This article was published in The 30 Second Wine Advisor on Monday, Jun. 18, 2007 and can be found at http://www.wineloverspage.com/wineadvisor2/tswa20070618.php.
If you happen to live in Northern California, say, or Tuscany or South Australia, you enjoy the benefits of world-class wineries nearby. But just about anywhere in the world with a climate temperate enough to make wine-grape cultivation possible, chances are that you'll find at least a few of your neighbors making wine and, better yet, offering tastings and tours.
Even if your locale isn't world-famous for wine (yet), and even if you're in a relatively marginal climate where viticulture is constrained by winter cold or summer heat and humidity, the chances are that your nearby small-farm wineries will nonetheless reward a visit. Even if the local vintages are made from unfamiliar grapes or even fruits other than wine, there's still a lot of wine education - and fun - to be had from tasting with the wine maker and touring the facilities to see just how this stuff is made.
You shouldn't have far to go, Even in the East, where the distinct four-season climate may bear little resemblance to the Mediterranean conditions where wine grapes thrive, quite a few wine regions are gaining serious credibility.
New York State (where I'll be judging commercial wine at the State Fair this weekend) is one of the nation's leading wine producers outside the Pacific Coast. Ontario in Canada is famed for its pricey ice wines but actively producing a broader range of table wine. Michigan is gaining real respect for its wines, and Ohio and Virginia claim around 100 wineries each.
Currently there's at least one bonded commercial winery in every state in the U.S. and most Canadian provinces, and virtually all of them reward a visit. Some weekend soon, I urge you to jump in your car, stash any lingering prejudices about local wine in the glove compartment, and head out on the local wine road. Chances are you'll be pleasantly surprised.
WEB LINKS: Creative Googling will uncover scores of Websites with information about wine roads in many parts of the world. Here are just a few favorites to get you started:
All American Wineries. Honest and non-commercial, North Carolinian Bob Hodge's site is my go-to source for information and links to wineries and wine-tour information across the U.S.:
Uncork New York, produced by The New York Wine & Grape Foundation:
Michwine, all about Michigan wines, private site produced by old friend and wine enthusiast Joel Goldberg:
Ohio Wine, produced by the Ohio Wine Producers Association.
Virginia Wineries, from the Virginia Wine Association.
Wines of Ontario, the Ontario Wine Council's guide to the province's wine routes.
Now, tying in with today's topic, here are two reports on recently tasted wines from Eastern U.S. producers. Salmon Run is the second label of Konstantin Frank & Sons Vinifera Wine Cellars of Hammondsport, N.Y., one of New York's pioneering wineries, which recently won a Platinum medal for its 2006 Dry Riesling in national competition at Los Angeles; as a result, that wine will be available to California consumers through all the state's Ralph's grocery wine shops, perhaps a first for a Finger Lakes wine.
Today's tasting, the Salmon Run "American" non-vintage Pinot Noir, represents a different side of Eastern wine making: the challenge of weather. Because the successive record-cold winters of 2004 and 2005 severely limited Finger Lakes Pinot Noir production (although Frank's carefully protected vines survived), winery president Frederick Frank said the winery kept up production of the Salmon Run Pinot by blending in some quality Sonoma fruit with Finger Lakes Pinot Noir. The result is an unusual East-West blend but a very good one: We tasted it "blind" against a similarly priced 2005 Bourgogne Pinot Noir, and the Salmon Run showed surprisingly well. Today's second wine is a Seyval Blanc (white French-hybrid variety) from Persimmon Creek, a small but well-regarded winery in North Georgia that's beginning to make a name for itself.
Two from the Eastern U.S.
Salmon Run American Pinot Noir ($13.49)
Clear ruby in color, its typical Pinot Noir aromas blend ripe red cherries with a cola element that gains presence with time in the glass. Juicy and a bit soft, sufficient acidity shows primarily in the finish. Tasted alongside a decidedly modest 2005 Bourgogne Pinot Noir, this entry was a bit less structured and tannic than the Burgundy, but in all fairness, the wines were much more alike than different. Versatile and food-friendly as you'd expect of a Pinot, it went beautifully with a charcoal-grilled turkey thigh. (June 17, 2007)
WHERE TO FIND THE WINE:
This French-hybrid white grape is widely grown in more northerly U.S. and Canadian wine regions, where it is often sold as a legitimate local alternative to Chardonnay. In Georgia's more southerly climes it ripens fully; Persimmon Creek makes it as an aromatic and off-dry white. Transparent and almost watery pale, its aromas focus on white fruit and a distinct whiff of spearmint. It's a bit soft with a hint of sweetness, on the light side at 11% alcohol. Clean, short in the finish, it's a well-made, balanced Seyval, serving well with seafood and fish. (June 13, 2007)
WHERE TO FIND THE WINE:
The Connoisseurs' Series: Two excellent California reds
Another month, another pair of excellent, top-tier wines from California Wine Club's limited-membership Connoisseurs' Series. Every month I look forward to tasting and telling you about these special wine selected by Connoisseurs' Guide publisher Charlie Olken and California Wine Club's Bruce Boring, who pick out a carefully chosen selection of excellent, balanced ultra-premium wines for club members every month.
Connoisseurs' Series membership is necessarily limited by the tiny production of these great wines, so it's a rare privilege that 30 Second Wine Advisor readers are now eligible to sign on. Connoisseurs' Series members may subscribe for monthly, alternate month or quarterly packages. Each shipment includes two to four bottles of California's top wines, with detailed background information. Monthly shipments average $125-$175, including all shipping and handling. There's no membership charge, no long-term commitment (cancel any time), and every wine is guaranteed.
Visit http://www.cawineclub.com/connseries or call The California Wine Club at 1-800-777-4443 to join or learn more about The Connoisseur's Series. Feel free to tell them that I sent you ... and, if you join, please don't hesitate to contact me by E-mail and tell me what you think.
Robert Craig Cellars 2003 Mount Veeder Napa Cabernet Sauvignon ($84 retail, $76 per bottle for half or full case orders by Connoisseurs' Series members)
Austere and ageworthy, this jewel from Robert Craig is classic Napa Cabernet, very dark reddish-purple with crimson glints in the glass; varietally appropriate blackcurrant aromas gain an accent from integrated oak presenting as a black coffee scent. Black fruit and spice on the palate are shaped by good acidic structure with substantial but silky smooth tannins. Hefty 14.9% alcohol shows a touch of heat in the finish. Very good now, particularly with a good red-meat match and plenty of aeration - it opened up well over a few hours during and after dinner - but it deserves, and will reward, substantial cellar time. Splendid with a medium-rare, pepper-crusted grass-fed local T-bone steak. A total of 1,535 cases were produced. Winery Website: http://www.robertcraigwine.com/ (June 15, 2007)
Highlands Cellar 2003 "Malvolio" Clone 777 Arroyo Grande Valley Pinot Noir ($48 retail, $43 per bottle for half or full case orders by Connoisseurs' Series members)
There's considerable Pinot varietal character in this clear, dark-ruby wine. Ripe red fruit and spicy notes of aromatic cinnamon, heady vinous notes and a distinct touch of cola place it squarely in the "New World" camp, but velvety texture and snappy acidity serve to balance its forward fruit. Significant complexity and flavor interest gain with time in the glass. Considerable potential here, and the flavor invites comparison with Burgundy, albeit Burgs from recent warm-weather vintages. Fine with a juicy, medium-rare steak with plenty of black pepper. Only 250 cases of this limited-production wine were made. Winery Website: http://highlandscellar.com/malvolio.html (June 15, 2007)
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Last Week's Wine Advisor Index
The Wine Advisor's daily edition is usually distributed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (and, for those who subscribe, the FoodLetter on Thursdays). Here's the index to last week's columns:
Fragrant Oloroso (June 15, 2006)
Geology on the label (June 13, 2006)
A fresh look at Duboeuf (June 11, 2006)
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Wine Advisor FoodLetter: Pork chops to go with Sherry (June 14, 2006)
Wine Advisor Foodletter archive: