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- What starts the idea of a gr8 #Saturday with friends! So much fun to enjoy great wines with appreciative company http://t.co/PysHKXpWMh 1 month ago
- Hard #frost on the ground, but I am off to #Oahu to teach w/ @divingintowine Roberto Viernes & Patrick Okubo :) 1 month ago
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- Just completed a 6.37 km activity – Sunny for the first time in days! Lovely run through Charlevoix … rnkpr.com/a4i68zr #RunKeeper 3 weeks ago
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One of the unique delights of my job is discovering of wines and grapes from unlikely places looking for a home on your table. One of my favorite places to search is the country of Italy as it boasts more indigenous grape varieties than any other country. It offers remarkable diversity of locale, culture, food and a vast wine scape. I dare say Italy is beyond full comprehension for anyone, even in a lifetime. So inspiring is this country that it entices winemakers the world over to find their next unique grape within its boundaries.
Fast-forward through the 4000 years of wine history in Italy and you find the Italian immigrants bringing favorite vines to North America because everyday required food and wine. Once we figured out our need to graft European varieties onto native rootstocks for survival our own winemakers became capable of creating the wines we remembered from the lands of ancestry. Most of the attention has gone to the West Coast, California in particular, but our wine traditions started in New York State.
For first 150 years of the settlement of North America the propagating nurseries for vine cuttings were located on Long Island. From this vitis playground settlers bought vines and planted them as they settled the east and the near west. Truly the most important and popular wine of the mid 19th century was not from California but the Ohio Valley. Yes, Ohio Valley Crackling Wine was the rage around our country and even abroad. We had found that sparkling wines made from mostly native species were delicious.
Once prohibition was voted into law everything came crashing down. By 1933, the end of prohibition, there were about 100 wineries left in the United States. It took the next 50 years to regain the lost traction, experience and research. It also took fifty years for the consumer base to break out of the cocktail and beer culture created by prohibition resuming wine drinking habits of previous generations.
New York proved tis ability to grow grapes but the question lay in growing European natives, vitis vinifera. Through the influence of Dr. Konstantin Frank, a Russian immigrant, New York took up the challenge to grow the more globally preferred flavor profile of vinifera vines. Through following decades the industry proved him right, and continues to turn out lovely wines. Known most for various styles of riesling, and dry cabernet franc reds, while becoming well known for delicious champagne method sparkling wines.
Truthfully the global public has remained mostly unaware of New York wines despite their quality. I feel a kinship with these producers as we have a similar issue in Michigan. Northwest Michigan is especially well equipped to produce world-class wines and is doing so. Yet there is little notice outside the state. The Finger Lakes region of New York is in a similar spot. Wineries there are creating delicious wines with great varietal character and a refreshing eurocentric feel. The question for both regions is what grape or style is going to be the one that creates the international image for the region. I maintain that it will not be one of the copycat, me too wines.
Conceptually we return to the Italian model of huge diversity where each region has its own signature grape and style. New York, and Michigan for that matter, will have to find their own space in the highly competitive fine wine market. If that is to be done with riesling then they will have to be better than Germany, Alsace and Austria. If they plan to do it with cabernet franc then beating the Loire Valley is not so tough but the public has been slow to warm to the somewhat lean leafy nature of the grape. I contend that all new world emerging or under appreciated regions will have to be creatively unique and not expect to win over the consumer with the same grapes dominant in other world regions.
Red Tail Ridge apparently has the same notion. In their exploration of possible options for the Finger Lakes growing area they are vinifying a series of “obscure” grape varieties from their exploratory plantings. While the growth of blaufrankisch (lemberger) has shown great new possibilities for many wineries in their neighborhood they chose to go further. I was absolutely delighted to hear that they were making a teroldego. Teroldego is a native grape of Northeast Italy in the mountainous Dolomiti a region of similar latitude and summers as the Finger Lakes. At home in Italy the grape makes juicy, red and blue fruit driven wines that range from fruity to age worthy. Even in Italy it is relatively obscure and so a great candidate to make a name for oneself in much the same way as Mendoza did with malbec.
Considering that there were only 100 cases made it was a real privilege to get my hands on a bottle. Last night was the celebratory opening. My wife, and two friends shared it in context of other great wines. I intentionally preceded the wine with Lallier Grand Cru Champagne and 2005 Baumard Savenniéres Clos du Papillon so that we could test its metal. These friends are planting a vineyard in Northern Michigan and I have sung the praise of this grape for their vineyard. In short we all liked the wine very much. Our friends loved it and were intrigued by its fruit, weight and interest.
The wine tasted of vanilla extract, cinnamon, fresh red and black cherry, cherry cordial, pomegranate, and fresh blueberry. There was an undertone of leaves and herbs that I would love to see become a bit more prominent. Wish I had a second bottle to try in a few years, as it was very young. As these vines mature and become complete I sense that they will provide a beautiful interpretation of teroldego. I praise Red Tail Ridge for creating a unique space in the wine market with this delightful Italian relic. Keep up the search for your own clean, clear water in which to swim!
What starts the idea of a gr8 #Saturday with friends! So much fun to enjoy great wines with appreciative company http://t.co/PysHKXpWMh