Drink Regional Wine Week
October 11, 2011
This Sunday through Saturday is Drink Regional Wine Week in the Blogosphere (Tweet #DrinkLocal), and since that is something we do as a matter of course here in Vermont, it only makes sense to participate as best we can. Now, what constitutes ‘local’ still seems to be rather subjective, and has been the topic of a number of spirited discussions online and in the real world as of late. My personal opinion is that ‘local’ wine is anything within the locus of one’s determined radius, and the delineation of that radius is informed by the cultural context, community identity, and thirst level of the one standing at the center.
We can split hairs about whether wine made in Vermont from Finger Lakes fruit is ‘local’, or if I can call Vermont wine from the Lake Champlain basin ‘local’ when I live in the Connecticut River valley. I’m OK with a plastic definition that leaves room for interpretation, as well as fueling discussions. With that abstract Philoso-babble out of the way now, we can get down to the reality and exploration of Drinking Local Wine.
I’ll try to keep a rolling post here, and append things as soon as I can. It just so happens that we are just finishing crush, in our effort to make local wine before we drink it, so my hands are not always clean enough to touch the keyboard.
Starting out local wine week in style at La Garagista.
Hot on the heels of the 2011 harvest at the Mina Brothers Vineyard in Vergennes, VT, and the subsequent crush at the Cantina on Hunger Mountain Road the previous week, Deirdre Heekin hosted the very first vintage release party at La Garagista on Sunday. After so many weeks of rain, we have all been basking in the indian summer sun that has finally presented itself, and helped to lift our water logged and dampened spirits. Special directions were provided to those coming from the Woodstock neck of the woods, as the RT 12 bridge at the base of Hunger Mountain Road, is still being replaced following our August 28th flood. As is normal for these events, Caleb turned out platter after platter of simple and delicious bruschetta: fresh tomato and sea salt, a garlic white bean basil pesto, sauteed swish chard, and an Austrian inspired slice of radish with butter, salt and pepper.
Upon arrival we were treated to the 2009 Methode Champenois Dry Sparkling Cider, followed by the Vergennes Blanc (100% La Crescent), the Vergennes Rouge (100% Marquette), and finishing with the Orleans, a joint project between Deirdre and Eleanor Leger at Eden Ice Cider.
We were glad to see a number of people there, that we’ve not mingled with in a while. Though it was short but sweet, we did a bit of tasting with our pal Bonny Doon Vineyard, Direct-To-Consumer Diva Meg Houston Maker, and her wonderful husband Steve Maker. So enjoyable to have their company, and looking forward to sharing a long, relaxing dinner at some point before the snow gets deep.
The Cider - lightly petillant after the first rush of gas, heady yeasty aromas, with a pretty nuttiness…light on the palate with a delightful balance of sweet and tart lingering. Made me hungry.
The Blanc - Floral and lemon on the nose with a slight maderized note that is in no-way a flaw. I know some folks give wines made in a non-interventionist style a bad name, but this is not the case here…it rounds out the nose and makes more earthy what could otherwise be ethereal. Nice round mouthful owing to the super ripeness of the 2010 season. Citrus, verbena, and a white pepper finish that makes one think Gewurztraminer.
Perfect with the chicken liver pâté.
The Rouge - Ripe marquette is all cherry, from the nose to the full palate, you can’t help but enjoy the sweet, black, bing, sour, rainier cherryness…that gives up only to black pepper which stretches out the finish. This marquette has levels, complexity, probably owing to an initial wild ferment, and it begged for a return trip to the tasting table. Un-oaked, it has some fine fruit skin tannins, and comes in at 13.5%, giving it a full body, without the weight of wood, or aggressive tannins. Who knows how long this will cellar ( not that it is intended to ) so please enjoy!
The Orleans - basil infusion is unmistakable in the air around the glass, yet it is not overpowering the apple juice brightness. The cider is 12% alcohol, and so full of red apple fruit flavor, that the light green herbaceousness provides and interesting reflector. Aperitif or dessert, your choice. I like this with a shot of seltzer and a sprig of mint, over crushed ice.
FLASH: Great article about la garagista in 7Days! - Making a Microvintage.
Monday evening, busy cleaning up after weekend harvest, and moving final fruit towards the press and fermenters. Dinner was on the run, so my Regional Wine Week contribution is a sampling of the 2011 Leon Millot (Willsboro, NY - Cornell Test Vineyard - Baker Farm) which had just finished primary fermentation. Red fruit, earth, and caramel on the nose, and the palate is still a bit undefined with a fresh wild acidity that will tame with the malolactic fermentation that will likely start spontaneously.
Video of the tasting, along with a reminder about the Woodstock Farmer’s Market “Irene Card” promotion.
Lincoln Peak Marquette 2009
This particular wine has earned the winery some kudos in the cold-hardy hybrid circles, but is one any self-proclaimed wine lover within purchase distance should try. This is just the beginning and I look forward to future vintages of this wine from the Granstroms.
A straightforward wine that has ripe cherry and vanilla at first sniff that stays true on the palate. Mid-body in weight, easy on the palate with some light fruit tannins and some oak notes.
We paired this with a pork roast done in the cast iron dutch oven with parsnips, carrots, mushrooms, and potatoes. The cherry freshness beside the earthiness of the dish, forced me to pull in the reigns before I overate.
Lincoln Peak Black Sparrow 2010
I had picked up some more of this wine after my trip to Virginia earlier in the summer, because I had really liked it and heard some good feedback from bloggers who I had shared it with. The Black Sparrow is a proprietary blend that changes with each vintage, and to my mind, shows just what is possible if we move beyond the varietal focus.
Paired with a ginger chicken & vegetable fried rice, it was even better than I had expected. Great pairing for Asian dishes. Delightful nose of creamy lemon, brine, and a fleeting celery note. As advertised on the back label it is all apple, citrus, and melon on the tongue…I must add that I caught a twirl of white pepper on the finish. Really nice balance, and I think a wine that anyone who adventures beyond chardonnay would enjoy.
This wine makes my mind keep turning towards Austria. While a bit more citrusy, it has elements of Pinot Blanc, and Gewurtz, with some of the complexity I associate with the field blended and co-fermented Gemischter Satz that I have tried.
Recently I pulled out a 2007 version of the Black Sparrow, and it was just as crisp and fresh as I remembered it to be, but it had also matured and become more supple. Age-worthy white wine from Vermont?! Yes!
FLASH: Richard Leahy writes a specially commissioned article for DrinkLocalWine.com,
18 regional grapes to try before you die
and gives Lincoln Peak the thumbs up!
Got home a little late tonight from training at Shobu Aikido Vermont, and so dinner was already prepared, and the accompanying wine had already been selected from the cellar. Since I had not been clear about the “Drink Local” mission, we had to come up with an alternate plan, in order to stay on track.
So, I went down to the cellar and rummaged for something to finish the meal with…enter the Boydon Valley Winery Vermont Maple Reserve.
Aroma was tangy tart apple rind, with a hint of cinnamon. Despite having been in the cellar for a couple of years, the wine was still extremely fresh with a crisp apple attack, leading to a decent mid-palate weight, even though it only comes in at 10% ABV. The apple flavors mid-way are still quite evident, as is the maple syrup nuance. The finish was a bit more tart and sour than suits my fancy, and has some aspects of the rugged ending that I associate with many hard ciders. While this wine was not exactly my cup of tea, my dinner companion was pleased, and announced that I should not drink any more, and save it for those that truly appreciated. Duly noted.
The concoction is based on cider from Northern Spy apples, and Boyden’s own maple syrup. Cinnamon and other spices are added, along with a juice reserve for additional sweetness. Suggestion by the winery is that it is exceptional when served warm, so we will likely give that a try in the future.
Wrapping up a week of Regional Wine, after having dinner out, at an establishment in Rutland that had no local wines on their list, we came home to meet up with friends, and opened a bottle of our own home made 2010 Marquette. The fruit for this wine was harvested at the same time and place as that which went into the La Garagista Vergennes Rouge. The source is the Mina Brothers Vineyard in Vergennes, VT on RT 22A just near the Panton line, and only a few miles from the shore of Lake Champlain. A very fine location - western facing slope with great southern exposure, good air drainage, and a fantastic view of the Adirondacks.
It’s probably not fair to critique one’s own wines, since objectivity is certainly tarnished by the intimate relationship with the wine, having babied it from the time it left the vine, until the day it went into the bottle. True to it’s fruit, cherry predominates the nose and flavor profile, and I consistently argue for un-oaked versions of this variety, until the winemaker has a good handle on what the base wine offers. Too often, the oak regimen is pursued as if it is a matter of law, and I for one would like to see this trend bucked. In fact, I challenge wineries that work with Marquette, to do both an oak aged, and un-oaked version, and let their clientele give them honest feedback. I bet they will surprised at the results.
Cheers to all who have participated in Drink Regional Wine Week, I have enjoyed reading the many posts on the topic, and look forward to what we will explore together next year.
I made a comment in response to Cliff Ambers’ post about Regional Wines not being indigenous, calling into question his usage of terminology and some apparent hyperbole that I thought undermined his arguments. Interestingly enough, Cliff took the time to post again, and clarify his stance, and admitting a tongue-in-cheek presentation that I was not able to discern, in an article called “Reply for Todd on Indigenous Vines“.