The Sweet Charms Of Sonomic, A Cabernet Sauvignon-Laced Vinegar From Sonoma Valley Portworks

The sweet charms of Sonomic

When life gives you grape juice, make vinegar.

In a quintessential Bay Area move, the people at Petaluma's Sonoma Valley Portworks did precisely that with Sonomic ($18 for a 375ml bottle).

The inventive product begins with a Champagne vinegar base. To that, fresh Cabernet Sauvignon juice is added, and the two ingredients are amalgamated using a stainless-steel vacuum still.

A nod to the pedants in the room: Yes, Sonomic is not technically vinegar, as the Cabernet Sauvignon juice itself is not fermented.

But nomenclature aside, Sonomic has many of the same attributes as your favorite aged balsamic vinegar. Its texture is syrupy, and its flavor swerves between brightly sweet and gently tart.

Sonomic highlights the season's fading tomatoes in simple salads, like one we assembled with Haas avocados, olive oil and Italian parsley. It also blooms the aromas of melons. Our favorite experiment with Sonomic, though, involved using it as the base for a makeshift Italian soda.

Ice, sparkling water and a shot of Sonomic: autumnal refreshment at the ready. Who needs lemons and lemonade?

Available at Sonoma Valley Portworks Tasting Room, 613 2nd St., Petaluma, 707-769-5203; Peju Province Winery in Rutherford; Cahill Winery in Sebastopol; Oakville Grocery in Oakville; and The Pasta Shop in Oakland and Berkeley