Showing posts with label Alabama. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Alabama. Show all posts

Monday, March 9, 2020

Now And Zin Wine Country Series Stands At 45 States

What started as an idle thought - "can I taste wines from all 50 U.S. states?" - has become a personal mission.  Now And Zin's Wine Country series debuted nearly a decade ago, and we have now tasted wine from 45 states.  Just five to go - Alaska, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming.

Now And Zin's Wine Country started with a series about wines made from America's Norton grape, in which I sampled wine from Missouri, Virginia and Georgia for the first time.  I was surprised by the quality and fascinated by the notion of wine tasting across America.

If you can make good wine in California, that's expected - not that it's easy, but it seems that's what you're supposed to do with great soil and perfect weather.  Making good wine in areas of the country where nature isn't quite as accommodating is a real achievement.

I've heard from American winemakers about Indiana limestone, Cornell grape creations and moderating winds from - of all places - Lake Erie.  I've heard winemakers cry in anguish, "I want to make dry wines, but all my customers want is sweet!"

I've sampled mead from Montana and Maine, Muscadine from Alabama and Kentucky Cabernet Franc.  I've had a Super Tuscan-style blend from Arizona, mile-high wine from Colorado, amazing bubbles from Massachusetts, Michigan and Illinois, Zinfandel from Nevada and New Mexico, New York Riesling, New Jersey Merlot and North Carolina Chardonnay.

I've tried wine made from Vermont apples, Florida blueberries, North Dakota rhubarb, West Virginia blackberries and Hawaiian Maui pineapples.

There have been plenty of unexpected grapes, like Petit Manseng from Georgia, Carménère from Idaho, Traminette from Indiana, Eidelweiss from Iowa, Marquette from Minnesota and Catawba from Pennsylvania.

Two Nebraska wines are named after pelicans; a South Dakota winemaker uses Petite Sirah to take the acidic edge off the Frontenac.  There's Touriga Nacional growing in Tennessee.

Most of the wines for this series have been supplied by the winemakers for the purpose of the article, while some have been sent by friends of mine who had travel plans to a state I had yet to taste.  To all who have sent wine for this project, I offer my heartfelt thanks.

It has taken nine years to sample wine from 45 states, so the end is in sight.  Shipping wine in the United States has proven to be a stumbling block on more than one occasion.

Contacts made in Utah and Oklahoma have dropped out of sight, while responses are hard to come by at all from Alaska, Wyoming and Mississippi.  I am sure for some of these states, I'll probably have to find someone who makes wine in their garage.  Any Mississippi garagistes out there?

While we are on the subject, if you know a winemaker in the states which haven't been covered in Wine Country yet - Alaska, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming - please pass this article along to them.  Even if they can't ship to me, I'd love to hear from them.

Also, one state which has been left blank is California.  Of course, I sample a lot of California wine, so finding it isn't the problem.  I want to determine one wine or winery which is representative of California for this series.  If you have any thoughts, I'd love to hear them.  Comment here, email or contact me on Twitter.

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Thursday, February 10, 2011


Now And Zin's bid to sample the wines of all 50 states continues in the Deep South.  Morgan Creek Winery is located just south of Birmingham in in the sleepy little town of Harpersville, Alabama, population 1,620.

Harpersville was the birthplace of the man who founded the second Ku Klux Klan back in 1915, and nowadays they boast the first African-American mayor in Shelby County, Theoangelo Perkins.  Actor Henry B. Wathall hailed from Harpersville.  He is said to have a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame.  I've walked those sidewalks in Los Angeles many times, but I don't recall ever seeing Mr. Wathall's star.  I'll keep an eye open for it, though.  ABA star George McGinnis and former NBA player Warren Kidd are also from Harpersville.

Besides all the cotton fields - which is king in the Deep South - the vineyards of Morgan Creek Winery are the main attraction.

Morgan Creek's winemaking focuses on a regional grape popular in the southern and southeastern United States, Muscadine.  They also produce wine from other fruit, notably peaches and blueberries.   The winery is run by Charles Brammer and his son, Charles, Jr.  Winemaking was supposed to be the elder Brammer’s retirement hobby.  Things apparently went in a different direction, and he ended up working again.  At least it’s a labor of love.

More widely known grape varieties, like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, don't grow so well in the hot, humid climate of central Alabama.  Fortunately, that's the kind of weather in which Muscadine thrives.  I was unfamiliar with Muscadine wine, armed only with the word that it was a lot sweeter than the wines I was probably accustomed to drinking.  The folks at Morgan Creek were kind enough to supply two samples of their Muscadine, a red and a white.  Both Muscadine wines are actually more off-dry than sweet, with a very good acidity and earthy, mineral-laden notes which I did not expect.

I think both the red and the white are well made, but the funky flavor of the fruit was simply not getting any traction on my palate.  The acidity was fine, color beautiful, mouthfeel nice - I just didn’t care for the fruit.  I have the same issue with asparagus, sauerkraut and grapefruit.  That doesn't mean they are bad foods - I hear that plenty of people love asparagus, sauerkraut and grapefruit.

Tasting the wines over several days gave me the opportunity to become more accustomed to the flavor profiles, and pairing them with food helped put me in a Muscadine mentality.  In the case of the white Muscadine, I did not try it fully refrigerated until the third day. The recommended serving temperature is ice cold.

Morgan Creek Winery Cahaba WhiteMorgan Creek Cahaba White, Alabama Muscadine, Dry Table Wine

The white wine is made from the Carlos variety of Muscadine and sells for $11 per bottle.  There is no residual sugar and it is vinified without the use of oak.  It has a beautiful, golden yellow color.  At room temperature there's an extremely vegetal nose with a bell pepper aroma so strong there seems at first to be no other aroma available.  Chilled, the nose is more like wet straw, tasting very tart and vegetal still.  It becomes less astringent after a few sips and is quite nice paired with macadamia nuts and spicy pecans.  When served ice cold, it still smells a bit of wet straw, but with a hint of oaky chardonnay in it.  The taste is much less tart, with grapefruit and minerals on the palate.  It pairs nicely with peanuts and almonds, and with a blueberry Welsh cake.

Morgan Creek Winery Vulcan RedVulcan Red This wine is medium weight, brick-red in color and made from 100% Muscadine grapes.  It sells for $13.  The nose carries a sweet and earthy quality.  Denise - on whose great sense of smell I often rely - says it reminds her of grapes fallen from vines and crushed underfoot, which she experienced as a child.  The palate shows a trace of the same funkiness that presents itself in the Cahaba White, only smoothed out with a ripe sweetness that resembles sour raspberry candy.  There's a sparkling acidity which actually feels almost - but not quite - fizzy in the mouth.  It pairs well with butter cookies and blueberry Welsh cake, too.  It’s not so great a match with peanuts, but food with a bit of a sweet edge seems to be a good mate for it.  Vulcan Red can also benefit from a good chill.

Although Muscadine's flavor profiles were not meant for me, I can certainly see why the grape has its fans.  Tremendous thanks go out to Morgan Creek Winery for showing us the wine side of Alabama.

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