Episode 19: Arizona

Arizona, as you might have guessed, is the state I call home. It is the state I focus on with my other wine blog and podcast, The Arizona Wine Monk.  With two registered AVAs, a third on the way, and an additional fourth region of growers, Arizona is making some noise in the Arizona wine scene.  In an article by Vogue Magazine (yes, THAT Vogue), the Verde Valley of Arizona was listed as an up-and-coming wine region to visit… even if the two varietals they listed in that article, Zinfandel and Cabernet Franc, aren’t the grapes that Arizona is going to be known for in the long run, let alone in the Verde Valley.

Still, the point is Arizona is getting a lot of press right now. Right now there are about 1,000 acres under vine in Arizona, and as of the last time I checked, about 104 licensed and bonded wineries in the state; this number is increasing steadily. The two AVAs in Arizona currently are the Sonoita AVA, which was Arizona’s first, and the Willcox AVA, which is where the wine in question we will be exploring today is from. (The application for the Verde Valley AVA has been perfected, but has yet to be posted for public comments, or approved by the TTB.)

Say hello to the 2014 Malvasia Bianca from Sand-Reckoner.  Malvasia Bianca, in the opinion of many Arizona winemakers, is our best white grape in terms of reflecting local terroir; it is one of my favorite grape varietals, period.  This grape here in Arizona is known for its intense, aromatic character, which is why I sit with my friend Tiffany Poth (a.k.a. @wine_hippie on Instagram) with a Le Nez du Vin kit and talk about what we mean by wine aromatics and aromas.  We also talk a little bit about lees aging and what that means in wine.  Enjoy!

This bottle was acquired by yours truly from the winemaker himself at the Willcox Wine Country Festival, before the Sand-Reckoner tasting room in Tuscon opened to the public.

Arizona
The intense aromatic character of this 2014 Malvasia Bianca make it a fantastic wine to explore what we mean by wine aromas.

Episode 18: Georgia

It is said that Georgia is a state of mind, but perhaps in actuality, wine in Georgia can be considered a state of confusion! The reason for this, is, of course, the American state of Georgia shares a name with the Republic of Georgia in the Caucasus Mountains, which has a very long history of winemaking going back an absolute minimum of 6,000 years.

The history of winemaking in the State of Georgia, on the other hand, is decidedly recent by this timescale.  While Georgia was an important winegrowing region of the United States in the 19th century (ranked sixth in production among U.S. states by 1900) this state suffered very early on from Prohibition.  The prohibition movement in Georgia took hold in 1907, derailing the industry here until, like so many states, the early 1980’s.

Today, Georgia is the leading producer of wines made from the various Muscadine grape varietals–a type of grape we will eventually meet on this podcast, I promise.  Georgia is also home to two AVAs, the Upper Hiwassee Highlands AVA, a bi-state appellation which covers parts of Cherokee and Clay counties in the southwestern North Carolina; along with Towns, Union and Fannin Counties in northwestern Georgia, and the Dahlonega Plateau AVA, (established in 2018) which covers most of Lumpkin, Dawson, White, Pickens, and Cherokee Counties. This AVA is about 133 square miles in size and includes (at last count) 7 wineries and 8 commercial vineyards totaling just over 110 acres of planted vines.

The wine we are looking at today, the 2011 Propaganda from Frogtown Cellars, comes from the Dahlonega Plateau AVA itself.  This wine is a blend of 57% Merlot, 17% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Petit Verdot, and 13% Malbec.  This, as we discussed in the Idaho episode, makes this wine a Bordeaux-style blend, which are often called Meritage blends in the USA–though that’s a subject for a later episode.

(As a tangent, I found myself rather impressed with the list of varietals they’re growing as a whole, incidentally: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Sangiovese, Tannat, Touriga National, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Nebbiolo, Chambourcin, Teroldego, Norton, Chardonnay, Viognier, Marsanne, Roussanne, Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Gris, Seyval Blanc, Petit Manseng, Vidal Blanc, Greco di Tufo and Muscato.  Dang.  Some of these are grapes we will visit in future podcasts, but I digress.)

This bottle of the 2011 Propaganda was kindly provided by friends Aileen and John, who also form my drinking cohorts for this episode, alongside an appearance from Mark Beres, the CEO of Flying Leap Vineyards.

It’s time for some Pro-Georgian wine Propaganda. Specifically, the 2011 Vintage.

Episode 17: Maine

Maine is the focus in our 17th episode of the Make America Grape Again Podcast.  The wine in question is the first fruit wine we’ve explored in our podcast, the Wild Blueberry Wine (Semi-Dry) from Bartlett Maine Estate Winery, located in Gouldsboro, Maine.

At this time, Maine has only 17 wineries and vineyards, which are largely focused on fruit wines, as well as French-American Hybrid varietals, because of the cold, harsh climate of the region.  The oldest winery in Maine, which happens to be the winery we are focused on in this episode, opened in 1983.  This focus on fruit wines makes the industry in the area a little different than other regions we’ve explored thus far in our podcast.  Fruit wines, for me, are hard to pin down and discuss, as we explore in this episode, as they stretch “sommelier speak” to the absolute limit.

Generally speaking, fruit wines are defined as fermented alcoholic beverages that are made from a wide variety of base ingredients which are not grapes.  These wines may also have additional flavors taken from other fruits, flowers, and herbs. This definition is sometimes broadened to include any fermented alcoholic beverage except beer, which of course is the state of the ground in American liquor laws, making this definition so broad as to be effectively useless. (Although, for historical reasons, mead, cider, and perry are excluded from the definition of fruit wine.) In other parts of the world different terminology is used; as an example in the UK, fruit wine is commonly called country wine. Generally speaking, these wines in the United States are labeled according to their main ingredient: in the case of this wine, blueberries.

Anyway, onto the show!  This bottle was brought to me for use in this podcast by my friend Elizabeth Krecker, who acquired this bottle from a bottle shop in Maine.

episode 17
The Wild Blueberry Wine from Bartlett Maine Estate Winery in Maine was pretty fun to explore, as I don’t have much experience with fruit wines.

Episode 16: Vermont

Vermont is the focus of our 16th episode here at the Make America Grape Again podcast.  Barely more than a stub of a Wikipedia page, Vermont so far has only seven wineries, and a very recent beginning, with the first commercial vineyard there being only since 1997.  But boy howdy, have they been running to catch up with the rest; the wine we selected for the first episode examining the viticultural industry in this state has absolutely blown me away.  It is not every day that I meet a wine that can single-handedly make me doubt my commitment to Arizona viticulture, but the 2017 Tectonic from Iapetus Wine (a label from Shelburne Vineyard) has done just that.

The 2017 Tectonic is our vintage introduction to a number of new wine concepts, as well as a continuation of some themes we explored in our last episode about Wisconsin wine. This vintage is an all-natural, skin-contact wine made from a grape called La Crescent.  We touched upon natural wines a little bit in our first California episode; to explore the idea further, these wines can be roughly defined (since there is no official legal definition as of yet) as wines that are farmed as organically as possible, and are made/transformed without adding or removing anything while in the cellar.  The idea is that these wines are fermented using the natural yeast growing on the grape, without any additives or processing aids, and that intervention in the fermentation is kept to a minimum. These wines are not fined, nor filtered, and it can be argued that the result is a wine that is “alive”–still full of naturally occurring microbiology and the truest expression of the terroir of a region possible.

Like the Seyval Blanc we examined in our last episode, La Crescent is a complex American hybrid varietal, and one which is very recent; only developed by the University of Minnesota and released in 2002.  The genetics for this grape look like something out of a Habsburg family tree: with ancestry including Vitis viniferaripariarupestrislabrusca and aestivalis. Saint-Pepin, and a Muscat of Hamburg crossing feature among this grape’s progenitors. (I really wish I still had the genetics diagram I referenced when recording this wine–I lost it somewhere. Alas.)  Also like Seyval Blanc, this grape is a white wine varietal; to make a Skin-contact wine such as the 2017 Tectonic (also known as Amber wines or Orange wines),  the grape skins are not removed from the must, (unlike in as in typical white wine production) and instead remain in contact with the juice for days or even months. As in red wines, these skins provide pigments and tannins to the resulting vintage. This is actually a very ancient style of wine, dating back at an absolute minimum of about 6,000 years in the Caucasus Mountains.

That, in my mind, is one of the coolest things about the 2017 Iapetus: it is made from an ancient style of production for one of the newest-developed grape varietals out there.  I look forward to hopefully trying more wines from this label: Ethan Joseph is doing some pretty cool stuff up there in Vermont.

While I first encountered this wine via a #winestudio event on Twitter, this bottle was provided to me through the kindness of Elizabeth Krecker who purchased this wine for me directly from the vineyard when she visited New England earlier this year.

Vermont episode 1
The 2017 Tectonic from Iapetus wine is, without a doubt, my favorite wine of this podcast so far. There, I said it.

Episode 15: Wisconsin

Apologies for this late post; I was working for the last few days on the crush pad in Willcox, and I was too swamped to post on time. Future episodes should continue loading every 10 days. Onto the show!

Episode 15 focuses on Wisconsin.  This state is part of the largest American Viticultural Area, the Upper Mississippi Valley AVA. There are also two smaller AVAs in the state: the Lake Wisconsin AVA and the Wisconsin Ledge AVA. It must also be noted that Wisconsin has a surprisingly important role in the history of wine in America. As it turns out, Agoston Haraszthy, back in the mid-19th century, was the first to plant and grow wine grapes in Wisconsin. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Mr. Haraszthy eventually migrated to California, and kickstarted the wine industry there when he founded the Buena Vista Winery in Sonoma, in the year 1863.

The vineyard he planted was located overlooking the Wisconsin River, at what is today the Wollersheim Winery, located near Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin. The bottle that Elizabeth and I talk about today is from this very same vineyard: the 2016 Prairie Fumé. This wine is 100% estate-grown Seyval Blanc, and is the center point of our discussion. This wine has more or less been declared the best wine that Wisconsin makes, so I was eager to try it: vintages of this wine have won 2018 Best of Show, 2017 Best Seyval Blanc, 2015 Best Seyval Blanc & Hybrid White, 2013 Best Wisconsin White Wine and 2013 Sweepstakes Best White.

This bottle was provided by my friend and fellow Arizona wine blogger Elizabeth Krecker, and was purchased from the winery when she visited Wisconsin earlier this year. Thanks Elizabeth!

The 2016 Prairie Fumé from Wollersheim Winery was a very enjoyable Seyval Blanc and a fun introduction to Wisconsin wines.

Episode 14: Washington

In Episode 14, we focus on Washington. Washington produces the second largest amount of wine per capita in the United States, after California.  Established in 1984, the Colombia Valley AVA is the largest wine region in the state of Washington. This AVA includes over 11,000,000 acres (4,500,000 ha), of which over 40,000 acres (16,000 ha) are under vine.  Indeed, about 99% of the vineyard area in Washington is under this AVA, and subsequent Sub-AVAs.  (American Viticultural Areas, like some of their Old World Counterparts, can be nested within each other like Matryoshka dolls.)  This particular suite of AVAs has become well known for producing traditional Bordeaux varietals, like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc.

But you know me. (Or, at least, are getting to know me at the very least.) I don’t like to review and look at the common stuff, necessarily. I like to look at the less usual things, when possible. Which is why I chose to look at the 2012 Pinot Gris from Maryhill Winery, instead of, say, a Washington Merlot. (which I do have lined up for the second episode discussing Washington Wines at a much later date).  Gary and I found ourselves extremely disappointed with the 2012 Colombia Valley Pinot Gris, and it is telling that it seems that Maryhill has uprooted their Pinot Gris vines since the production of this wine.  Why is it disappointing?  Take a listen to find out.

(In retrospect, we should have talked more about Pinot Grigio vs. Pinot Gris in this episode, but we ended up far too disappointed in this wine to do that.  Suffice to say, they’re largely the same thing, except not; there are some stylistic differences. Italian-style Pinot Grigio vintages are typically lighter-bodied, crisp, fresh, with vibrant stone fruit and floral aromas and a touch of spice, while Pinot Gris, especially from Alsace, tend to be more full-bodied, richer, spicier, and more viscous in texture, meaning this particular vintage does align more on the Gris side of the spectrum.  And now you know.)

This bottle was acquired by yours truly via Underground Cellar.com

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The 2012 Pinot Gris from Maryhill Winery is our introduction into Washington wines.

 

Episode 13: Connecticut

Connecticut is the focus of our lucky 13th episode of the Make America Grape Again podcast, centered around the 2015 vintage of the Dry Summer Rosé from Sharpe Hill Vineyard, in Pomford, Connecticut. This wine is a really fun dry rosé with one of the most intense colors I’ve ever seen, made from the American Hybrid varietal known as St. Croix.  We touch upon Hybrid crosses a little in this episode, but the main focus for hybrids will be at a later time.  Gary and I also talk a bit about the Rosé phenomenon, and what sometimes makes a good Rosé.

The state of Connecticut has two AVAs; the Western Connecticut Highland AVA, and part of the Southeastern New England AVA also crosses through the state.  Interestingly, Sharpe Hill Vineyard resides in neither of these two American Viticultural Areas, which shows that you don’t necessarily need to be in an AVA to make stellar wine.  Indeed, Sharpe Hill vineyard is probably the most critically acclaimed, and famous, vineyard in the Northeast, with a host of awards having been won by vintages made by their winemaker, Howard Bursen.  Their most famous wine is probably the “Ballad of Angels,” which will be covered in a (much) later episode.

This bottle was acquired on the vineyard estate in June of 2017 by yours truly.

2015 Dry Summer Rosé
The 2015 Dry Summer Rosé from Sharpe Hill Winery is a really fun exploration into St. Croix