Showing posts with label West Virginia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label West Virginia. 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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Friday, July 20, 2012

Wine Country: West Virginia

West Virginia has fewer than two dozen wineries.  The number eleven kept turning up in my research, but the West Virginia Department of Agriculture lists 19.  They don’t list much more than that about wine or grape growing, though.  The state does, however, boast three American Viticultural Areas.  The Mountain State has a piece of the Kanawha River Valley, Ohio River Valley and Shenandoah Valley AVAs.  

A lot of French hybrids are grown in West Virginia, due to the cold winters, but Riesling is said to be a mainstay in the northeastern part of the state.  In the Potomac Highlands, the shale soil is compared with that of Germany's Mosel Valley.  With about 47,000 gallons of wine produced in 2009, West Virginia comes in ahead of only Oklahoma, Maine and Montana in wine production.

A big thank you goes to my friend - and West Virginia native - Jim Thornton, and his wife Sue, who were kind enough to make it their mission to find these two wines for me on a trip back to Jim’s home state. Without them, there may not have been a West Virginia page for the Wine Country series.

Daniel Vineyards is in Crab Orchard, West Virginia, in the southwestern corner of the state.  The winery and vineyard is located at over 2,500 feet above sea level, so cold-hardy grapes are a must.  Owner and winemaker, Dr. C. Richard Daniel, has experimented with over 114 different grape varieties since his initial plantings in 1990.  Presently he grows 14 varieties:

     Cornell University Hybrids (Cayuga, Chardonel, Traminette)
     French-American Hybrids (Seyval, St. Vincent, Vidal, and Vignoles)
     Native American (Norton)
     Swenson Hybrids (Brianna, Esprit, and Sabrevois)
     University of Minnesota Hybrids (Frontenac, La Crescent, and Marquette)

The doctor says his blackberry and Port-style wines are his best sellers.
Daniel Vineyards West Virginia Red Table Wine 2008
The wine is brick red color and medium dark in the glass.  Light passes through it easily, and it has the look of a delicate Pinot Noir.  The nose is very intense blackberry, lots of earthy minerality. I would guess that this wine is made from Frontenac grapes, but I don't know for sure.

The palate is loaded with true blackberry flavor as well, the kind one gets from eating actual blackberries. There is a fruity sweetness, but an earthy taste is quite prevalent.  Fennel also shows.  The wine is quite dry and has a strong tannic structure.

Acidity is also high, which leads me to believe it will pair well with food.  I'd imagine this to be a great match with sausage, pork or pepperoni roll.  As a matter of fact, I might make the latter my first choice.  Anything type of peppery or spicy meat would likely pair well.

Kirkwood Winery is in Summersville, West Virginia, owned and operated by Rodney Facemire.  Kirkwood is Nicholas County’s first winery, and Facemire makes wine from fruits and vegetables.  There is also a mini-distillery on the premises, the Isaiah Morgan Distillery.

Kirkwood Winery Royal Blush NV
This pink wine actually looks more orange, or salmon, in the glass. It's gorgeous to look at, with an alcohol content of 11% abv.  On the nose, there's a "foxy" character that is often noticed in wines made from North American grapes.  Kirkwood does make a wine from Concord grapes, but I'm told the makeup of the Royal Blush is all Katoba grapes. I have never heard of that one, and I wonder if it might be a synonym for Catawba. The foxy aroma is so overpowering, I can't determine any fruit aromas at all.
On the palate, things change.  There is a very intense flavor of orange peel, and a vegetal/herbal angle I can't quite figure out.  While the nose did not make me want a sip, the taste of the wine is actually very interesting.  Orange candy on the finish takes away the memory of the nose.  

As a "mountain wine" from Appalachia, it has a certain cachet.  I would imagine if one is accustomed to drinking this, it's quite enjoyable.  As for me, if there's a white Zinfandel nearby, I'll take that instead.