History: After nine grueling months of carrying a baby inside their stomach and then shoving something the size watermelon through an area the size of a lime, the first thing most women want after birth, understandably, is alcohol. But what about during pregnancy? Booze is out of the question, so that doesn’t leave many drinking options with the same regality. Pat Galvin noticed this and set out to do something truly unique in the soda industry: put it on the same platform as wine. “The idea came from seeing my wife go through pregnancy with our first child and seeing how few sophisticated non-alcoholic options were available,” Galvin tells us. He founded Vignette Wine Country Soda in Berkeley, California in 2007. The company believes their soda is “an elevated experience” for the drinker, allowing folks who don’t drink alcohol a new high-end option as well as those who do drink booze the chance to take a night off and still have something interesting in their hand. Vignette Wine Country Soda produces three flavors: pinot noir and chardonnay (the two original flavors), as well as rosé (launched in 2009). Now the question you’re all asking is: does this actually taste like wine? Maybe a little bit, but that’s not the goal. Galvin explains that with the pinot noir soda, they’re “really not trying to match the flavor of wine,” adding “that wouldn’t be possible.” Instead, the company prioritizes capturing “a nice, clean fruit flavor.” Think of this beverage as an artisan grape soda with a mild wine flavor influence.
At Vignette Wine Country Soda, it’s all about the grapes. The company uses varietal wine grapes from California. What are varietal grapes and why are they different? We didn’t know, so we asked. Galvin tells us wine grapes “have more complex flavors than a traditional table grape that you might be used to.” For example, some might be sweet, some sour, and some might even have a berry characteristic to them. Variety. Hence the term “varietal.” Did we mention the grapes are important? They want you to know the grapes are important. “Our juices could easily be made into wine instead…. These are premium grapes,” Galvin explains. Basically, you’re drinking the best of the best. And because of that, the company doesn’t add any sugar to their wine sodas. All the sweetness you’ll taste in each bottle comes from the natural sugar in the juices. I have to admit, I’m pretty excited about this, but also hesitant. We always ask bottlers what makes their soda unique, and Vignette Wine Country Soda has perhaps the most distinct claim to fame. But is being different being better? I’m about to elevate my experience and find out.
Where to get: Outside of California, you’ll have a hard time finding Vignette Wine Country Soda in stores, so your best bet is to buy it online directly from the company at their online store.
Nose: This smells kind of like what I expected – a cross between sparkling grape juice and chilled red wine. There’s a tartness to the grape smell that you sometimes smell in wine, but also a sweetness that you often find in sparkling grape juice. Probably leans a little more on the sweet-smelling side.
Taste: Grape; raspberry; tartness. This tastes exactly like the smell would lead you to believe, like a cross between sparkling grape juice and a slightly sweet glass of pinot noir. The grape flavor in this bottle tastes very natural and not like what you’d drink in something like a NeHi or NuGrape. What’s immediately noticeable besides the grape flavor is tart raspberry. Depending on the variety of pinot noir you’re drinking, raspberry can be a somewhat common tasting note. So that’s a nice ode to the wine. The carbonation isn’t too striking, but the tartness from the raspberry leaves a little bit of a natural sourness that’s compounded by the bubbles. The sugar levels in this are perfect and interact with the tartness well. The more and more you drink Vignette’s Pinot Noir soda, the more you’ll taste the raspberry. It becomes a little more sweet throughout the drink, replacing the grape notes.
Finish: Definitely more of a wine flavor near the end of the sip than the beginning or middle. Grape and a mild dose of that raspberry flavor. Pleasant and doesn’t linger too long, leaving a clean finish on the palate.
Rating: If you like grape soda with just a hint of exoticness to it, Vignette Wine Country Soda’s Pinot Noir is going to be a national treasure for you. Truth by told, I could drink these all day. It’s a wonderful twist on grape soda with natural grape flavor and tart raspberry notes. It’s like a cross between sparkling grape juice and an actual glass of pinot noir. A couple points that I think are the big takeaways: first, the grape flavor is excellent. Each bottle of Vignette Wine Country Pinot Noir Soda contains 50% juice and you can taste it. Second, the accompanying raspberry flavor is also excellent. It provides a nice tartness to the grape’s natural sweetness, something you often taste in wine. The sugar levels in this are very nice and aren’t overdone. To my satisfaction, this also isn’t a soda that tastes bitter. Basically, it’s the correct blend of wine and grape soda flavors, though it’s definitely more grape soda than wine. My only complaint is that the more you drink the soda, the less the grape flavor comes though. The raspberry becomes more prominent. If this maintained the same flavor throughout the bottle, it’d be five stars. Maybe that change is the intention of the bottler, but I’d prefer a little more consistency. Still, this is supremely unique and full of lovely flavor. I really enjoy it and I’d recommend this to anyone and everyone. Works chilled or on ice and in both the hot and cold months. Pour this in a wine glass at a get together with your wife’s annoying friends and no one will know the difference.