Thursday, November 29, 2012

Foxy lady.

Cue Jimi Hendrix!  It's week 14 of my Wines of the World class. This evening there were 30 wines to try from 12 states in the good, old US of A.  The usual American grape-suspects where in tonight's vinous line-up; Concord (Vitis labrusca), Norton (Vitis aestivalis) and Scuppernong (Vitis rotundifolia).  Thrown into the fray were some more readily recognisable Vitis vinifera cultivars; Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Merlot.  Also represented were some French-American hybrid direct producers, bred for their hardiness and disease resistance; Chardonel, Vidal blanc and Chambourcin.
Grapevine cultivation has a rather long, and often disastrous, history in North America.  Exploring Vikings, upon landing on the American mainland, circa 1000 AD, named it Vinland for the grapevines they discovered growing there in abundance.  Some seven centuries later, England was convinced that the New World could become one, giant vineyard:  In 1657, King James I decreed that  all settlers must raise grapes. However, the native grapes of America made poor tasting wine, so what was a thirsty colonial to do?  Then along came oenophile Thomas Jefferson.  Hoping that wine would become the everyday drink of Americans - in part to counter the ever growing consumption of that evil, reprobate spirit, whiskey - Jefferson planted, and replanted, European winegrape varieties at his plantation inVirginia, Monticello. Unfortunately for Tom, each vineyard replant died within a few years from a mysterious, but as it turned out native, disease.  Cue phylloxera!
So on to this evening's offerings.  The wines of the USA were astounding, but not in a particularly good way.  The foxy character, associated with Vitis labrusca, was evident in a few wines tonight.  It has variously been described as smelling like fox urine, or as having a cosmetic-perfumey quality. Dr. Krebs informed the class that the foxy component was most likely the smell of a female fox in heat - lovely!  Best white wine? Best red? It's tough.  From Pennsylvania, the Blue Mountain Winery, 2011 Riesling was drinkable, but not very varietal like. From Missouri, the Augusta Winery, 2011, Norton had great color extraction and nice acid, but that's about all I can say about it.
The silliest wines of the night were two pineapple wines from Hawaii.  The most odoriferous wines were two Muscadines out of Florida - no one in the class could come up with a single descriptor for either of these Sunshine State wines.
I did get to taste two wines from Utah. I was interested in these two wines because of my familial connection to this particular state.  Castle Creek Winery is located near Moab, on the Colorado River, a part of the world more famous for it's National Parks than it's wine. Their white wine offering with the proprietal name of Uintah blanc, made from a blend of Muscat grapes and thus displaying a slight linalool character, was at least drinkable. Their red, a thin, vegetal mess of a Merlot, was not!
What a night.  Most students were stunned, or at least their palates were.  The wines of the USA almost had me wishing for the wines of Eastern Europe!
Next...

7 comments:

NHwineman said...

So far, so sad!
I hope some of the great wines of Virginia, New York, and even Arizona get their turn.

Vinogirl said...

NHW: There were 2 Dr. Konstantin Frank wines from NY; a Muscat Ottonel and a Gew├╝trztraminer - nothing to say about them really, except they were a little varietal-like.
There were 5 wines from Virginia; a Barboursville Vineyards Riesling was the most varietal-like wine of the night. The rest, which included a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Chardonnay, were not even varietal-like. A Norton dessert wine, from Rappahannock Cellars, was an abomination!

Thomas said...

Trying not to say anything, because talking about a tasting in which one was not involved isn't exactly smart, but I would like to point out that it's problematic to mix native North American, French Hybrid, and vinifera in the same tasting, and expect anything but a strange result. It's comparable to tasting lemon juice, ice cream, and brie in the same sitting.

Vinogirl said...

Tomasso: No, go right ahead.
Problematic, yes. But more problematic is trying to grow certain grapes in locations where they just won't thrive. And I would argue that certain grape varieties should not be grown in certain parts of Napa County.

NHwineman said...

V-girl, thanks for your reply; I think sometimes we forget just how much work it is to keep up with all these tastings, follow-ups, and downs, but the idea is to have fun while we're having fun:-)
I always look forward to your posts and the comments others make. It's obvious that Thomas has the experience to help all us novices along the path of "enlightenment" :-) Thud keeps us on our toes ;-), and About Last Weekend reminds us of sunny days and keeping things "normal" :/

Thomas said...

VG,

You get nessun argomento from me on that score.

No one in the Finger Lakes has yet to persuade me that Cabernet Sauvignon has a home here.

Vinogirl said...

NHW: It is fun to write about wine related stuff. Thanks for reading :)
I think you have described Tomasso, Thud and ALW succinctly and perfectly :)

Tomasso: "Nessun argomento" - I like that!
That's how I feel about Pinot noir in Napa.