Hit the (local) wine road
This will be an easy assignment for those of you who happen to live near Napa or Sonoma, Barossa or McLaren Vale, Tuscany or Bordeaux. But for most of us who reside in non-traditional wine-producing regions, from the Eastern U.S. and Canada to the U.K. to Sweden or Japan, the challenge becomes more interesting.
In fact, just about every U.S. state and Canadian province and most Western and Asian nations house at least one or two small-farm wineries. And just about all of them are run by people who have interesting wine stories to tell and tasty products to serve.
In other words, you don't need to take a long trip to visit a winery, and if lack of attention or interest has kept you from dropping by the producers in your own state or region, I hope this month's topic will inspire you to think locally, and expand your wine-tasting horizons by staying near home. With autumn approaching its peak in the Northern Hemisphere while spring flowers are blooming Down Under, this would be an excellent time to plan a local wine tour no matter where you live. Why not try it this weekend?
I live in Louisville, where the Ohio River valley (which, by the way, is a recognized U.S. wine region) cuts a broad swath between Kentucky and Indiana. Although this region is much better known for Bourbon than for wine, we're fortunate to have a growing handful of small-farm wineries in Kentucky and a larger number in Southern Indiana. To kick things off this month I've sampled an exceptionally interesting wine from both states.
Huber Orchard Winery in Starlight, Ind., is one of the state's largest and oldest producers, based in a large family farm that has been a local destination for its U-pick crops and interesting shops for many years. Fifth-generation family wine maker Ted Huber fashions a broad variety of products that include delicious sweet berry wines, old-fashioned country-style wines made from native ("labrusca") grapes, and a number of very serious wines made by blending French-hybrid varieties. Huber's Indiana Heritage red wine (submitted as my tasting report in the July 23 edition) combines hybrid grapes to make a full-bodied, robust dry red that can compete on a level playing field with French Rhones and California Syrahs on local restaurant wine lists.
Smith-Berry Winery in New Castle, Ky., in the scenic rolling farm country just south of the Ohio between Louisville and Cincinnati, is one of Kentucky's newest wineries. A partnership between farmer/winemaker Chuck Smith and farmer/author/environmentalist Wendell Berry, this new producer is already gaining attention both because of Smith's fine hand at wine making and Berry's stature in the national natural-food and farming community, a connection that has already lured California culinary icon Alice Waters to Kentucky for publicity appearances. The Smith-Berry American Norton, currently being made from trucked-in Arkansas grapes until Smith-Berry's vineyards mature, is a persuasive example of the serious potential of this rare native American grape, not labrusca but a separate botanical cousin, vitis aestiva. Bold, fruity and ripe, showing mixed red-fruit and black-fruit flavors over a core of acidity, it's guaranteed to puzzle any expert offered a "blind" sample and invited to name the grape.
YOU TELL ME YOURS: Particularly if you live in a non-traditional wine area, I would love to hear about your favorite small-farm winery and why you like it. Drop me a note at email@example.com with the details, or post a response to this topic in our interactive Wine Lovers' Discussion Group,
WEB LINKS: If you're looking for a local winery in the U.S., don't miss Bob Hodge's "All American Wineries," a Website and labor of love that covers the American winery scene - not just California - more thoroughly than any other site I've found.
For a more extended overview of small-farm winery activity in the Eastern U.S. and Canada, check the archived copy of the June 23, 2003 Wine Advisor, "Support your local winery," at
Finally, to participate in Wine Tasting 101, our free, interactive wine-education program in which participants share comments and information about a different featured wine or wines every month, click to:
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All the wine-tasting reports posted here are consumer-oriented. In order to maintain objectivity and avoid conflicts of interest, I purchase all the wines I rate at my own expense in retail stores and accept no samples, gifts or other gratuities from the wine industry.
Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2003