Showing posts with label Montana. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Montana. 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, May 19, 2011


When the Now And Zin Wine Country series kicked off - I'm trying to taste 50 wines from 50 states - Montana was one of the states I feared might not be represented too well.  The wine industry in Montana is very small - the winery count was 13 earlier this year - and the weather is just not conducive to growing traditional wine grapes.

An article from Fresh Vino reports that there is work being done in Montana to concentrate on cold weather grapes like Marquette, Frontenac, Traminette and Marechal Foch.  They are getting some help from Pat McGlynn, who is the agricultural extension agent at Montana State University.  She comes to Montana with experience at Cornell University and New York's Finger Lakes area, so she knows about cold-weather grape growing.

Many climatically-challenged areas make tasty wine from other types of fruit, like cherries, peaches and bluberries.  Some take a different approach altogether.  Mead.

King Tut drank mead, as did Eric The Red and Queen Elizabeth I.  The story goes that someone stumbled upon a beehive that had been out in the rain.  The honey inside had fermented, and that was the beginning of mead.  Mead is sometimes known as honeywine.  Rather than fermenting grapes, or other fruit, it's honey which undergoes fermentation and becomes "nectar of the gods," or "man's oldest drink."  Joe Schultz says people were making mead a thousand years before grapes came into play.

Joe Schultz at Hidden Legend Winery makes award-winning mead using Montana honey which is not boiled, thereby avoiding the scorched flavors he says are common in meads.  The Hidden Legend mead is all natural, no sulfites are added and Schultz describes his mead as "straddling the fence between dry grape wine and traditional mead."  His meads all carry a modest alcohol content of 12.5% abv.

Mead can dry, sweet, still or sparkling.  It can also be mixed with fruits or spices for different flavor variations.  Hidden Legend Winery makes all kinds of mead.  The two varieties they supplied for the Wine Country series are Wild Chokecherry and Spiced Honey Mead.

Hidden Legend Spiced MeadHidden Legend Spiced MeadLabelled as "honeywine with spices" this beverage carries a suggestion that you "heat it with a stick of cinnamon or serve it over ice with a sprig of mint."  It’s a beautiful reddish-brown color, rich, dark and inviting in the glass.  The nose is fascinating, with honey dripping from it and spices coloring, but not covering those notes.  The aromas remind me first of a Bit-O-Honey candy, then of cinnamon and allspice, and finally a waxy scent wafting up.  The honey aromas aren’t really sweet - they are reminiscent of dark honey, like avocado honey or even chestnut honey.

On the palate, the flavor of the honey comes forward first, without the sweetness.  This is an off-dry honeywine with a good level of acidity and nice flavors of the spice rack which make themselves known, but don’t take over in a "holiday beverage" sort of way.  This is really tasty!

Hidden Legend Wild Choklecherry MeadHidden Legend Wild Chokecherry Mead

This mead is made from 60% honey mead and 40% chokecherry wine.  I’ve never been to Montana, so I was unfamiliar with that fruit.  It sounds like a cousin to Frankenberry, the made-up breakfast cereal fruit from childhood.

According to Schultz, the chokecherry is a wild cherry which grows throughout Montana and does not turn sweet until after a frost.  Schultz says Montanans have been using chokecherries to make syrup and jam for years.  He thought it would be nice to blend some chokecherry wine with his honey mead.

Its color is even redder than the Spiced Mead - a translucent cherry-red.  There’s a little more of an herbal aroma on the nose, but the honey is still fully present and a layer of cherries joins in to form a truly beautiful  bouquet.

The wine tastes much drier than the spiced version.  The palate shows a blast of cherry Starburst candy, but in a completely dry framework.  Great acidity leaves my mouth watering.  I can’t help but think this chokecherry mead would pair very well with a chicken breast or pork chop.

When tasting a wine, I look mainly for four things: color, aroma, taste and acidity.  The Wild Chokecherry Mead scores well on all four points.  An amazing red color is joined by an intense nose and flavor package, all highlighted by a wonderful feeling of acidity in the mouth.  This  mead was truly a surprise for me, and it was a delight to drink.

The Hidden Legend Wild Chokecherry Mead won a gold medal in the Tasters Guild International Wine Judging, and after tasting it, I don’t wonder why.