scene around my wineglass. Usually this includes food, music, and good company. Oftentimes, on clear evenings, the scene includes the stars. It’s an ancient and well-known fact that wine can heighten the imagination, so wine tasting and stargazing are natural companions. Stars and wine can be enjoyed simply, but they also reward closer gazing and tasting. When one enjoys them together the delights can be very rich.