It’s January 5th and I haven’t had a glass of wine (or beer, or spirits…) all year. Like many others, I’m doing a “Dry January,” in other words, I’m alcohol-free for the month.

This is huge for me. I’ve been actively employed in California’s wine industry for just shy of 40 years and am also a professional wine judge and wine writer. I have enjoyed a glass or two of wine just about every night during my career, except for when I was pregnant with my son or when I was under the weather. In other words, I was a daily drinker. No biggie in my beloved wine business – most of us are. I decided to check out not drinking for a change and I’m liking it. I feel amazing.

When I posted on my Facebook page asking for alcohol-free beverage recommendations (most of my “Facebook friends” are in the wine industry), I got some good recommendations, as well as a few snarky responses, “Just drink water,” “Why bother, you’re wasting your time,” “Drink milk,” “I wonder how long this will last, Sue,” and more. I’ll tell you how long this sobriety is going to last – as long as I damn well want it to and at the very least the entire month of January! That public comment really pissed me off. Can you tell?

Anyway, thanks to an amazing group called, “Sober Sis,” not drinking is waaaay easier than I thought it would be. Their closed Facebook group has over 3500 members – all women, with stories much like mine. If you are a woman and you want to take a break from alcohol, I highly recommend this group. You’ll get huge support and a big toolbox full of strategies to cope with today’s alcohol-fueled society. Much love to Sober Sis!!

It’s because of Sober Sis that I decided to start reviewing alcohol-free beverages. I mentioned that I was a wine writer and several women from the group suggested that I review alcohol-free beverages. They want to know what tastes good and what to avoid, so I’m on a mission now to discover as many “alternative” beverages as I can. I’m going to share weekly reviews.

Let’s kick this off with the alcohol-free wines that you can readily find at your local supermarket. The choices in this category are really slim. In grocery store wines, it’s either Fre by Sutter Home or Ariel.

Disclaimer – I’m a professional wine judge and admittedly a bit of a wine snob, so I’m not as forgiving as your regular wine drinker, but it’s been my longtime practice never to denigrate a wine. I tasted the whole Fre lineup, along with the two offerings from Ariel. Personally, I’d rather drink something else, but here we go:
The Fre Brut was actually drinkable, if you like sweet sparkling wine. It has tons of apple, pear and stonefruit aromas and flavors, wrapped in a mouthful of vibrant bubbles. Personally, I’d cut it with sparkling water, but it’s OK.
The still wines all had an odd, oily mouthfeel and I would mix all of them with sparkling water, but that’s just me. You may just love all of these.

Fre Chardonnay – Slight hints of apple, pear and citrus in nose and mouth. Not my favorite.

Fre Rosé – Sweet for my palate, but pleasant strawberry and citrus notes. Slight spritz. I would actually buy this and cut the sweetness with sparkling water.

Fre Moscato – also a very sweet style, but actually smelled like a Moscato! Oodles of ripe peach, pear and floral notes. My favorite of the group. I would actually buy this and cut the sweetness with sparkling water.

Fre Red Blend – Light and Beaujolais-like with aromas and flavors of candied cherry. Not my favorite.

Ariel Chardonnay – Big hit of tropical fruit in the nose (banana, pineapple and coconut), with following hints in the mouth. Not my favorite.

Ariel Cabernet Sauvignon – Black cherry and hints of toasty oak set the stage here in the nose and in the mouth. Not my favorite.

Stay tuned for alcohol-free spirits, alcohol-free beer and the fun and unusual – Sparkling Vinegar Soda, Hop Water and Gin Tea – I’ve got some really cool stuff I can hardly wait to share with you!
NA Beer spoiler alert – of the five I tasted, Clausthaler was my favorite. I would actually drink that!