Perhaps the highest quality wine produced by native grapes comes from the Diamond grape. Created in New York in the late 1800’s by crossing the popular Concord and the Iona (vinifera-labrusca) hybrid, the grape possesses many of the same characteristics as it’s more familiar parent. Diamond wines are usually clean and fruity (pineapple flavor), with a sweet finish.
New York’s Goose Watch Winery is arguably the largest producer of Diamond wines; the winery produces over 4,000 cases of Diamond as well as blends the grape in several wines. David Peterson, the General Manager of Goose Watch Winery as well as its sister wineries Swedish Hill and Penguin Bay, states that the winery produces Diamond wine because he considers this grape the best quality potential of any native grape in the region. In fact, the winery has realized this potential as their semi-sweet Diamond wine has won 6 Gold medals in 2005 in addition to the “Best White Wine” at the 2005 Riverside International Competition in California. The New York wine public apparently agrees with these officials considering that Diamond wine is the winery’s best selling wine.
Another New York winery, Fulkerson Winery, vinifies the Diamond grape because it is very hardy during New York winters and grows well in their vineyards. As a bonus their Diamond wine displays a pleasing "pineapple" flavor characteristic and is less pungent than other white native varieties. Fulkerson Winery is located on a 200 year old family farm and is owned and operated by a 6th generation Fulkerson, Sayre Fulkerson. Mr. Fulkerson opened the winery in 1989 after selling grape juice for the previous ten years. Fulkerson Winery makes their Diamond wine as dry as possible – although a little sweetness is necessary to bring out the "native" potential. According to Mr. Fulkerson, the wine’s popularity is increasing, both within the general public and wine officials. Over the last ten years, their Diamond wine has won awards throughout the United States and in 2005; their 2003 vintage won Gold at the Great Lakes competition and Silvers at the NY Wine & Food Classic and the NY State Fair.
To see more producers of Diamond wines, visit the Wine-Compass.com Wine 101 page. The New York wine public has proven that they are more than willing to support native wines such as Delaware, Cayuga, Catawba, and Diamond. Whether these Vitis Labrusca wines remain regional products or take on a more national following, we shall see.