Monday, March 30, 2020
Wine Country Alaska
The Now And Zin Wine Country series is creeping ever closer to the goal of tasting wine from all 50 U.S. states. Wine from Alaska arrived recently to brighten my self-isolated existence. That makes 46 states now sampled, with only Mississippi, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming remaining elusive. I understand that OK is on the way. Fingers crossed.
Alaska's wine production is so limited, the state doesn't even get its own line on the list. It is lumped in with eight other states as "others" which collectively produce some 0.039% of the wine made in America.
The website says Glacier Bear Winery was founded in 2015 as a companion to the already existing Bear Creek Winery. Glacier Bear makes wine only from Alaska-grown fruit, like red raspberries, yellow raspberries, blueberries, black currants, strawberries, gooseberries, apples, low bush cranberries, and rhubarb. They do use Chardonnay grapes in a blend with Rhubarb. Winemaker Louis Maurer named some of his berry wines after the grapes he set out to emulate - Blu Zin and Mirlo.
The wineries are located in Homer, Alaska, overlooking Kachemak Bay. It's a 40 mile long arm of Cook Inlet, on the southwest side of the Kenai Peninsula southwest of Anchorage. Lodging is available on-site, overlooking the bay. Maurer tells me he knows of only one other winery in Alaska, so I feel incredibly lucky to have received the wines.
This medium-hued berry wine brings natural fruit to the table. It smells of black currant but gets a little more complex with a smokey overlay on the nose. The palate is basically cassis, only not so dense and sweet, and with less alcohol - only 12.5% abv. I am thinking of this as the Pinot Noir of berry wines, owing to its light mouthfeel and hint of tartness. It's fruity, fun and tasty for sure, but many wine drinkers may find $27 a bit steep for those qualities. I would love to pair this with pork, or even with glazed wild salmon.
I had wine made from Florida blueberries once, and it smelled and tasted like full-on blueberry juice, the kind you would have for breakfast. This one, made from Alaska blueberries, is definitely wine. It's dry, like the Black Currant, and features a nose that is deep and dark enough, earthy and herbal enough to make a wine lover take notice. The palate shows fruit, stems and all, not suitable for serving with Eggos in the morning. I'm thinking this would pair well with game, despite its medium-light weight. Alcohol tips only 11.5% abv and the wine retails for $25.
Bear Creek Alaskan Port
This Port-style wine is made from 100% Muscadine grapes, but Maurer says they were not Alaska-grown. The wholesaler which provided the juice to him could not pinpoint where they were grown. The Muscadine grape is fairly popular in the humid southeastern states. This wine hits an alcohol level of 17% abv and sells for $27.
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