This article was published in The 30 Second Wine Advisor on Monday, Oct. 13, 2008 and can be found at http://www.wineloverspage.com/wineadvisor2/tswa20081013.php.
At the beginning of summer, I coined the term "Locavino," playing off the trendy notion of "locavores," those of us who try to improve the quality of our food (and perhaps shrink our "carbon footprint," by seeking out natural foods from local producers.
Although I'm not prepared to give up the wines I love from California, Italy and France and all the other world wine-producing regions, it does make sense for wine lovers to devote at least a little of our attention - and our wine budget - to the small, local wineries that now exist in all 50 states of the U.S., many Canadian provinces and just about every other temperate region.
Summer is now ending in the Northern hemisphere, but crisp October days and the temptation of leaf-peeping trips make a side visit to a local winery or two a very reasonable option.
Today it's my pleasure to join a crew of fellow wine writers, and a squadron of wine bloggers as well, who've all agreed to write about the local wine scene this month and to assemble our reports on DrinkLocalWine.com, a new website established by Jeff Siegel ("The Wine Curmudgeon"), and my pal and longtime WineLoversPage.com correspondent Dave McIntyre, who recently was named wine columnist for The Washington Post.
Situated in Louisville, on the banks of the Ohio River between Kentucky and Indiana, I'm in a position to check out wineries in two states on quick day trips.
Frankly, I've often made the slightly snarky comment that the Ohio River Valley will never be Napa or Tuscany. Our distinct four-season climate with long, hot, humid and stormy summers simply isn't well-suited for classic vitis vinifera wine grapes, and our rich limestone soil may be better for Bourbon than wine. But all that said, I admire the spirit of the growing cadre of wine makers - many of them graduates of home wine-making and awards in competition - and I'm finding their wines increasingly admirable as they master the secrets of variety, viticulture and production that suit the region's character.
Quickly told, some of the Kentucky wineries that have particularly caught my attention include Smith-Berry, Wight-Meyer, Lovers' Leap, Chrisman Mill and Equus Run, most of which are situated in or around the Bluegrass region better known heretofore for its beautiful horse farms.
In the Louisville metro portion of Southern Indiana, both the relatively large Huber Orchard & Winery and the rather tiny Turtle Run have both rung my chimes with specific wines; Huber's Indiana Heritage, a blend of French-hybrid grapes with a splash of Cabernet, could pass for a decent Rhone red; its estate-grown Cabernet Franc shows real class.
Today's tasting report, featured below, returns to an intriguing red blend from a favorite Kentucky winery, Smith-Berry in New Castle northeast of Louisville, where owners and wine makers Chuck Smith and Mary Berry-Smith have been making award-winning wines for several years. Smith-Berry is gaining notice beyond its small size not only because the wines are excellent but because Chuck's wife, Mary, is the daughter of the philosopher-poet Wendell Berry and niece of the respected lawyer and former State Senator John Berry, a family connection that has helped spread their reputation nationally among locavores.
Here's a look at a few other articles I've published in recent years about local wines and wineries:
Locavino - Smith-Berry "Brother John"
Chrisman Mill - a peek at norton
Norton hears a what? Smith-Berry Norton and Lover's Leap Cynthiana
Indiana Hybrid - Huber's Orchard & Winery Heritage
What are you waiting for? If Saturday's a pretty day, hit the wine road ... even if you don't think you live in a region that has a wine road! For more suggestions and articles on local wines from an assortment of wine writers and bloggers, check out DrinkLocalWine.com
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Smith-Berry non-vintage "Burley" American Dry Red Wine ($15.99)
A very unusual but deeply American blend of Munson and Norton grapes with a splash of Cabernet Sauvignon, this bottling is non-vintage by federal requirement; wines made from grapes grown in non-contiguous states are limited to the "American" appellation and carry no vintage. This one is made in Kentucky from Arkansas grapes, so the federales won't permit much consumer information. Go figure. It's quite similar to my report on the same Smith-Berry wine four years ago, though. Dark garnet in color, it offers a complex blend of plum, raspberry, cinnamon, cola and anise. Plums, berries and licorice on the palate, with tannins mellowing into earth. Dry and properly acidic, it shows excellent structure. It would make a deadly "ringer" in a blind tasting of reds from Provence and Languedoc. (Oct. 10, 2008)
FOOD MATCH: Suitable just about anywhere an earthy Southern French red would go, it was fine with pork chops braised with onions, garlic, green olives and Spanish smoked paprika with orzo pasta.
VALUE: Unusually stylish and Euro-style for an offbeat varietal blend from the Eastern U.S., it's easily competitive with more familiar wines in the under-$20 price range.
WHEN TO DRINK: The wine's structure and balance and varietal content suggest significant aging potential. Sadly, its cellarworthiness is compromised by the producer's decision to use an artificial stopper. For that reason, I would drink it up within a year or two of purchase.
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Last Week's Wine Advisor Index
The Wine Advisor's daily edition is usually distributed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. However, we're skipping some editions at this point, and the Wine Advisor FoodLetter, customarily distributed on Thursdays, has been on break. I hope to resume it before long.
Wine Focus - Cabernet, King of grapes (Oct. 6, 2008)
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