Thursday, November 29, 2012
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!