It’s Spring Break. You have a house full of 19-year-olds. And it is too cold to go to the beach or pool for the day. Fortunately for us, this group wanted to hang out with the “older folks,” and I had my samples of Castello di Amorosa non-vintage, non-alcoholic grape juice. These juices are from grape varieties traditionally used to make wine. When I asked if they wanted to do a “wine” tasting sans alcohol; they were all in. So Gary and I set it all up out on the balcony.
Side Note of Grape Juice:
I have to be honest. When I was asked to sample this product, part of me was intrigued, but I also thought, why would anybody do this? This is just silly. Winemakers make wine—end of story.
But then we tasted all three of these grape juices with our guests, and I was changed. All three were delicious and quite unique. To borrow and modify a line from a movie, If you make it, they will come.
This Is Not Your Average Grape Juice
This is a premium fruit juice made from high-quality wine grape varieties from vineyards in Napa, Sonoma, and the North Coast. These same vineyards also supply Castello di Amarosa with the same premium grapes used in the making of their wines.
According to Peter Velleno, winemaker at Castello di Amorosa, “our grape juice is made in much the same way as our wine. We harvest a few days early to provide a base of acidity. The clusters are hand-harvested and delivered to the crush pad where they are destemmed, pressed, and then the juice is chilled to about 32 degrees. The big difference is that we don’t add yeast to convert the grape sugars to alcohol. We skip that step, and the result is a great alternative to wine which has surprising ageability, of up to 2 years.”
The three juices included juice of a Muscat Canelli, a Gewürztraminer and a Sparkling Red Blend (90% Gamay, 5% Grenache and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. Side comment – now that is three varieties that you don’t see blended into a single wine, this could be fascinating)
My first assumption was that none of the swarm had “tasted” wine. But I still asked because I was 19 once, and I know what I was drinking as early as 16, so I also assumed that little had changed from then to now. Alas, since I do not consider Arbor Mist wine, the answer was no. So I started with some basics: aerating, smelling, and tasting.
The Juice Tasting
Starting with Juice of Muscat Canelli,
Then The Gewürtztraminer, Then The Sparking Red
Retail: $14.00 per bottle
First up, let’s aerate the juice by swirling it in your glass. Oops! Wine flew out of the glass of the overzealous “swirl-ers.” (Not looking at you, Davis!) I should have started out by stating, “Place the base of the glass on the table. While maintaining contact with the table, now swirl the juice in your glass.”
We then smelled the juice, and I asked what aromas they smelled. And you guessed it; the first answer was “grapes.” LOL, we all laughed, followed by pronounced silence. After a bit, they all just started throwing out ideas. As I gazed around the table, Erica said, “Mango, a sweet mango.” I practically jumped out of my chair with joy. She nailed it. I was so proud.
This juice definitely had both tropical and floral notes in both aroma and taste. Following the taste profiles, I asked them if their mouth was watering near the back edges of their tongues? Heads affirmatively nodded as I explained acidity and how that can play a part in the “finish” of the wine.
Acidity Side Note:
Given that the juice’s sugars would not be converted into alcohol with fermentation, it is important that the grapes were picked early to ensure a higher level of acidity.
Next up was the Gewürztraminer. It also exhibited tropical aromas and flavors, but the primary note for us was the lychee nut. This juice also seemed to have a greater viscosity and less acid than the Muscat. This juice triggered a love/hate situation. Some loved it and wanted more, and others, not so much.
I had to explain what a lychee nut was for some of the group. Those that heard of lychee were quick to agree with my note. But those that had no idea how lychee smelled or tasted sat quietly. That triggered the topic of sensory memory in both smell and taste and how that plays a part in how those memories guide us through our lives, recognizing how things taste and smell.
The Sparkling Red Blend
The tasting all came together with this last bottle. Once poured, everyone immediately raised their glasses to find aromas. “Raspberry.” “Strawberry.” “I smell strawberry too!” as they all starting calling out their findings. And then, I got the motherload response. “Freshly cut wheat field, ” stated Ryan, the taster from rural North Dakota. I was wowed! Talk about pulling from your sensory memory.
As we moved from smelling to tasting, the red fruit flavors won the day. According to Ryan, there was no cut wheat field taste or flavor.
Oh, my gosh, we laughed so much and had a great time tasting these juices.
In addition to teaching people how to smell and taste wine, one can use these juices in so many ways. They are unlike any grape juice you will find at any grocery store. The juices can be served to folks who do not drink alcohol or are too young to drink alcohol. They also would make excellent mixers in a cocktail.
While the folks behind these juices claim they are healthy alternatives to soda and other naturally sweetened drinks, these juices’ sugar content is quite high. That said, Gary and I both really enjoyed all three, as did our students. Thanks to Morgan, Ryan, Lauren, Erica, and Davis for sharing this experience with us.
You can order these three non-vintage, non-alcoholic grape juices on the Castello di Amorosa website. The link is below.
Castello di Amorosa 4045 No. St. Helena Hwy.-Calistoga, CA 94515 * www.castellodiamorosa.com *
To Order, please call-707.967.6274
That is all for now.
Rick & Gary