Ariel Chardonnay (2008)

My Experience:

You can smell the fermentation when compared to juices, with pear being the main scent I noticed. It's extremely similar to the Fre Chardonnay, but slightly stronger, and a touch more acidic. It's still pretty bland, though not as watery as the Fre. The fermented, sour tang this has overrides any other taste that might come through. I'm ok with it when drinking it with food, but just barely ok.

I preferred the chardonnay juice to either of the de-alcholized chardonnays. I'd love to ask a chardonnay fan what they think of this.

I think we're just not chardonnay people. Even the Draper Valley Vineyard Chardonnay was our least favorite of the juices. It's just bland, and slightly off. My wife says it tastes like rancid grape juice. I told her that's basically what it is, but that didn't change her opinion. :)

We tried it with Artichoke & Tomato Chicken (great chicken, not great pairing, though I thought it would be), Orange Cheesecake (which made it taste like water), and a hotdog (actually the best pairing I had, but still just ok.)

Works as a Wine Alternative: It's definitely got a bit of winey taste to it, but I can't come up with anything I'd want to eat this with.

Did I Like it: No. (3/10)

Would I Recommend it: Probably not. Try Draper Valley Vineyards Chardonnay varietal grape juice instead.

Who Might Like it: Chardonnay fans? You tell me.

Ariel Brut Cuvée

My Experience:

Champagne. In short, Champagne is a sparkling white wine (chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier), but the term Champagne is only to be used from wines coming from the Champagne region in France. So other wines that are made in the same method are often marketed by descriptors like Brut, or Cuvée. Brut is referring to how dry, or unsweet, the wine is, as explained here. Cuvée means that it is made from a mix of vintages, rather than single year. Cuvée is relatively common for Champagne, but particularly good vintage are sometimes separated and made into a vintage Champagne, or millesimé.

Smells a lot like other still Chardonnays I've had, it's cold though so it's hard to pick up the scent. Very fizzy, very dry, somewhat bitter, the liquid flutters away quickly due to being well carbonated. It has small sparkling bubbles that rise in a gentle steady stream. This brut is carbonated using the Charmat method.

It's not fruity at all, and has more acid than previous Chardonnays I've tried. The taste or flavor itself is mild, and it isn't complex, it's rather one-note. It finishes a touch more sweetly, but just a touch.

I usually like sweet foods, so it's surprising that I like this so much, I think it pairs well with sweeter foods because of the contrast it provides. Cammy Blackstone, the host of Munchcast has a different opinion about pairing wines with sweet/junkfood, though one of her guests agrees with me on Episode 64 "Junk Food and Wine Pairings"

While I like this, I'd love to try a Sec or Demi-Sec instead of a Brut, and compare.

On it's own it's probably not something I'd drink often, but with the food (we had 4 cheese lasagna macaroni that night) it was fantastic.

My wife says the water tastes sweet compared to the Brut. She gave up on it quickly, and doesn't like its bitterness at all. Not surprising from a juice lover.

I only have one problem. The taste kinda reminds of that one time I tried some plain club soda when I was a kid. I hope all the effort put into this Brut makes it significantly better than plain 'ol sparkling water or tonic water. Look for a club soda / tonic water / Fre Brut comparison in the future.

We later made a Mimosa with this and it was fantastic! My wife actually drank it. I'd buy again just for that. I've always liked 7up and orange juice, but I prefer this. I'm also interested in mixing this with a very sweet drink like Martinelli's.

Works as a wine Alternative: Absolutely.

Did I like it: I liked it a lot, and my wife hated it absolutely. 7 out of 10.

Would I Recommend it: Yes. You have to find out if you like this or not. It's very different from any juice you've tried

Who Might Like it: If you like it dry, this is it.

Draper Valley Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon

My Experience:

The last of our Draper Valley Vineyard "sample pack", the this is the first time I've had anything related to venerable Cabernet Sauvignon grape, so needless to say I was... expectant may be the best word.

I swirled it and gave it a sniff, and it turns out the scent is much stronger and easier to pick up than say, the relatively drab Chardonnay. I picked out Raspberry or blackberry, and of course grape. Even while drinking it these scents came through strong.

It seems the sweetness is fairly consistent between all of the Draper Valley Vineyard stuff, So this is also sweet like a juice, but seems sweeter than the rest. It is less grapey and more fruity than the Pinot Noir, with a hint ot strawberry, or maybe raspberry, and is smoother and less acidic than the Pinot, as well as having a bit lighter mouthfeel than the Pinot. It seems none of Draper Valley Vineyard's stuff has legs, but this did have a long fruity aftertaste, with a touch of a tingle to it.

It ended up too sweet for the spanish chorizo & dried tomato pizza we had, as it's strong flavor overwhelmed the bready crust. It would have been better with a bigger food, like steak or burgers. The sweetness might have also paired better with some of the spicy chineese food we had recently. I then cut it with some water, maybe 20 water 80 juice, which helped tone it down for the mild pizza we had.

I think all these juices need to be served slightly colder than their respective wines.
I also chilled some of these, and it nuked the taste, but left the sweetness and aftertaste. As usual, no hint of tannins.

We later did a taste test with all four of the Draper Valley Vineyard drinks we go, one cup straight, another cut with 1 part water 3 parts juice.

Cut with water it's more bitter (as was the Pinot Noir from Draper Valley Vineyards) and perhaps a touch more savory than sweet (but just a minor change.) Made me think of raspberry, pomegranate, and maybe grapefruit. Without food, I preferred the uncut drink.

Works as a wine Alternative: Yes, minus the sweetness.

Did I like it: Yes, but not so much as the Pinot or Riesling. 7 out of 10.

Would I Recomend it: I love trying out these varietal grapes, and I think it could even be fun for wine drinkers as it's interesting to taste the unadulterated grape. So yes.

Who Might Like it: Still a juice, but a premium, fun, interesting one. Very fruity, complex for a juice, give it a try if that sounds good to you.

Draper Valley Vineyard Pinot Noir

My Experience:

This is number 3 of the Draper Valley Vineyards 4 pack we got, just one more to go!

This vibrant red has a clear and punchy color, and now shares the top pedestal of juices with Draper Valley Vineyard's other great varietal, their Riesling. My wife and I adore this one.

Smells like some of the non-alcoholic wines I've tried, fruity, a lot like the zinfandel's I've tried. My wife says it smells like when her mother makes fresh grape juice.

This is more acidic than their chardonnay, and has a lighter mouthfeel. Just enough acidity to help cut through the food we had. It was a perfect pairing to cut through the slightly salty but delicious pork. A weakly chalky after taste, that finishes quickly, this would be the juice's low point.
A touch of plum, or maybe cherry, and a slight hint of pear. Whereas the rest of the varietal grape juices I've tried have had no tannin taste to it, this perhaps had the very slightest hint of it.

We later did a taste test with all four of the Draper Valley Vineyard drinks we go, one cup straight, another cut with 1 part water 3 parts juice.

It seems the flavor is darker, and slightly more bitter when cut with water, and of course less sweet. Without any food I like it straight, but depending on the meal it might be better watered down just a touch. Uncut, compared to the Cabernet, it made me think of figs.

Works as a wine Alternative: This juice is more layered and complex than normal grape juices, and not as sweet as many. Yes, it works.

Did I like it: My favorite red so far. 9 out of 10.

Would I Recomend it: Yes. Getting the Draper Valley Vineyard 4 pack (they now offer a 6 pack) is the best thing I've done for trying new drinks.

Who Might Like it: It is not dry like a wine, but other than that it seems to share several charataristics of a wine.