Showing posts with label Kentucky. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Kentucky. 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, July 21, 2011


"Fine wine from the great Commonwealth of Kentucky."  That's the banner on the Elk Creek Vineyards website, showing their pride in the wines grown and produced in the rolling hills near Owenton, about an hour from Lexington, Louisville and Cincinnati.  What's more, they claim to be the largest winery in the state better known for bourbon and horses than wine.

The story of the wine industry in the Bluegrass State is an interesting one, and it goes back to the very beginning of the wine industry in America.

The Kentucky Wine website says Kentucky was "home to the first commercial vineyard in the United States, and once producer of more than half the nation's grape and wine output."

That first vineyard was in Lexington, on the Kentucky River.  Swiss winemaker Jean-Jacques Dufour sailed over in 1798 to find new land for grape growing.  He was the winemaker for the Marquis de Lafayette.  Dufour bought 600 acres and dubbed it "The First Vineyard."  According to Kentucky Wine, his first vintage in 1803 went to none other than Thomas Jefferson.

By the late 1800s, Kentucky was the third largest producer in America.  Prohibition, of course, killed Kentucky's wine industry, and wineries weren't legal again until 1976!  Now there are over 50 wineries in Kentucky.

Time and Prohibition took their toll in The First Vineyard, as it fell into oblivion.  Reconstruction of that vineyard began in 2002.  In 2008, 40 Cape grapevines were planted.  They are said to be the grapes Dufour first planted there, and are also known by the name of Alexander.  The present owners have since planted Riesling, Norton and Vignoles vines.

The great blog The Other 46 featured a nice video from Kentucky Wine, which I have borrowed here.

Elk Creek Vineyards Cabernet FrancElk Creek Vineyard's Estate Cabernet Franc 2008 is the second vintage of this wine from Elk Creek.  Cab Franc is considered by the University of Kentucky to be difficult to grow and somewhat susceptible to cold weather

It says on the wine's label, "Kentucky Grown," and the folks at Elk Creek are quite proud of that.  The wine has a most reasonable 13.2% alcohol content.

Medium ruby in color, Elk Creek's Cab Franc boasts a nose so fruity it’s almost perfumed.  Extreme blueberry aromas, red plums, cassis, vanilla spice and a touch of cinnamon all compete for attention.  Throw in a little pencil lead and you’d have a fine impersonation of a Napa Cab.

The taste seems a little hot at first, but after proper time to breathe it settles down very well.  On the palate I find all that fruit my nose got acquainted with, plus a little trace of bell pepper.  The green, or herbal notes really come forth on the finish, which is a lengthy and satisfying one.

After enjoying this great expression of Kentucky fruit, it's easy to see why Elk Creek Vineyards has so much pride in their heritage and their product.

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