Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Wine Country North Dakota: Pointe Of View Winery

The cradle of North Dakota’s wine industry - the town of Burlington - is a few miles up Highway 2 from Minot, where there is always a radio job open.  There used to be, anyway.  In my younger days as a radio deejay in Beaumont, Texas, we radio types would read the “Jobs Available” listings in the back of Radio and Records magazine.  It seemed there was always a listing in Minot, N.D.  We assumed the turnover rate was high due to the fact that the temperatures probably dipped to absolute zero just before Thanksgiving and didn’t warm up enough to cut the grass until July.  The station manager probably let the ad run every week so they could amass a stockpile of tapes and resumes for the inevitable time when the next deejay would quit and move south.

Burlington is home to North Dakota’s first winery, Pointe Of View.  North Dakota was the last state in the union since Prohibition to issue a license for a commercial winery.   That was in 2002.  They still don’t have much company - one other winery has joined the ranks - with most folks busy having a good laugh about that crazy guy trying to grow grapes in North Dakota.  Meanwhile, Jeff Peterson  is quietly making North Dakota history.

Peterson makes most of his wines on the sweeter side - he says that’s what people want in North Dakota.  He prefers dry wines, himself, and produces two full-fledged dry wines, one from apples and one from grapes.  I ran across an article in the Bismarck Tribune in which Peterson stated, “"Some people really know their wines. Some people might not know their wines, but they know what they like. In the end, that's what it comes down to.”  Some in the wine world will fight Peterson tooth and nail on that point, preferring to insist that there is good and there is bad, and some people simply don’t know the difference.  But, if someone doesn’t like the wine you like, does that make it bad?  Peterson thinks if it’s good enough for you to take home repeatedly, it’s good.

Peterson was kind enough to send two samples of his North Dakota wine for this series, one made from Valiant grapes and another made from rhubarb.  Terre Haute Rouge has an alcohol content of 9% abv.  It’s a semi sweet blush wine with no vintage on label, produced from 100% North Dakota Grown Valiant grapes.

“I could not give it the Valiant varietal name and year when I got its first crop four years ago,” emails Peterson.  “Seems the name was registered with the TTB then with a foreign country. A couple years ago that changed, but by that time I had the name established.

“Valiant is a cross of Wild Montana (native vitis riparia) which came from just west of me and crossed with Fredonia. Dr. Ron Peterson from the University of South Dakota bred the two back in the early 60's. It is currently considered to be the most cold hardy American hybrid there is. Although intended as a juice grape it makes a good summer wine with a slight labrusca flavor.

“Also, our state ag research university (North Dakota State University) is currently working on developing very cold hardy hybrid wine grapes for our industry. Although a long term project, they are employing a new accelerated breeding program that allows crosses to be made all year long and could potentially turn a 20 year breeding program into 8.”

Terre Haute Rouge is deep pink in the glass - a nice rosado color - with an herbal aspect to the sweetness which is quite intriguing.  The sweet strawberry flavors have an earthiness that adds dimension to the wine.  Peterson notes, “It’s sweet and tangy. I make it in a white wine style (no skin fermentation) because the skins have an objectionable flavor to them when fermented.”  It’s really a nice, semi-sweet blush with enough acidity to allow for it to take a place at the lunch table.

Pointe Of View gave me my first experience with rhubarb wine, and it is a very pleasant one.  Pointe Of View’s Rhubarb Wine brings an easy-drinking 10% abv number and tastes like a sweet hybrid wine, a bit like a Brianna or Edelweiss.

The slight nose sports some herbal qualities with a hint of honey, while the palate shows a very sweet taste with a bit of a tang on the finish.  There’s plenty of acidity, but it’s so sweet it would be hard for me to consider it as a food wine - I like my table wine dry.  There’s nothing at all wrong with this wine served cold, however, on the deck as a summertime sipper.

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