Last week I was able to attend the “Taste the Wines of America” Congressional Wine Reception, which coincides with the annual Board of Directors & Membership Meeting of WineAmerica, and organization which "...serves the interests of wineries in all 50 states by leveraging its formidable grassroots lobbying strength to benefit the entire industry.". The reception is a unique event that allows guests to sample wines from throughout the United States (see list below) and particularly those made from non-standard grape varieties.
For instance, we sampled a few Chambourcin - notably our friends at Port of Leonardtown Winery (MD) as well as Glacial Till Vineyard & Winery (NE). In fact there were several Nebraska wines with James Arthur Vineyards and Soaring Wings Vineyard Dragon's Red from Frontenac - being two more to follow. Texas was represented including Blanc du Bois ( Chisholm Trail Winery Belle Star Lone Oak Winery) as well as our favorite the McPherson Cellars “Tre Colore” Red Wine. Temparnillo seems to be a popular grape in the Lone Star state as two wineries brought some to share: Landon Winery & Pedernales Cellars. Tennessee's Arrington Vineyards contributed their Petite Noir made from the Noiret grape - another Cornell University variety with Steuben as a parent. The wine is interesting, raspberry with a little smoke finishing with smooth tannins.
But perhaps the most unique non-standard grape was the Valiant Vineyards Winery Wild Grape Wine - actually produced from wild grapes. Proprietor Eldon Nygaard uses native vitis riparia (riverbank grape) that grow along the rivers and streams in the South Dakota and being native grapes are very cold-hardy and disease resistant. Nygaard's property resides near the banks of the Missouri River and while chatting he explained how Lewis & Clark camped on his site. He also showed us pictures of his Wild Grape Wine in wine shops in Paris selling for over 70 Euro. You don't have to pay that much in dollars - it's closer to $30 domestically. The wine is quite good, somewhat jammy as are many native grapes, but with a chocolate texture and a smooth tail. Very nice. Nygaard was also pouring his Full Throttle Saloon a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Norton - another nice wine
Black Star Farms Arcturos Riesling was a favorite - with the brand being named for the brightest star in the constellation Boötes and the northern celestial hemisphere. Fenn Valley Vineyards Edelzwicker (Riesling and Traminette blend) was another nice wine from the Wolverine State. The Midwest was also represented by other Michigan wineries as well as a couple from Wisconsin, Ohio, Illinois, and Indiana's Oliver Winery. Unfortunately no mead. The Northeast was well represented with wines from throughout New York state - from Lake Erie to Long Island. From the later, Cabernet Franc was well represented from the North Fork by Clovis Point Wines, Palmer Vineyards, & Osprey's Dominion Vineyards. From Connecticut, the Jones Winery Woodland White blend was quite nice and we always enjoy the Dornfelder from Presque Isle Wine Cellars (PA). Heading into Virginia, I had never sample the Lovingston Winery Petit Manseng - giving us another incentive to visit the winery. Needlesstosay, there was quite a few wines being sampled - other favorites included the Colorado Cellars Winery (CO) Gewurztraminer; Gallifant Cellars (AZ) Chenin Blanc; and Stone Hill Winery (MO) Norton & Vignoles.
What about the big three - California,Washington, and Oregon. They were well represented with several Oregon Pinot Noir - all very nice and very similar. L'Ecole No. 41 wines and proprietor, Marty Clubb, came from Washington and his Columbia Valley and Walla Walla Valley wines are always fine. Note to self to start drinking more from the Pacific northwest. And finally their were several California wines with the most interesting being the Bokisch Vineyards & Winery Verdelho and, as always, anything from Cakebread Cellars.
And special thanks to the winemakers who attended, always great to talk to Ron and Mary Bitner from Bitner Vineyards; Jim Ballard James Arthur Vineyards; the Coes from Black Star Farms; Marty Chubb L'Ecole No. 41; and Eldon Nygaard Valiant Vineyards Winery. Cheers.