Showing posts with label Massachusetts. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Massachusetts. 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, November 24, 2011


The Massachusetts wine industry is a relative newcomer to the national wine scene - the state's first winery of the modern era opened in 1971.  

Massachusetts boasts only about 30 wineries, but they are making a name for themselves.  Several folks who know a lot more about Massachusetts wine than I do have told me it's high time that wine from the Bay State got its due.

The grapes you'll find growing in Massachusetts are likely to be Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Blanc or Pinot Gris.  They are also growing some American hybrids like Vidal Blanc and Cayuga.  Wine made from fruit other than grapes is also in the picture, and mead - wine made from honey - figures in to the winescape.

Wine Country has already visited Massachusetts - Cape Cod Winery - which gave us a chance to try a wine made from hybrid grapes.  This time, we taste some more traditional winemaking grapes.

Westport Rivers is a small, family-owned farm in Westport, Massachusetts which has been growing grapes and making wine for 25 years.  Over that time they have racked up a lot of gold medals and good press, but they are most proud of the fact that their wine has been served in the White House under two administrations.

Their website sings the praises of their "dark, rich, New England loam on well drained gravel."  The cool New England weather is tempered by the Gulf Stream, which warms the South Coast of Massachusetts.  Westport Rivers is situated in the Southeastern 
New England AVA, where most of the Massachusetts wineries are located.  They are also a member of the Coastal Wine Trail of Southeastern New England.

The folks at Westport Rivers also sing the praises of their wines.  They point out that their wines are literally tailor-made to go with the seafood and cheeses of their region.  Westport Rivers was kind enough to provide six of their wines for the Now And Zin 
Wine Country series.

Westport Rivers Pinot GrisWestport Rivers Pinot Gris 2009 - After harvest they let the grapes sit in the press for a few hours before pressing, to give the wine some color and aromatics from the skins.  It works!  The wine has a great golden tint and the nose is bouquet of flowers - a big bouquet.  There's also a touch of minerality in the aromas which comes across more like a gentle earthiness.  The palate plays peaches against melons with a lovely herbal quality rising along with some acidity to keep things food friendly. 

Westport Rivers Pinot NoirWestport Rivers Pinot Noir 2010 - At 13.2% abv, this is much more old world than new.  Medium ruby in color, the nose on this Pinot Noir shows muted raspberry and a strong herbal aroma that smacks of greenness. It's nothing like a whiff of high octane Cali Pinot, that's for sure. The palate shows that same herbal edge, reminiscent of Cabernet Franc, and it weighs in nearly equally with the red plum and sour cherry flavors. The minerality is strong, the acidity lip smacking. It's herbaceousness and acidity show that the winemakers were thinking of the state's seafood bounty when they crafted this one.  It's a light, even delicate, framework for a wine that's more about feel than flavor. 

Westport Rivers ChardonnayWestport Rivers Chardonnay 2009 - 100% estate-grown Chardonnay, this wine is 80% aged in French oak, sur-lie.  Letting wine rest on the dead yeast during fermentation imparts a richer, fuller feeling.  That does not come at the expense of acidity, though - there’s plenty of acid to tingle the taste buds.  Big tropical aromas and spices dominate the nose, while the palate also gets the palm-tree treatment - there are traces of pineapple, guava, banana and even a little coconut in the flavor profile. There's also a trace of lemon peel and even a ginger-like quality that flirts on the palate.  That earthy minerality shows up here, too, as it did in in Pinot Gris.  It's quite a complex little Chardonnay, and - once again - not very California.  A 12.2% abv number makes for a very drinkable wine.

Westport Rivers BrutWestport Brut RJR 2006 - A traditional method sparkler comprised of 65% Pinot Noir grapes and 35% Chardonnay, the Brut has a light golden hue.  The frothy head dissipates quickly.  Its nose reminds me of earthy peaches, very ripe.  I swear I smell mayhaw jelly.  On the palate there's a distinct banana flavor and a toastiness with that earthy quality.  A light mouthfeel and a lingering sense of banana candy give me plenty to ponder while sipping. This is a singular sparkler in my tasting experience.  It's fascinating.  By the way, RJR stands for Robert James Russell, Westport Rivers' winemaker. 

Westport Rivers Blanc de BlancsBlanc de Blancs Ultra Brut 2000- This yellow-gold sparkler offers one of the most pungent noses I've ever experienced in a sparkling wine. The tropical aromas I found in the Chardonnay are here, along with a heaping helping of toasty earthiness. The Blanc de Blancs is made from 100% Chardonnay grapes and is aged over seven years before finishing.  The palate is rich and citrusy, with plenty of bubbles and a bracing acidity.  There's a very intense nutty quality i find fascinating  It does wonders for a handful of peanuts!  The winery recommends you pair it with oysters, and that would seem to be an even better choice. 

Westport Rivers GraceGrace Chardonnay NV - This is their aperitif Chardonnay, one of those gold medal winners they like to brag about. Westport Rivers blends their eau de vie of Chardonnay with fresh pressed Chardonnay juice, then they age it in French oak.  Repeat for seven 
vintages and you've got Grace.  It has an alcohol content of 17.5% abv, so you'll want to go easy on it before operating heavy machinery. This wine looks terrific in the glass.  It's a rich shade tending towards amber, almost like bourbon.  Gorgeous aromas of caramel and honey just about knock me off my feet. The palate is awash with flavors of lemon peel drenched in dark honey.  After regaining consciousness, I realize what great acidity this wine has - feel free to bring on the fattiest cheese and pâté for it.

The one thing that keeps appearing in the wines of Westport Rivers is the amazing terroir, the sense of earth that permeates each of the wines I tried.  It marks each wine as a distinctive representative of Wine Country Massachusetts.

Monday, November 14, 2011


wine statistics

Most of the wine produced in America comes from California.  Oregon, Washington and New York are also significant producers.  After that, though, wine production per state drops off dramatically.  That was the inspiration for the Now And Zin Wine Country series - exploring wine from “the other 46” states.

What about consumption, though?  Who is drinking all that wine made in the top four wine producing states?  You might be surprised which states consume the most wine, per capita.

In Washington, D.C., the average consumption of wine is 6.6 gallons per adult citizen per year.  That means, statistically speaking, the nation’s capital has the largest concentration of wine drinkers in America.  Alright, if you say that doesn’t surprise you, I’ll buy that.  I’ll wager the rest of the top five might.

Folks in New Hampshire consume 4.8 gallons of wine per year to land at number two.  I would assume that cider and mead are probably in that mix, too.  In Massachusetts and Vermont, they drink 4.1 gallons per person annually, while Nevada rounds out the top five at 3.8 gallons.

Connecticut, Delaware and New Jersey residents consume 3.6 gallons each per year, while Rhode Islanders, Hawaiians and Californians check in just under that mark at 3.4 gallons.

That's the top eleven wine-consuming states in America.  Are you surprised at the numbers?

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Thursday, May 12, 2011


The Now And Zin Wine Country series continues with the wine of Massachusetts.  The wine industry in The Bay State is still in its infancy by modern standards, although wine has been produced in Massachusetts since the 1600s.  The Pilgrims had barely gotten off the Mayflower when they started making wine from indigenous grapes.

Massachusetts now has over 30 wineries producing over 160,000 gallons of wine per year.  Most of the wineries are in the southern portion of the state.

Cape Cod Winery was founded in 1994 by the Lazzari family.  The winery is located in the Southeasten New England AVA.  In the sandy, gravelly soil of their gently sloping vineyards in East Falmouth, Massachusetts, the Lazzaris grow Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Pinot Grigio grapes.  They also grow Seyval and Vidal, and the wine I tasted is a blend of those two white grapes.

Cape Cod Winery Nobska WhiteCape Cod Winery's Nobska White blends Seyval Blanc and Vidal Blanc to produce a semi-sweet white wine with only 12% alcohol content.  Both are hybrid grapes, with Seyval ripening early and well suited to cold weather and Vidal noted for its elevated sugar content and high acidity.

Nobska White has a beautiful golden color in the glass and is quite aromatic, with a candy-like aroma of guava-meets-cognac.  A honey component joins a green pepper scent on the nose as well.  The flavor is strongly tropical and finishes like a lemon-lime Sweet Tart.  The wine is well suited for pairing with seafood with an acidity level that, while not razor sharp, is crisp and refreshing.  The mouthfeel is rather full - it feels almost creamy in the mouth - and should be served chilled for best effect.

I would imagine Cape Cod Winery's Nobska White would be a perfect wine to sip on the deck during warm summertime weather.

Cape Cod Winery also makes two red blends - one of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc and the other a Merlot/Cabernet Franc mix.  The winery's blush is created using their Seyval grapes and organic Cape Cod cranberries.

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Sunday, March 6, 2011


Wine Laws: Arizona and Massachusetts

Will it play in Peoria?  Apparently so, at least in Peoria, Arizona.  Safeway grocery shoppers in the Phoenix suburb will soon be able to enjoy samples while they shop.

An article in the Arizona Republic reported that the Peoria City Council has approved samples of beer, wine and spirits at two Safeway stores in a unanimous vote.

By state law, samples are limited to three ounces of beer, one ounce of wine and one ounce of distilled spirits per person, per brand, per day.

In Massachusetts, legislation has been introduced which would reinstate a sales tax on alcoholic beverages sold in retail establishments and increase the excise tax, too.  According to an article in the Wellesley Wine Press, Massachusetts residents voted not long ago that they did not want a sales tax on alcohol.

The article states that Massachusetts is still awaiting legislation which would allow the direct shipment of wine as well as a law that would allow retailers to ship wine outside of the state.