Showing posts with label Wine Country. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Wine Country. Show all posts

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Best California Counties For Wine?

Let's go to the second-best county in California for wine country!  Stanislaus County, here we come!

What?  Never heard of the place?  Well it's right up there with Napa County (#1) and Sonoma County (#3) according to a recently released compilation.  San Joaquin and Yolo counties round out the top five.  Lodi is in San Joaquin County, so I can understand a fairly high ranking in that case.  However, Yolo County, just west of Sacramento, has only a handful of wineries.  Stanislaus County's claim to wine fame is Modesto, which you may recognize as home to corporate wineries like Gallo and Bronco.  Modesto should be thought of as lettuce country, not wine country.

The counties were weighted based on different metrics, and having a large city within the borders actually punished them.  The compilers say that's why you don’t see San Diego County until #16 and Santa Barbara County until #18.  

Now, when you are traveling around the huge expanse of Santa Barbara County, most of it is so rural you may not even realize there is a big city nearby.  The wines produced there rival anything Napa and Sonoma have to offer.  And, in my humble opinion, they are even better than the wines of Stanislaus County.  Plus, the countryside is gorgeous.  #18?  C'mon.

When I was writing news for the radio, I was inundated daily with "top ten" lists generated by a personal finance website.  No matter that personal finance has little to do with the Top Ten Beaches In America, the lists were intended solely to attract clicks on the site.  This California Wine County list seems to work the same way.  It was published by Lawn Starter, a website which aims to help people get their grass cut.  The connection to wine country is just as feeble as those of the personal finance website.

In case you are interested, here are LawnStarter's Top Ten Wine Counties in California:

1. Napa County

2. Stanislaus County

3. Sonoma County

4. San Joaquin County

5. Yolo County

6. Solano County

7. San Luis Obispo County

8. Alameda County

9. Sacramento County

10. Marin County


Happy travels this summer.  Wherever your love of wine takes you, I hope you enjoy it to the fullest.  Even if it's Stanislaus County.


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Monday, March 30, 2020

Wine Country Alaska

When I tell people that wine is made in every US state, the number one response I get is, "Oh, yeah? What about Alaska?"  Yes, Virginia, wine is made in Alaska.

The Now And Zin Wine Country series is creeping ever closer to the goal of tasting wine from all 50 U.S. states.  Wine from Alaska arrived recently to brighten my self-isolated existence.  That makes 46 states now sampled, with only Mississippi, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming remaining elusive.  I understand that OK is on the way.  Fingers crossed.

Alaska's wine production is so limited, the state doesn't even get its own line on the list.  It is lumped in with eight other states as "others" which collectively produce some 0.039% of the wine made in America.

The website says Glacier Bear Winery was founded in 2015 as a companion to the already existing Bear Creek Winery.  Glacier Bear makes wine only from Alaska-grown fruit, like red raspberries, yellow raspberries, blueberries, black currants, strawberries, gooseberries, apples, low bush cranberries, and rhubarb.  They do use Chardonnay grapes in a blend with Rhubarb.  Winemaker Louis Maurer named some of his berry wines after the grapes he set out to emulate - Blu Zin and Mirlo.

The wineries are located in Homer, Alaska, overlooking Kachemak Bay.  It's a 40 mile long arm of Cook Inlet, on the southwest side of the Kenai Peninsula southwest of Anchorage.  Lodging is available on-site, overlooking the bay.  Maurer tells me he knows of only one other winery in Alaska, so I feel incredibly lucky to have received the wines. 

Glacier Bear Winery Black Currant Wine 2016

This medium-hued berry wine brings natural fruit to the table.  It smells of black currant but gets a little more complex with a smokey overlay on the nose.  The palate is basically cassis, only not so dense and sweet, and with less alcohol - only 12.5% abv.  I am thinking of this as the Pinot Noir of berry wines, owing to its light mouthfeel and hint of tartness.  It's fruity, fun and tasty for sure, but many wine drinkers may find $27 a bit steep for those qualities.  I would love to pair this with pork, or even with glazed wild salmon.

Glacier Bear Winery Blueberry Wine 2018 

I had wine made from Florida blueberries once, and it smelled and tasted like full-on blueberry juice, the kind you would have for breakfast.  This one, made from Alaska blueberries, is definitely wine.  It's dry, like the Black Currant, and features a nose that is deep and dark enough, earthy and herbal enough to make a wine lover take notice.  The palate shows fruit, stems and all, not suitable for serving with Eggos in the morning.  I'm thinking this would pair well with game, despite its medium-light weight.  Alcohol tips only 11.5% abv and the wine retails for $25.

Bear Creek Alaskan Port 

This Port-style wine is made from 100% Muscadine grapes, but Maurer says they were not Alaska-grown.  The wholesaler which provided the juice to him could not pinpoint where they were grown.  The Muscadine grape is fairly popular in the humid southeastern states.  This wine hits an alcohol level of 17% abv and sells for $27.


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Saturday, July 6, 2019

New Mexico Wine Toasts Feminist Artist

A New Mexico winery is toasting feminist artist Judy Chicago with a wine bearing her name.  Jaramillo Vineyards is releasing the wine this month in New Mexico's Middle Rio Grande Valley.

Owners Robert and Barbara Jaramillo met when he was stationed with the Navy in Long Beach, California.  After a career as an airline pilot, Jaramillo decided to grow grapes and make wine, continuing a family precedent.  His father was a home winemaker, but his grandfather had been the largest producer of wine in the area before Prohibition.

Jaramillo Vineyards has plantings of the Norton Cynthiana grape, which has reportedly not been grown west of Missouri until now.  Norton is considered to be "America’s grape," and was championed by Thomas Jefferson.

Judy Chicago's art will be shown on July 20-21, 2019 at the opening of the Through the Flower Art Space in Belen, New Mexico.  Chicago and her husband have lived in Belen for a quarter century, and the town is also the home of Jaramillo Vineyards.  The art space is right across the street from the tasting room. 

The winery plans to release the Judy Chicago red and white wines on July 21st.  Both will feature a label and bottle design conceived by the artist herself.  She chose a cobalt blue bottle which she feels compliments her label design.  Chicago was personally involved in selecting the final blend for each wine.  I haven't tasted them, but I'm told the Judy Chicago red will be a Petit Verdot blend and the Judy Chicago white will be a dry blend of Chenin Blanc and Arneis. 

You can read more of the Now And Zin effort to taste wine from all 50 states in the Wine Country series.

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Thursday, August 4, 2016

Friday, February 5, 2016

Wine Country: Oregon

Earl Jones grew up in a farming family, and when he was of age he couldn’t wait to turn in his tractor keys for good. But in college, he discovered fine wine and the culture surrounding it. Later, when he met his wife-to-be, Hilda, they shared that interest.

When Mr. and Mrs. Jones moved from the Gulf Coast to Oregon 20 years ago, It was for the purpose of planting vines and making wines.  They wondered why the Tempranillo grape was so widely ignored in American vineyards. A lot of research and a trip to Spain led to the selection of that Iberian grape as the one that would carry the Abacela name.

The research showed them that Tempranillo likes “a short growing season with a cool spring and hot, dry summer cut short by autumn.” The Umpqua Valley site matched that criteria, plus it offered distinct microclimates from one part of the land to another. It wasn’t long before they packed their trailer, hung an "Oregon of Bust" sign on the back and hit the road.

What’s in the name? It’s a third-person conjugation of the archaic verb abacelar, which meant "to plant grape vines." That could hardly have been more perfect.

Besides Tempranillo, the Joneses also grow Syrah, Grenache, Malbec, Alabriño and Tannat along with five Portuguese varieties which they use to create a dessert wine patterned after tawny Port.

The Abacela wines have been lauded for quality and awarded for taste. Last year, the Joneses were given the Oregon Wine Industry's highest honor, the Lifetime Achievement Award. They are only the tenth recipients of that honor.

This barrel-select wine was crafted by winemaker Andrew Wenzl. The grapes came from the esttate’s Fault Line vineyard.  French oak was used for about two years of aging, less than half of it new. Alcohol tips 14.8% abv. The wine retails for $32.

This wine is inky dark, and that’s no exaggeration. It actually looks like indigo ink. No light gets through at all. It’s the black hole of Tempranillo. One sniff demonstrates that darkness to my olfactory sense. There is major dark fruit, like black plums, blackberries, what’s darker than blackberries? Whatever it is, it’s in there, too. Shovel in a little dirt and light a campfire and you have the savory side figured out. The palate is fruitier than I expected, but don’t get the wrong idea. I just mean it isn’t completely given over to minerals and spices. That dark fruit is there, but it’s in a battle with the savory notes. Tannic structure is amazing - even after it’s open for three days. Bring on the red meat. This wine will not be tamed.


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Friday, January 15, 2016

Wine Country Rhode Island: Greenvale Vineyards

Wine production in the state of Rhode Island started before it was a state. In 1663 King Charles II of England included the making of wine as one of the various uses of Little Rhody’s land as an English colony. Bless his heart! The state’s modern day wine industry - as minuscule as it is - began in 1975.

Greenvale Vineyards is located on the Sakonnet River in Portsmouth, Rhode Island. They are just five miles north of Newport, on Aquidneck Island, one of three wineries in the county and eight along the coastal New England wine trail. The same family has owned the 24-acre farm since 1863, but the grapevines didn't start taking root until 1982. The place is on both state and national historic registers, so the sense of time is tangible there.

It is, however, a sense of place that we look for inside the bottle.

Greenvale Vineyards was kind enough to provide us with two of their white wines for the purpose of this article. They also have a couple for red wine fans - a Cabernet Franc and a Meritage.

The 100% estate grown 2013 Greenvale Chardonnay is fully barrel fermented in neutral French oak - aged there, too, plus a couple of years in the bottle. 198 cases were produced and the retail price hits $18.

The pale gold tint shows a little more color than you may expect in a Chardonnay.  The nose is elegant and restrained, with apples and pineapples joining a light touch of oak.  On the palate, that oak gets a little noisier. The wine is reminiscent of an old-line California Chardonnay, buttery and a bit fat with a wonderful, creamy mouthfeel. The difference between California and Rhode Island comes in the minerality - the eastern earth is more pronounced than in those big, ol’ Chardonnays from the West.

The 2012 Greenvale Vidal Blanc is a real winner, too. Vidal Blanc is a French-American hybrid grape that makes an aromatic and fruity wine. 659 cases of this were produced and it retails for $17.

This  golden-tinted Rhode Island White offers a fruit basket for a nose. I stopped noting what was in it and started noting what wasn’t - it was a shorter list. A fairly explosive tropical fruit aroma leads the way, but it shares the stage with apricot, apple, orange, tangerine and mango. There is also a underlying sense of earthiness - not really minerality, but a softer, savory sensation. On the palate, more fruit, what else? It is a bit more defined, focused on apricot and citrus.

What a great wine to have with a shrimp cocktail or a ham sandwich, or just sipping, chilled, on a warm summer day. Count me in on that one.


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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Wine Country Kansas: Holy-Field Vineyard And Winery

German immigrants brought grapes and winemaking to Missouri in the early part of the 19th century and, by the latter part, wine had crossed the Missouri River into Kansas.  The two states made up a winemaking powerhouse which provided more wine than any other area in the US at that time.  The story went sour quickly, though.

Temperance leader Carrie Nation hailed from the Sunflower State and the relentless work of her movement resulted in Kansas becoming the first US state to adopt a statewide prohibition of alcoholic beverages in 1881 - predating the national era of Prohibition by nearly four decades.

It has been noted that around the beginning of the 20th century - despite the state's prohibition - there were still thousands of acres of grapevines which served Kansas bootleggers and the booming wine industry in neighboring Missouri.  National prohibition killed off the wine industry in Kansas - Missouri, too - and recovery would not begin until the 1980s.

Kansas is known for its fertile soil and long growing season, particularly in the eastern half of the state where most of its 30 or so vineyards are located.  The Holy-Field Vineyards and Winery website waxes poetic about making wine in Basehor, Kansas: "The bounty of the vines springs forth on fourteen beautiful acres tended under the personal touch of owners Les and Michelle Meyer. Holy-Field's ten grape varieties ripen to produce fifteen distinct wines."

The name of the vineyard and winery is inspired by its location at the intersection of 158th Street and 24-40 highway in southern Leavenworth County Kansas.  In bygone years 158th street was named Holyfield Road, and the name offers a tip of the hat to that era.  The vineyard is filled with Native American and French Hybrid varieties

Holy-Field Cynthiana

Also known by the more masculine name of Norton, Cynthiana grapes are thought by many to be America's great lost grape.  It flourished in Midwestern vineyards for many years until Prohibition pulled the carpet from beneath its feet.  The wine industries in these states literally died at that time, taking Cynthiana with them.  The grape - by both names - has undergone a great resurgence and is now grown in several states, Kansas among them.

The Holy-Field Cynthiana shows extreme earthiness on the nose, which is somewhat obscured by the aroma of alcohol, more than the 13.5% abv number would suggest. The taste is brimming with tart - bordering on sour - cranberry, raspberry and cherry.  Spice is abundant, a result of the 12-16 months aging in American oak which the wine undergoes.

Here is a nice article giving a brief history of the Norton/Cynthiana grape.

Holy-Field Amitie

This refreshing white wine blends two French hybrids grapes - Chardonel and Traminette.  The former claims Chardonnay as its parent, while the latter hails from the Gewürztraminer grape.  The wine is done completely in stainless steel, with no oak used to color the beauty of the fruit.  It hits only 12% abv on the alcohol scale

This wine's light golden color suggests a light and refreshing quaff, and the nose adds a hint of sweetness to the expectations.  Aromas of apples, white peaches and a sweetly herbal note are inviting.  The flavors deliver on what has been promised.  Sweet fruit and a slightly spicy edge are wrapped a delicate acidity that tingles just right.  There is just a hint of earth underlying all this, and it stays on the finish.  I am reminded of an off-dry Riesling, which is a good thing to be reminded of now and then.


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Friday, February 6, 2015

Wine Country: Delaware - Harvest Ridge Winery

Delaware's history with wine goes back a long way.  Historically, the first Swedish settlers in Delaware planted grapes and made wine as early as 1638.  Definitely a small production state, Delaware's wine output is lumped in with that of 13 other states collectively known as "other," totaling a minuscule amount of wine production.  There are only a handful of wineries in The First State, so nicknamed because it was the first to ratify the United States constitution.  It is sometimes referred to as the Diamond State, thanks to noted wine lover Thomas Jefferson.  He compared Delaware to a diamond, "small but valuable."

As a colony, Delaware was claimed not only by England, but Sweden and Holland as well.  The Dutch were the first to colonize the area.  Who knew Delaware was in such demand at that time?  By the way, Delaware is still in high demand.  Their corporation-friendly laws make it a very popular place to do business.  More than half of the publicly traded companies in America are incorporated in Delaware.

Harvest Ridge Winery consists of a 120-acre plot in Kent County - one of only three counties in the state.  The property actually straddles the Delaware border with Maryland. For this reason, the wines are labeled with the "American" AVA, not "Delaware."  Their unique location - on the Mason-Dixon Line - also allows them to claim as their own one of the original Mason-Dixon markers - number 47, if you're keeping score at home.

Owner Chuck Nunan was a home winemaker who got the bug to start a winery after visiting one in South Carolina.  Land was purchased in 2005, vines were planted in 2011 and the wine was poured in 2013 when they opened the doors as Delaware's fourth winery.  The farm was originally called Harvest Ridge, which Nunan thought had a nice ring to it for the name of the winery.

The Nunan family photo looks like a crowd scene.  I count fourteen Nunans, but several of them look a bit young to be much help working in the vineyard.  They probably like testing the grapes, though.  Winemaker Milan Mladjan lists Merlot as his favorite wine grape, and insists that he is not ashamed to admit it.

Harvest Ridge Winery revels in their East Coast terroir, proudly using only grapes grown on the estate or fruit sourced from other local growers.  They make wine not only from grapes, but also from apples, pumpkins and honey.  They were kind enough to supply me with three of their grape wines for the purpose of this article.


2013 Chambourcin  $17.00

The Chambourcin grape is a French-American hybrid that is resistant to fungus and does well in places where the winter climate is on the cold side.  Delaware comes to mind.

Medium dark purple, the rich nose offers notes of coffee grounds, earth and a grapy blackberry aroma.  On the palate, flavors reminiscent of Pinot Noir come forward - black tea, dark wild berries, pomegranate - but in a bigger, bolder setting than is usually found in Pinot.  Alcohol is quite restrained, at just 12.6% abv.  Great acidity makes it a refreshing sip and an easy wine to pair with food.  The tannins are subdued, but quite functional.  This is a very fruity - and complex - wine that feels big in the mouth and will pair wonderfully with grilled pork chops.  It's also amazing with fruit and nut bread.


2013 Cabernet Sauvignon  $22.50

The Harvest Ridge Cab has a tint and fragrance which remind me of Pinot Noir as well, at first.  The medium hue leads to a nose with cranberry and black raspberry apparent, but there is more to come in this complex set of aromas.  Plums and cassis seem to be trying to hide behind a screen of cigar tobacco, smoke, spice and herb.  The oak is well played - noticeable, but not overbearing.

In the mouth, this wine is big and juicy.  Fans of California Cabs may even be fooled by the 13% abv number - it tastes bigger than that.  The acidity is absolutely alive, while the tannins are forceful enough to take on a rib eye with their bare hands.  I don't know that I would guess it to be a Cabernet had I tasted blind; perhaps I would have blurted out "Zweigelt" before the unmasking showed my error.  The wine's cold-climate qualities are the story here - acidity, spice, tartness, low alcohol - but, as with any Cab worth its grape leaves, it is a real mouthful.


2013 Chardonnay  $18.50

This wine looks faintly straw colored and smells of tropical fruit and oak spice.  It is billed as an unoaked wine, a claim that the winery stood by in a series of messages with me on Twitter.  I still think it smells - and tastes - of oak, but they swear to the contrary.  It is one of the biggest, fullest unoaked white wines I have ever tasted.

There is the mark of oak on the palate, too - or, so say I - with apple and pineapple flavors abetted by a serious mineral streak that connotes wet stones and citrus fruit.  The finish takes quite a while, and that lovely touch of lime peel lasts all the way through it.

 All in all, the terroir of Delaware is well represented in the wines of Harvest Ridge.


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Friday, April 18, 2014

Drink Pink: Stinson Vineyards Monticello Rosé 2012

Spring is official now, although it may not feel like it yet where you are.  In Southern California, the shading between seasons is not so dramatic as it is elsewhere, but we still know when it feels like a rosé.  Yes, it feels like a rosé pretty much all the time.  Look for some great rosé wines to be featured under the "Drink Pink" heading on Now And Zin Wine as we work our way towards summer.

This pink wine comes from the great state of Virginia.  Stinson Vineyards is run by the father/daughter team of Scott and Rachel Stinson - she's the winemaker.  Located in the Monticello AVA, the Stinson's are showing that Thomas Jefferson was right - great wine can be made in ol' Virginny.  Stinson Vineyards provided a sample of their rosé to me for the purpose of review.  Next week the full article on Stinson Vineyards in the Now And Zin Wine Country series will run.

This rosé is made from 100% Mourvèdre grapes, soaked on their skins for 72 hours, fermented and aged in steel tanks.  The wine is aged for three months on the lees (spent yeast) which imparts body and creaminess to the wine.

A Rhônish 13% abv in alcohol, only 220 cases were produced, in keeping with the artisanal concept of the winery.  The wine sells for $17 per bottle.

Intermittent rain during the 2012 harvest made ripening difficult for red grapes.  The Mourvèdre - from Horton Vineyards in Virginia's Madison County - was harvested in early October, when the weather cooled and rains let up.  Vineyard owner Dennis Horton is well-known to Virginia wine lovers.  He planted some of the first Rhône varieties in the state in 1988.

Stinson Vineyards says their Monticello Rosé is styled after the pinks of the Southern Rhône, Bandol in particular.  They're not just whistling La Marseillaise, either.  It looks, smells and tastes like a Rhône wine.  Strawberry and cherry aromas are filtered through a significant funky earthiness, while the flavors are soaked in minerality, too.  The acidity is a delight, and the finish carries a bit of smoke with it.  This is a serious rosé - there is certainly no mistaking it for White Zinfandel.  Thomas Jefferson would be proud.


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Friday, December 14, 2012

Tasting Wine In All 50 States Is Not A Slam Dunk


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 two years ago, and we’re just over halfway there.

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 - it’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 and Michigan, 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 and West Virginia blackberries.

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 hadn’t yet tasted.  To all who have sent wine for this project, I offer my heartfelt thanks.

At this writing, 27 states have been included, so I may be at this for some time.  I hear that some Washington state Rhones are on the way, and a Delaware winery is looking into their shipping permit.  Aah, shipping wine in the United States.  That has proven to be a stumbling block more than once so far.

Contacts made in Arkansas, Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Ohio, Utah and Oklahoma dropped out of sight, while responses are hard to come by at all from Alaska, Hawaii, Wyoming, Connecticut, Louisiana, Mississippi, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Wisconsin.  I am sure for some of these states, I’ll probably have to find someone who makes wine in their garage.  Any Mississippi garagistas out there?

While we are on the subject, if you know a winemaker in any of the states which haven’t been covered in Wine Country yet, 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 nowandzin@gmail.com or contact me on Twitter.


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Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Wine Country North Dakota: Pointe Of View Winery


The cradle of North Dakota’s wine industry - the town of Burlington - is a few miles up Highway 2 from Minot, where there is always a radio job open.  There used to be, anyway.  In my younger days as a radio deejay in Beaumont, Texas, we radio types would read the “Jobs Available” listings in the back of Radio and Records magazine.  It seemed there was always a listing in Minot, N.D.  We assumed the turnover rate was high due to the fact that the temperatures probably dipped to absolute zero just before Thanksgiving and didn’t warm up enough to cut the grass until July.  The station manager probably let the ad run every week so they could amass a stockpile of tapes and resumes for the inevitable time when the next deejay would quit and move south.

Burlington is home to North Dakota’s first winery, Pointe Of View.  North Dakota was the last state in the union since Prohibition to issue a license for a commercial winery.   That was in 2002.  They still don’t have much company - one other winery has joined the ranks - with most folks busy having a good laugh about that crazy guy trying to grow grapes in North Dakota.  Meanwhile, Jeff Peterson  is quietly making North Dakota history.

Peterson makes most of his wines on the sweeter side - he says that’s what people want in North Dakota.  He prefers dry wines, himself, and produces two full-fledged dry wines, one from apples and one from grapes.  I ran across an article in the Bismarck Tribune in which Peterson stated, “"Some people really know their wines. Some people might not know their wines, but they know what they like. In the end, that's what it comes down to.”  Some in the wine world will fight Peterson tooth and nail on that point, preferring to insist that there is good and there is bad, and some people simply don’t know the difference.  But, if someone doesn’t like the wine you like, does that make it bad?  Peterson thinks if it’s good enough for you to take home repeatedly, it’s good.

Peterson was kind enough to send two samples of his North Dakota wine for this series, one made from Valiant grapes and another made from rhubarb.  Terre Haute Rouge has an alcohol content of 9% abv.  It’s a semi sweet blush wine with no vintage on label, produced from 100% North Dakota Grown Valiant grapes.

“I could not give it the Valiant varietal name and year when I got its first crop four years ago,” emails Peterson.  “Seems the name was registered with the TTB then with a foreign country. A couple years ago that changed, but by that time I had the name established.

“Valiant is a cross of Wild Montana (native vitis riparia) which came from just west of me and crossed with Fredonia. Dr. Ron Peterson from the University of South Dakota bred the two back in the early 60's. It is currently considered to be the most cold hardy American hybrid there is. Although intended as a juice grape it makes a good summer wine with a slight labrusca flavor.

“Also, our state ag research university (North Dakota State University) is currently working on developing very cold hardy hybrid wine grapes for our industry. Although a long term project, they are employing a new accelerated breeding program that allows crosses to be made all year long and could potentially turn a 20 year breeding program into 8.”

Terre Haute Rouge is deep pink in the glass - a nice rosado color - with an herbal aspect to the sweetness which is quite intriguing.  The sweet strawberry flavors have an earthiness that adds dimension to the wine.  Peterson notes, “It’s sweet and tangy. I make it in a white wine style (no skin fermentation) because the skins have an objectionable flavor to them when fermented.”  It’s really a nice, semi-sweet blush with enough acidity to allow for it to take a place at the lunch table.

Pointe Of View gave me my first experience with rhubarb wine, and it is a very pleasant one.  Pointe Of View’s Rhubarb Wine brings an easy-drinking 10% abv number and tastes like a sweet hybrid wine, a bit like a Brianna or Edelweiss.

The slight nose sports some herbal qualities with a hint of honey, while the palate shows a very sweet taste with a bit of a tang on the finish.  There’s plenty of acidity, but it’s so sweet it would be hard for me to consider it as a food wine - I like my table wine dry.  There’s nothing at all wrong with this wine served cold, however, on the deck as a summertime sipper.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Wine Country: Iowa - Tassel Ridge Winery


The Wine Country series stays in Iowa for another winery from the Hawkeye State.  You can catch up on Iowa wine here and here, while we taste a third set of wines from Iowa.

Tassel Ridge Winery is located in Leighton, Iowa, along the Heart of Iowa Wine Trail.  My thanks go to Bob Wersen for including some pretty extensive notes on the grapes in his vineyard, some of which I’ll share here.  Bob was kind enough to send six samples of his wines.  We’ll start with the whites.

Tassel Ridge Edelweiss Iowa 2008
Tassel Ridge and all the other vineyards in the midwestern and northern United States owe a great debt to Elmer Swenson.  He was a grape breeder who came up with a number of varieties that thrive despite cold, harsh winters.  The Edelweiss grape is an Elmer Swenson creation.  From Wersen’s notes:

Swenson crossed Vitis Riperia with Vitis Labrusca as he attempted to create a cold climate grape ‘that tasted good.’  He didn’t leave very clear records so we really don’t know exactly what the parentage of Edelweiss (or that of most of his other creations) is, but its Labrusca component is immediately clear.  In order to control the Labrusca qualities, we harvest this grape early with relatively high TA, low pH, and modest sugar.  Because of its natural high acidity, it is best when sweetened after vinification.  So, the Edelweiss is sweetened to about 7% R.S. whereas the White Blossom is not sweetened at all.  The sugar masks some of the natural flavors, but our market in Iowa demands sweet wine, so we sweeten our Edelweiss. We grow all of our own Edelweiss in our own vineyards.”  
Edelweiss is the largest planting of all the grapes in Wersen’s vineyard.

The Tassel Ridge Iowa Edelweiss has a nice, warm, golden tint.  The nose is sweet with candied apricots and pineapple juice aromas allowing only a peek at an herbal scent in the background.  The wine tastes only slightly less sweet than it smells.  Delicious apple flavors in the foreground lead to apricots and oranges on the finish.  There's a nice bit of acidity present despite the full mouthfeel.  Fans of semi-sweet wine should enjoy this effort.  It sells for $14 and carries 12.7% abv.

Tassel Ridge White Blossom
As noted by Wersen above, the White Blossom contrasts with the Edelweiss in that it is not sweetened.  It’s also a 100% Edelweiss wine.  Light in color, White Blossom has only a very faint straw tint.  It smells of pineapple and orange peel, but the fruit seems to lurk behind a wall of wet underbrush.  There’s great acidity in this wine, and the palate shows more orange zest with some green apple notes.  It actually seems rather Sicilian, with a salinity on the palate.  The nose however, shows more earth than ocean.  It’s very refreshing, and should do well chilled for a warm afternoon.  It should also serve nicely with all sorts of salads and some lighter meat fare.  The wine costs $14 and sports a 12.6% alcohol content.

Iowa Brianna 2009
Brianna is another Elmer Swenson creation.  It’s a particularly cold-hardy white wine variety and, for that reason, it has become quite popular among midwestern wine growers.  A golden hue makes the Brianna the richest looking of the three whites. Its nose is quite aromatic.  Denise smelled banana from across the room after I opened it, but I might characterize it as a whole bunch of bananas, an aroma that's both sweet and herbal at once.  There's a hint of oak on the palate, and it plays against the green fruit flavors very well.  It's quite dry with a bracing acidity and the label lists its alcohol content as 14% - rather hefty for Brianna, I would imagine.  I love the sour apple finish. It's a brilliant match with sharp, white cheddar and with a handful of peanuts the taste sensation is absolutely transformative.

Now we turn to the red wines.

Pizzeria + Pasta, Too! is a  varietal wine utilizing 100% estate-grown Sabrevois (I understand the pronunciation is “sa-brah-voy”) from the Tassel Ridge vineyards.  The grape is another Swenson creation, by the way.  This red is very dark in color, nose and palate. Ths is a dense wine, with a somewhat forceful nose that smells of plums well trodden into the ground.  Tarry notes are also present after its been open a while, and a grapey aroma hangs in the background.  It's a medium weight wine, despite the darkness in aroma and taste.   It goes with a cheese plate well, one featuring Vermont cheddar and smoked provolone, walnuts and dried cranberries.  I'll be honest - this is a very different sort of wine than I am used to drinking, and it takes a little getting used to, at least for my palate.  I don't really care for it as a sipper,  but once it hit the food, it was really quite enjoyable.  $13.

Marquette 2009 
The Marquette grape is another hybrid, actually a cross of two other hybrids created at the University of Minnesota.  These are estate grapes, too.  The wine spends a year in new French oak barrels and another 11 months in a mix of French, Hungarian and American oak.  There is an intense expression of fruit on the nose, with a bit of a balsamic edge.  The dark and luscious aromas are actually stunning.  Notes of tar turn flat paint into metal flake.  It’s jammy.  The palate has cherry cola and plums  showing with a richness that reminds me of Port-style wines.  It's not sweet, though - very dry in fact, with lip smacking acidity.  This should be great with a steak.  It sells for $25 - worth every penny - and carries an alcohol level of 16.2%.  That's right in between a Paso Robles Zinfandel and Port.

St. Croix 2008  
The St. Croix grapes are also courtesy of Elmer Swenson - I told you he was a big deal - and are grown on the Tassel Ridge estate.  This is a dry, red wine with an earthy nose, almost funky, with meat and grease notes showing amid an array of spices.  I smelled it immediately after I had smelled the Marquette, and thought something must be wrong.  As I wondered if it was corked, I remembered the Stelvin closure - all six wines are closed with a screwcap - and thought that it was probably just me.  It was just me.  Sampling the nose again on its own, I found it reminded me a bit of a funky, old Côtes du Rhône.  The bouquets on these last two wines are simply worlds apart.

On the St. Croix’s palate, the acidity is bracing and the fruit is tart.  Plums and black cherry show up with an oak spice which makes an appearance but is not overplayed.  The tannins are quite gentle.  Of the six wines featured here, this is the one you’ll ponder over.  For some reason it had me wanting meat loaf.  And I never eat meat loaf.  It’s a $20 wine with 12.9% abv.

So, we have another impressive entry from Iowa in the Wine Country series.  The Brianna, Marquette and St. Croix really stood out for my palate, and for the wonderful way they paired with food.

Iowa is the 20th state from which we have sampled local wine in this series, so we still have a way to go.  If you are a winery wanting to represent your state on Now And Zin's Wine Country, or if you know of one that should, email me: nowandzin@gmail.com.


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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

WINE COUNTRY IOWA: TABOR HOME VINEYARDS AND WINERY

The Now And Zin Wine Country series will stay in Iowa a while longer, as some more wineries have provided samples of their Iowa wines.  I was quite impressed with Iowa wine in my first encounter with it, and couldn't wait to try some more and see if the quality stayed high.
Tabor Home Vineyards and Winery is owned by Dr. Paul Tabor, who is also the winemaker.  His family farm in Baldwin, Iowa - 170 miles west of Chicago and 40 miles south of Dubuque - was a grain and cattle operation since the 1860s.  A six-acre vineyard was planted in 1989 and the winery was built in 1996.
Tabor Home is located in the Upper Mississippi River Valley AVA, which covers nearly 30,000 square miles.  AVA status was approved in 2009 for this region, snaking through  northeast Iowa, northwest Illinois, southeast Minnesota and southwest Wisconsin.  The soils of the area are generally clay and silt loam on bedrock and limestone.
Tabor Home Winery Toast Of Iowa
Toast of Iowa 2010
This sparkler is made from La Crosse grapes, 70% of which are grown in Tabor Home’s estate vineyard while 30% come from a grower 30 miles away.  The 11.5% alcohol level is reasonable by anyone’s standards, and Dr. Tabor writes that he “kept residual sweetness lower (2.8% RS) so not to mask” the delicate fruit flavors of the La Crosse.  The wine retails for $16 and comes with a bottlecap closure.  The bottle has no punt, by the way.  It's flat on the bottom.
Not truly a sparkler, but definitely a bubbler, Toast of Iowa is labeled as a "carbonated wine."  It has a very light tint in the glass and shows tons of bubbles at first, dissipating quickly.  The nose is highly aromatic and yeasty with apricot fighting it out with an earthy minerality to come in second behind the yeast.  The palate does feature a sweetness, but it's very restrained.  The acidity is marvelous and flavors of apricot and golden plums rise up on the bubbles.  An extraordinary Sweet Tart finish comes as a pleasant surprise.  I would have thought La Crosse lovers would have liked a sweeter version of this, but I'm sure the doctor knows his market.  It certainly hits me the right way.

Tabor Home Winery JackSon RedJackSon Red 2010
This is an estate wine, with all the grapes grown in the Tabor Home vineyard.  The name “JackSon Red” references the doctor’s father, Jack, as well as the winery’s location in Jackson County.  Its alcohol is quite restrained, at 13.4% abv.  Dr. Tabor recommends it to those who enjoy Pinot Noir.
It’s not a Pinot, of course, but is produced from the Marechal Foch grape.  Foch is a cold-hardy grape which has apparently found some favor in Iowa - the previous Iowa winery in the series, Schade Creek, makes good use of Foch grapes.  The wine sells for $14.
In the glass the wine looks very dark - light barely gets through.  Its inviting nose has extremely dark, old world aromas.  Blackberry plays equally with tar, tobacco and anise.  Denise said each time I sampled it that "it smells yeasty, like baking bread."
As someone who drinks California wine a lot, the palate seems almost alien to my taste.  Had I not known it was produced in Iowa, I may have guessed Spain.  The fruit is quite restrained and a lovely minerality rivals it for attention.  An herbal flavor comes just short of tasting green, and reminds me more of sage than bell pepper.  The medium weight of the wine and the gentle tannins combine to make an extremely drinkable beverage.  I see this pairing with a chicken sausage, or lamb, quite well.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

WINE COUNTRY: IOWA - SCHADE CREEK VINEYARD & WINERY


Now And Zin Wine Country

The Iowa wine industry has seen dramatic growth in the 21st century.  The Hawkeye State now features somewhere around 92 licensed wineries and over 300 vineyards in Iowa, according to Iowa State University's Midwest Grape and Wine Industry Institute.  That organization cites 13 wineries and 15 vineyards in Iowa back in 1999, so the growth of Iowa's wine indistry has been on the fast track.  Iowa produced nearly 223,000 gallons of wine in 2009, which puts the state about in the middle of the pack for wine production by state.

The Agricultural Marketing Resource Center notes that the growth of the Iowa wine industry since 1999 has actually been a rebirth:

"During the early 20th century, Iowa was the sixth-largest grape producer in the nation. The industry declined as a result of Prohibition, the growing market for corn and soybeans, damage to grapevines caused by the drift of herbicides and the Armistice Day blizzard in 1940."

Iowa's hot summers and cold winters make grape growing a challenge.  Iowa winegrowers rely heavily on French hybrids and grapes native to America.  There aren't a lot of vineyards doing much with vitis vinifera grapes due to those extreme conditions.

Just five minutes west of Des Moines - in Waukee, Iowa - a Tuscan-inspired structure is home to Schade Creek Winery and their tasting room.  It also serves as a beautiful wedding location, an event with which they have a lot of experience.  For wine lovers, it's hard to beat getting married on a spot that overlooks a vineyard.

Kurt and Jana Schade run the winery, which is no small feat considering it's not the main occupation of the household.  From what I could gather in a flurry of hurried emails while I was sampling their wines, they both wear more hats than many of us would care to.  That's the glamour of the wine business, eh?

All the grapes used by Schade Creek are estate grown.  Since Iowa has no appellations, however, they can’t claim the status of an “estate wine” on the label.  The Schades were kind enough to provide samples of their wines for this edition of the Wine Country series.

Schade Creek Winery Soul MatesSoul Mates White Table Wine 
This is a blend of half Steuben and half Golden Muscat, a red and a white grape.  The skins were removed before the red color could escape, leaving a wine tinted with only a golden straw hue.  It offers "a touch of sweetness,” according to the Schades, and is dedicated to loved ones the Schades have lost.

The nose shows an intense earthiness and a strong herbal note, too.  The herbaceous quality isn't really grassy, but it shows a sense of earth with a layer of sweetness.  It's a semi-sweet wine, characterized by flavors of apples mixed with cherries.   Razor sharp acidity is a lip-smacking delight at room temperature.  Served chilled, that herbal aroma is just as forceful, while the acidity is diminished in the lower temperature, but still zippy.  Not at all cloying, Soul Mates' sweetness is kept in check by the earthy minerals.

Schade Creek Winery Creme de la Creme Blanc White Table Wine   
This is another white wine.  The grapes used here are 100% Niagara variety.  Niagara is the leading white grape variety grown in America.  You usually see them as table grapes, or made into jelly or grape juice.  In Iowa, they make a pretty good wine with them.  Creme de la Creme Blanc has a lighter tint than Soul Mates. The nose shows a bit more sweetness, and the herbal scent is there, too, but there is not so much earthiness. The palate also has more sweetness to offer, with golden apple flavors and a slight hint of butterscotch. The acidity is just as brilliant as in Soul Mates. There's no flabbiness here.  It’s a delicious drink.


Schade Creek Winery Laguna Aftanoona & SunsetsLaguna Aftanoona & Sunsets Red Table Wine   
This wine is my first experience with the Foch grape, a French hybrid.  It’s an early-ripening, cold-hardy grape, which makes it ideal for growing in Iowa.  The wine is medium dark and ruby red, and the mouthfeel is light and easy with red fruit - raspberry and sour cherry.  The 
acidity is very good.  An earthy mineral note on the nose comes through on the palate, too, and brambly cherry notes highlight the finish.  I am really taken with this one - it reminds me quite a lot of a Beaujolais wine - the fresh fruit and nice acidity imitating that French region’s Gamay quite well.

Schade Creek Winery Harlan HenryHarlan Henry Red Table Wine 
Harlan Henry was named for the winemaker’s father.  It’s a product of 100% Noiret grapes.  Noiret is a hybrid of vitis labrusca and vitis vinifera.   The folks at Schade Creek say it’s Iowa’s version of Pinot Noir, and they may well be right. The nose is just gorgeous, full of ripe cherry and raspberry with a touch of red licorice.  On the palate, the fruit is bright and playful, but a dark undercurrent cuts through and brings complexity.  The acidity is marvelous, and there's an outstanding tannic structure to this wine.  Lambrusco meets Pinot Noir meets Cabernet Franc is how it strikes me, and that strikes me just fine.  I would imagine every wine lover in Iowa is drinking Harlan Henry.  If they're not, it's their loss. 

Kurt Schade has acheived something winemakers in all 50 states strive for: he has identified the grapes that work well in his growing region, and he makes good wine from them.

Further interesting reading about Iowa wine can be found at these links:

The Iowa Winegrowers Association has links to Iowa wineries and information about the four wine trails in the state.

The excellent web publication Drink Local Wine has covered Iowa wine a few times, and you can see their articles here.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

WINE COUNTRY NEW JERSEY: VALENZANO WINERY

New Jersey's wine industry is the seventh largest in America, producing over 1.7 million gallons of wine in 2009.  According to the Press of Atlantic City, New Jersey's wine industry has exploded over the past ten years, with four times as many wineries opening their doors over the past decade.

Wine making in New Jersey dates back to the 18th century, although the Garden State's first commercial winery - Renault - didn't open until 1864.  In 1981, state laws limiting the number of wineries were changed.  Now New Jersey boasts over 40 wineries.

January 2012 should see a legislative vote on direct shipping in and out of the state, which would be a boon for New Jersey winemakers.  Here's a Wine Spectator article on that legislation. 

Valenzano Winery is a family-operated vineyard located in Shamong, New Jersey, in the New Jersey Pinelands less than an hour east of Philadelphia.  They produce wine from  grapes grown in Southern New Jersey.  The winery was licensed in 1996, taking the winemaking 
hobby of Tony Valenzano, Sr. to the commercial level.  The Valenzanos now have three locations, and they aim to produce 30,000 gallons of wine - quite a growth from the 500 gallons produced in their inaugural year.  

From the Valenzano website: "We produce both Merlot and Chardonnay, along with a selection of vitis-labrusca varietals and hybrids that are unique and specific to the southern New Jersey microclimate.  For the past decade, we’ve also been working with dozens of different varietals in accordance with our soil, climate and growing season.  ...Cynthiana, also known as ‘Norton,’ the only North American varietal which can produce a big, bold, old-world style table wine, has garnered us the coveted Governor’s Cup two years in a row -- a first in the Governor’s Cup competition!"  Valenzano also produces a signature red wine from Chamboucin and wines made with Cabernet Franc, Vidal Blanc, and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Their vineyards are mainly in the Shamong area, but they also source grapes from vines at a number of other small farms in New Jersey.

Valenzano Winery states that they aim to produce wines not to please critics, but to please wine drinkers.  They make a big claim: "We would match any of our wines against any wines produced in California or Europe in the same price range."  The Valenzano wines range in price from eight to 17 dollars.

Valenzano Winery was kind enough to provide me with four of their wines to sample, and they were quite impressive overall.

Valenzano Merlot 2008Valenzano Merlot, Outer Coastal Plain, 2008
This Merlot is touted as a "West-coast style," although it has only a 12.5% abv number.  It sells for $15.  Medium dark in color, light goes through it easily.  The nose is very rich and loaded with fruit.   Blackberry, plums and cassis stand out.  There is a good deal of American
oak spice also prominently displayed.  On the palate, smoke, licorice and cinnamon show strongly.  Flavors of strawberry and blackberry with the aforementioned smoke are joined by a hint of an herbal note.  This green quality is in the background behind the fruit and spice the first night the bottle was open.  The herbaceous quality took over on second night and stood as an equal to fruit on the third.  It reminds me of Cabernet Franc quite a bit. 

Valenzano Merlot 2010Valenzano Merlot, Outer Coastal Plain, 2010
This more recent vintage of Merlot again shows a terrific nose full of fruit.  The wine is extremely dark, black almost.
Very aromatic black cherry, mocha and chocolate dominate. There is a vegetal angle which is quite dark - not green, but like black olives. The palate is rich and dark, too, with currant, blackberry, black pepper and black olives in a setting of strong tannins and fantastic acidity. The lengthy finish is much appreciated.

Valenzano Cabernet/MerlotValenzano Cabernet/Merlot, Outer Coastal Plain, 2010 
The bottle shows the 2008 vintage stricken in magic marker, with 2010 written in its place. The label also shows a blend of 40% Cabernet Franc, 40% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, but Anthony Valenzano tells me the '10 has 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc. 

On the nose, this very dark-hued wine displays an incredible array of dark fruit and baking spices.  There is also a green element, as if the grapes were whole-cluster pressed.  The Cab Franc makes its way to the front of the olfactory show without trouble, while Merlot and 
Cabernet Sauvignon assist. 

Very clean and appealing on the palate, the Valenzano Cab/Merlot is vibrant and fresh. There's no mistaking the flavor of the Cabernet Franc, or the lip-smacking acidity. The Merlot's spice makes a play, as does the minerality of the Cabernet Sauvignon.  There is a sour cherry flavor that lingers beautifully into the finish. Tasting this wine on an 80 degree Los Angeles day made the illusion of spring more vivid.  I envision this wine will also be great when chilled a bit and served outdoors at summer picnics. 

The wine is great for sipping - medium bodied and easy to drink - but has the necessary qualities to make food pairing easy.  It grew darker in flavor over the course of several days open.  After enjoying it for a while, it hit me that I was drinking a $10 bottle of wine. It's quite a value at that price.

Valenzano Jersey DevilJersey Devil Port 
This Port-style wine is made with Cynthiana grapes - known as Norton in some places - and is fortified with brandy and oak-aged for three years.  It carries a whopping 19.5% abv and sells for $16.

I smell greenness behind the dark fruit.  I also smell a lot of that brandy, which is actually a 93% oak-stored grain alcohol.  I have loved Norton on the occasions I've tried it, and find the grape somewhat masked by the other factors involved here.  This a wine that should find favor with people who like to sip hard liquor.  That is what comes through the strongest. 

The Port-style was not much to my liking, but the Merlot based wines were outstanding.  In fact, the Cabernet/Merlot is one of the best wines I've had in the past year or so.  The Valenzano website shows a number of wines - made with both grapes and other types of fruit - which look quite interesting.  Apple cider, cranberry and blueberry wine catch my eye, as do wines made from grapes like Chambourcin, Cynthiana, Vidal Blanc and a Cabernet Franc blush!  

Valenzano is winery that definitely has some interesting ideas about wine and is worth a look.



Thursday, December 8, 2011

WINE COUNTRY: MAINE - MAINE MEAD WORKS


Maine's wine industry is a tiny one, as is the case with many of the "other 47" American states.  Their 43,000 gallons per year production is ahead of only Montana in volume.  With only a handful of vineyards in the state, Maine's wine producers often rely on cold-weather hybrids or fruit other than grapes.  Grapes are also sourced from New York and California.  You are likely to find Maine wines made from cranberries or blueberries, or cider, made from apples.

Maine, unfortunately, led the nation by passing the first state law prohibiting the sale of alcohol except for "medicinal, mechanical or manufacturing purposes."   They are, to their credit, making up for that error.

Mead is also popular in Maine.  As we have learned in the Wine Country series, mead is wine made from honey, not grapes.  Not always sweet - as one might expect from a product made of honey - meads are produced using only honey, but are also produced using a mixture of honey and fruit.

Maine Mead Works operates out of Portland.  Portland is Maine’s largest city, with over 66,000 residents, but the Greater Portland metro area boasts a population of over 500,000.  One third of the people in Maine live near Portland.

Technology entrepreneur Ben Alexander founded Maine Mead Works in 2007 with the assistance of award-winning South African meadmaker Dr. Garth Cambray.  The meadery makes their meads using Maine wildflower honey and other locally-grown products.  Their meads are sold under the Honeymaker label, and the eight varieties all register a 12.5% abv number.

Honeymaker meads come in a variety of styles - Dry Mead, Blueberry, Semi Sweet, Apple Cyser, Cranberry, Lavender, Strawberry & Dry Hopped Mead.  They also do an Elderberry mead for the winter.  They recommend you enjoy their meads by the glass, as a mixer in a cocktail or as a secret ingredient in cooking.  Maine Mead Works provided me with two samples of their Honeymaker meads.

Honeymaker Apple CyserHoneymaker Apple Cyser is a blend of 84% apples and 16% honey.  It's a light golden color with a trace of efferevescence in the glass.   A very nice nose of apples and honey is no surprise.  A slight hint of caramel apple dipped in honey flutters beneath the fruit.  The caramel hint comes across on the apple-laden palate, too.  The cyser has a nice acidity and is quite refreshing.  They recommend a pairing with turkey or pork - sounds good to me - but it's born to pair with a cheese plate.  I find it really good with smoked cheese and almonds.

Honeymaker Dry MeadHoneymaker Dry Mead is 100% Maine wildflower honey.  It shows a pale greenish-gold hue in the glass and a nose offering an herbal quality right up front, with the notes of honey coming underneath.  It should be noted that the honey aroma is not sweet at all, and neither is the taste.  The mead’s palate is as dry as advertised.  The herbaceous quality found on the nose comes through as a flavor profile, too.  That taste becomes most prominent on the finish, where it lasts a good, long while.  There’s a fruity taste as well - a green apple component that stops just short of tartness - and the honey again plays a supporting role.  Pair it with shrimp, if you like, or a fruit salad chock full of herbs.  Frankly, though, this mead is great all by itself as an aperitif.  The lack of sweetness may take you by surprise, considering it is made from something sweet.  The taste reminds me a bit of white vermouth.