Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Tasting the Wines of America

Last night we were invited to the joint WineAmerica & Winegrape Growers of America reception on Capital Hill called "Taste the Wines of America". The event was to recognize the Congressional Wine Caucus, which is bipartisan group of lawmakers aiming to "educate and engage colleagues in legislative and regulatory matters pertaining to the wine community." The reception also coincides with meetings within the wine industry on matters affecting the entire community. But the highlight for most was the reception which featured wines from every region of the country. Most impressive was the large selection of wines from the Other 46. Yes, California, Oregon, Washington, and New York were well represented, but how many times do you get to sample wines from Massachusetts, Iowa, Nebraska, Georgia, Indiana, Arizona....... You get the picture.

We walked in to immediately see the three B's of Virginia representing the Southeast: Barboursville Vineyards, Boxwood Winery, and Breaux Vineyards. Plenty of Viognier and Bordeaux blends available at that table, as well, as wines from Tennessee, Georgia and North Caroline, with Biltmore Estate Winery representing the Tar Heels. We learned that their estate NC wines are made from grapes grown in Polk County, south of Asheville.

We moved next to this year's hosts, Colorado Wines, which were part of the Rocky Mountain contingent. Also representing Colorado was Guy Drew from Guy Drew Vineyards in Cortez Colorado who was pouring several of his wines: Viognier, Rose, Riesling, and a very nice Meritage. Another Colorado wine we really enjoyed was the Rhone blend made from Snowy Peaks Winery from Estes Park. Their Grand Valley "Eleve" consists of Syrah, Mourvedre, Cinsault, and Viognier. Incredible that these grapes can flourish in the Grand Valley. Finally, we met Dr. Ron Bitner, one of the first growers in Idaho and owner of Bitner Vineyards in Caldwell. We enjoyed his Snake River Valley Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve where the grapes are harvested around Thanksgiving. Yes, that late. Frost is obviously a concern, but the vineyards steep slopes allow the cold air to pass easily down the mountain. And we finally got to sample a wine from the famed Arizona Stronghold Vineyards - this the 2009 "Site Archive" Merlot. Hope to follow up with a visit to Arizona wine country this summer. And check out the DLW12 Conference being held April 28th at the Metro State College in Denver. The Twitter tasting of Colorado wines should be very, very interesting.

The next table was the wines from the Northeast, handled by Maryland Wine. We started with the flexible Chambourcin, sampling the Rose from Port of Leonardtown Winery Leonardtown Maryland and the Knob Hall Winery (Clear Spring MD) Cumberland Valley "Le Reve Rouge". This was an interesting take of a Rhone wine, substituting Chambourcin for Syrah and Vidal for Viognier. After tasting some wines from Massachusetts, we found our favorite from North East Pennsylvania: Presque Isle Wine Cellars Dornfelder. There's a nice little micro-climate near Lake Erie which allows vinferia grapes such as Dornfelder, Riesling, Pinot Noir, and even Cabernet Sauvignon to survive.

The Great Lakes were next, featuring wines from Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin. We were reminded why Traminette is the state grape of Indiana through Wildcat Creek Winery. Wisconsin was represented by Wollersheim Winery and there were several Michigan wines; yet we couldn't find the L. Mawby Vineyards Cremant Classic sparkling wine. Painful. Someone was monopolizing the goods. But not the ice wine. The Breitenbach Wine Cellar Vidal Blanc Ice Wine is a true ice wine, where the frozen grapes are harvested during the middle of the night to maintain the condensed sugars. Nice.

And then there the wines of the Midwest containing bottles and bottles of unique grapes: Blanc du Bois, Vermentino, Tempranillo, Marquette, Brianna, St. Croix, Norton, Edelweiss, and Vignoles. The table was represented by Missouri Wines, James Arthur Vineyards from Raymond Nebraska, and Fredericksburg Winery from Fredericksburg, Texas. The later was pouring a savory Muscat Canelli and started a trend of nice whites including the McPherson Cellars Rousanne and the Duchman Family Winery Vermentino. These are two clean, food friendly wines. We've mentioned the Stone Hill Winery Norton many times over the years and this night reinforced why that grape should not be overlooked. And then there were the hybrids - many manufactured from the University of Minnesota specifically for cold weather climates. There were the Tassel Ridge Winery Brianna, Marquette, and St. Croix and the James Arthur Vineyards Edelweiss, a sweet wine with a balanced acidity. Yet the easy favorite was the JAV Vignoles - an off dry wine with strong apple flavors and nice acidity. This is one wine I always want to have available; suitable for dry and sweet drinkers.

As for the big four (California, Oregon, Washington, and New York), we were able to sample a little from these tables. For New York, Anthony Road Wine Company stood out with their Cabernet Franc\Lemberger and Pinot Noir; lovely wines. We stuck to Pinot in Oregon and California, first the Willamette Valley Vineyards and King Estate Winery, then the La Crema 2009 Sonoma Coast. Merlot and Viognier were the choices from Washington - from Three Rivers Winery and Novelty Hill Winery respectively. Then there was the leathery wine - the Red Tail Winery SP 2007 Ventura County Syrah - which Andrew Stover recommended. Total earth and leather - so interesting....

Thanks WineAmerica and the Winegrape Growers of America for a nice tasting from across the states. Cheers.


WineAmerica said...

Thanks for coming and thanks for the great write up!

Michael Kaiser

Jason Phelps said...

Looks like MA wines didn't merit comment. What was being poured. I may be able to consider that outcome firsthand...


Todd M. Godbout said...

Jason, as I recall I sampled the Turtle Creek Cabernet Franc and Truro Vineyards "Triumph" Red. I have to admit that I missed the MA wines on my first pass through the Northeast and revisited the table towards the end when I was suffering from tasting fatigue. Allegedly there was also a Turtle Creek Pinot, Truro Merlot and Chardonnay, and an Alfalfa Farm "Silo Red", but I didn't sample. About 175 available wines in 1.5 hours - can't get through all of them. Let me know your thoughts of these wineries and I will take a second taste accordingly... Cheers