Wines across the United States
We conclude our virtual tour of the world of wine right here in the US. Did you know that every state in the Union makes wine of some kind? Even here in tropical Florida, fruit wines are made. Since the 1500’s some form of viticulture has taken place in all 50 states, commercially beginning in New Mexico in the 1620’s marketing and selling their wine to other states.
There are several native species of Vitis Lambrusca or the “Fox Grape”, native to North America. These flowering plants produce the Concord, Catawba and Niagara grapes, among others, and are quite different from the European grape varieties from Vitis Vinifera. Wild grapes have been harvested by foragers for thousands of years, used for medicinal as well as nutritional value. Grapes date back to 6000 BC, and the earliest written reference to grapes and wine dates to ancient Egypt and hieroglyphics. Greek philosophers praised wine’s healing powers, and recently wine storage jars dating back 7,000 years were found in Iran. Wine has been a part of the human food chain for centuries, but it wasn’t until the latter part of the 20th century that more scientific techniques overtook traditional techniques. In 2007 Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) suggested that two extremely rare red grape varietal genes produced a single white grapevine that became the parent of almost all of the world’s white wine varietals.
One of our favorite wineries from New Mexico actually make traditional French Methode Champenoise sparkling wine. A Frenchman, Gilbert Gruet, born in Bethon, France in 1931, became a world leader in sparkling wine making. Gilbert inherited land from his father where he made fine Champagne in Bethon at Gruet et Fils since 1952. In the early 1980’s Gilbert and his wife Danielle were on a tour of the United States, where they met other European winemakers in New Mexico. The vineyards he toured, some 170 miles south of Albuquerque, had been producing grapes since the early 1700’s. Gilbert decided to make the move to the US with two of his four children, Laurent and Nathalie, and began his New Mexico winemaking venture in 1984. Gruet grows Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and makes stunning non-vintage Gruet Blanc de Noir. Pale salmon in color with a nose of berries and pear followed by a rich, creamy, toasty finish. We give it three bones.
Another European with a strong wine history who helped build the industry her in the US is Dr. Konstantin Frank. Frank arrived in Upstate NY from Germany and introduced the Vinis Vinifera varietals from his native Europe to the Finger Lakes Region in 1957. We love the sweet and sour complex flavors of the Dr. Konstantin Frank Dry Riesling with flavors of lemon and peach. This wine rates two bones.
Out to our northwest, the Hedges family are pioneering legends in the American wine industry, too. In 1976, Tom Hedges, of Richland, Washington State, married his sweetheart, Anne-Marie Liegeois in her hometown in Champagne, France. Tom’s career had them zig zagging the country for years, but after eleven moves and two children, the couple settled in Washington State and started planting vines. The French influence is apparent as their wines (made by daughter Sarah Hedges Goedhart) express an old world style. This family put the Red Mountain AVA and Washington State’s Columbia Valley on the national wine map. We can’t get enough of the Hedges CMS Red a blend of C (Cabernet Sauvignon) M (Merlot) and S (Syrah), red cherry, cola and coffee come through immediately, with some hints of spice and lingering cocoa finish. We give it three bones.
We hope you have enjoyed our virtual tour around the globe learning a little about varietals from everywhere, as we have been on the bench for the last couple of years with the Pandemic. Travel restrictions are easing, but if you aren’t able to get on a plane and travel around the world to enjoy some great wines, we are always here for you. Travel up and down our aisles and we’re sure to help you find some wines you’ll enjoy, close your eyes and take you to the beautiful place it was made.
By Carolyn R Brown