Welcome to Episode 35 of the Make America Grape Again podcast, where we explore the final frontier: Alaska! Our first wine for the Land of the Midnight Sun is the Haskap Wine from Alaska Berries. Haskap, also known as honeyberry (scientific name Lonicera caerulea), is a plant native to the cooler regions of the far Northern Hemisphere, such as… Alaska. The Ainu name Haskap used by Alaska Berries roughly translates to “many presents on the end of branches.”
You see, Fruit Wines are the only major staple form of wine production for Alaska, at this time; though there is one grower who is trying to change that. By and large, any grape wines made in Alaska are made from concentrate sourced from California, or even as far afield as South America and Europe! In fact, outside of nurseries, there are no grape vines being grown in the state, which means there are no American Viticultural Areas. At this time, there are only four wineries in the state of Alaska. Some wines found at Alaska wineries are made from a blend of both concentrates as well as locally-grown fruits. That all being said, I am told that Alaska does have a thriving mead industry, which I hope to talk about in a future episode.
I acquired this bottle online through the website for Alaska Berries myself for this podcast. Their orchard is located on the Kenai Peninsula, and they do ship! Hope you enjoy listening!
Welcome to Episode 25, the halfway point of our first season! It is time that we, as Sufjan Stevens has done before us, say yes to Michigan. (And mispronounce the name of the state repeatedly, a deliberate homage in this podcast to episode 99 of “Welcome to Night Vale.”)
Michigan’s wine story is one of great success, I think largely due to support from the state itself–versus other states that are still lurking at the edge of the Prohibition Era. The state of Michigan currently has over 140 wineries, along with 5 unique trails for regions within the state, as well as a well-made website devoted to viticulture within the state–something many states lack. Each of these five wine trails largely follows the landscape of Michigan’s five AVA’s: the Fennville AVA, Lake Michigan Shore AVA, Leelanau Peninsula AVA, Old Mission Peninsula AVA, and my personal favorite (for the name), Tip of the Mitt AVA.
The history of Michigan wine before Prohibition is spotty at best, but there does seem to have been an industry present there prior to that black mark upon America’s viticultural history. Unlike many other states, however, wide plantings of Concord and other native grape varietals which were commonly used for juices allowed the state of Michigan to bounce back very quickly, with eleven wineries existing by the time of 1946. Traditionally, these were sweet wines, and even today, many growers switch back and forth between the production of sweet wine and grape juices with varietals such as Catawba, Concord, and Niagara–only about 14% of Michigan’s grapes are planted exclusively for wine production. Michigan also produces many fruit wines, with the Traverse City area being especially known for Cherry wine.
The Michigan viticultural landscape began to change in the 1970’s, with Tabor Hill Winery (located in Southwest Michigan) opening in 1971 as the first regional winery focusing on wines made from vinifera varietals. A few years later in 1974, Chateau Grand Traverse opened, with a similar operation in mind. Today, a host of different varietals, vinifera, hybrid, and indigenous varietals are grown in Michigan, with new varietals being tested on a consistent and regular basis; grapes like La Crecent, Frontenac, and other hybrid strains coming out of the University of Minnesota lab. There are also fears that Global warming may affect some of these AVAs, as a warming climate may interfere with Lake Michigan, which is what makes most of these growing regions possible.
The wine in our first Michigan episode is the Cherry Riesling Wine, from Traverse Bay Winery, a subsidiary label from Chateau Grand Traverse. The wine is a blend of 25% Cherry wine and 75% Riesling; the Riesling is sourced from the estate vineyard, located in the Old Mission Peninsula AVA. My friend Aly Pocock bought this bottle for the podcast earlier this year while she visited family in the state. I’m especially pleased she chose this bottle as I feel it is a good introduction to the Traverse City area, based on what I’ve heard from visitors to Arizona from this region. We also introduce a fabulous concept called the Wine Spritzer in this episode, so stay tuned and enjoy.
Many times the first response someone has when I tell someone that there is a licensed and bonded winery making their own wine in all 50 states is, “Even Hawaii‽ Really‽”
Yes, listeners! Hawaii has wineries! Two of them in fact! Volcano Winery, on the big island of Hawaii itself, produces quite a few vintages, both from estate-grown grapes such as Pinot Noir, Symphony, Syrah, and Cayuga White, but also from fruit such as Jabuticaba grown elsewhere on the island and grapes imported from California. The other, Maui Wine (formerly Tedeschi Vineyards), mostly focuses on fruit wines. There are, as of yet anyway, no designated AVAs in the Hawaiian Islands.
The wine we focused on for our introduction to Hawaii is the Volcano Red (Pele’s Delight), which is a blend of Hawaii-grown Jabuticaba, estate-grown Symphony grapes, and Ruby Cabernet from California. These come together to produce a delicious wine in a style that we both really enjoyed. In this episode, Gary returns to our Podcast, and we have a surprise guest star: Kendall, who is one of the tasting room managers at Volcano Winery who was kind enough to answer the questions Gary and I had about this wine, growing grapes, and wine production in Hawaii–thanks so much Kendall!
This bottle was acquired from the vineyard itself by my friend Andi Boyce, specifically for this podcast. Aloha, y’all.
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.