The Verjus Story
I began making Napa Valley Verjus in August of 1994, while working with David Abreu's vineyard crew in Rutherford. I had been cooking for almost 10 years, six days a week, and wanted to work outdoors and learn a little more about viticulture and winemaking. We were thinning the Cabernet Sauvignon at Staglin Vineyards, counting the number of clusters of grapes on each vine, then cutting off about half of them and dropping them on the ground. By noon our crew had done about 3 acres, and while walking back to my truck for lunch I realized that we had dropped over ten tons of really good grapes on the ground to rot in the sun. I had learned about verjus from Madeleine Kamman in her School for American Chefs, and had cooked with it a little at Stars Oakville Café. Nobody was making verjus in the Napa Valley, and I thought with a little help, I could be the first. I talked with David Abreu about my idea, and he supported it completely. He told me that if I could learn how to make it, he would give me the grapes to do it.

That afternoon, I talked to my friend Mike Chelini, the winemaker at Stony Hill Vineyards about the plan. He offered to help me, and said I could use the equipment at Stony Hill. That weekend, I assembled a small crew, and we picked and processed about a ton of green Chardonnay from Star Vineyard in Rutherford.

Since that first small batch, I have developed the following recipes using Napa Valley Verjus. I think you will find them tasty and fairly easy to prepare. Verjus is the fusion of wine and food, and I think you will find many uses for this ancient product.

Jim Neal