Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Arts on Foot: Wine Seminar Recap

For those of you who braved the scorching heat to taste wines with me on Saturday at Arts on Foot, I present to you the much awaited recap on the wines featured and their respective winery's contact information. If you were not able to make it, use this guide as a resource on up-and-coming wineries and regions and take note. Most of these wines are available as part of my wine program at OYA Restautant & Lounge in the Penn Quarter.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

ABCs-Anything But California

I’m a maverick. Not like John McCain by any stretch of the imagination but in terms of fighting for small family owned wine producers and those in unknown wine regions. I would rather drink wines from “grass roots wineries” than those made by wine factories and big corporate giants that answer to shareholders.

I am also a big proponent of supporting local wineries—that cliché of “think globally, drink locally.” Locally produced/sourced wines take less fuel and packaging to get to you than those from further afield.

Wine is now produced in all 50 US States since the opening of a winery in North Dakota in 2002. However, not all states grow grapes—Alaska has grapes trucked in from other regions and Hawaii uses fruit to produce wines.

Contrary to popular belief, California was not always king of wine production in the United States. Prior to the Civil War, New York, Ohio, Missouri and Indiana—Indiana’s Ohio River Valley was often referred to as the “Rhineland of America” likening it to the great German wine region—were major players in the wine arena.

But that all changed with the Prohibition Movement and for most eastern states, the return to grape growing and wine making was slow in coming.

Aside from California, Washington and Oregon, New York, Texas and Virginia are top wine producing states.

Today’s tasting is a line-up of wines from what I consider up-and-coming wine regions—Michigan, Colorado, Arizona, Idaho and Illinois as well as the established New York and British Columbia regions.

Black Star Farms Pinot Gris 2006,
Old Mission Peninsula, Northwest Michigan
1000 cases;

Black Star Farms is located on Northwest Michigan’s beautiful Leelanau Peninsula, near Traverse City and produce some of Michigan’s finest wines. Their proximity to Lake Michigan moderates the climate here, especially from harsh winter freezes.

Tasting Note: light, fresh, clean. Floral, herbal and citrus notes plus green melon and mineral. Crisp and refreshing.

Jack Rabbit Hill Sauvignon Blanc 2007,
Grand Valley, Western Colorado
239 cases;

Located on Colorado’s Western Slope—West of the Rockies, Jack Rabbit Hill is not only certified organic but also biodynamic. The winery specializes in Pinot Noir, Riesling and Cabernet Franc. This Sauvignon Blanc was made from fruit purchased from a nearby vineyard and is not organic/biodynamic.

Tasting Note: ripe and tropical style. Apricot/peach, slight herbal notes, plus lemon citrus. It's made in more of a California style rather than the zingy New Zealand style. Medium bodied.

Mission Hill Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon 2004,
Okanagan Valley, BC, Canada
5000 cases;

Mission Hill is situated in BC’s STUNNING Okanagan Valley, which features a 60-mile lake running down the center of the Valley. Often referred to as Canada’s Napa Valley, the Okanagan is at the northern end of the Sonora dessert and enjoys a dry climate with warm summers. It’s a must-do wine country vacation. Unfortunately, most of the wines from BC never make it outside of Canada, so a trip to the region is the only way to get acquainted with the excitement growing North of the border.

Mission Hill is a fairly large producer by Canadian standards but is still family-owned and operated. This particular wine is an interesting example of what Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon can do when fermented in oak casks.

Tasting Note: Vibrant floral and toasted hazelnut notes. Tropical fruit plus a streak of vanilla. Very similar to an oaked Chardonnay.

Wyncroft Chardonnay 2005, Lake Michigan Shore, Southwest Michigan
250 cases;

If Michigan has a cult winery, then this is it. Jim and Rae Lee Lester make some of the BEST wines I have ever tasted from Michigan—so good, you forget they are from Michigan. These are a true testament that good wine can produced anywhere. Wyncroft is located in Southwest Michigan, very close to the Indiana border and not far from Chicago. The influence of Lake Michigan helps to moderate the climate. Wyncroft wines are highly sought after and are only sold via mailing list or at select retailers in Michigan and Illinois.

Tasting Note: Jim says this wine is like Kistler meets Meursault—and I agree. Big and lush with pineapple, honeysuckle and toasted almond. Smooth and creamy with a mineral streak. Truly a fabulous wine.

Galena Cellars ‘Eric the Red’ Marechal Foch 2006, Illinois
311 cases;

Galena is one of Illinois’ largest producers, located in the Northwest corner near the Iowa border—close to the Mississippi river. Scott Lawlor, one of the owners, says Galena is the “Aspen” of Illinois—since the landscape features rolling hills instead of flat farm fields.

Marechal Foch is a French hybrid grape varietal developed in Alsace, France. Wines made from Foch can be light and fruity or dark and inky—depends on the region and what the winemaker has in mind. The Galena Foch is made in a lighter style, similar to Pinot Noir.

Tasting Note: Light and fruity—like Pinot Noir. Notes of cherry, violet/floral and a whiff of spice. Fairly easy drinking with a fresh finish.

Black Star Farms Pinot Noir 2006, Northwest Michigan
830 cases ;

This is our second offering from Black Star Farms. Michigan is becoming noted for its Pinot Noir and it certainly has the right climate. Plus, Northern Michigan happens to be on the same latitude as Burgundy and Oregon, 2 noted Pinot producing regions.

Tasting Note: Bright cherry and raspberry fruit with layers of toasted nuts, earth and pepper. Light/medium bodied.

Dos Cabezas ‘DC RED’ Cabernet/Sangiovese 2004,
Southeastern Arizona
325 cases;

Arizona could well be the next Napa Valley. Land is abundant and inexpensive, labor is cheap and the climate is perfect for grapes—think Argentina—high elevation with desert-like conditions. Some big names have made their way to Arizona recently—Dick Erath of Oregon and Maynard James Keenan of the rock band Tool. Watch out NAPA!

Tasting Note: This wine is styled after a light Italian red—think Chianti-like. Loads of smoky raspberry and dark cherry, spice and truffle notes, smooth and silky, medium bodied.

Brooklyn Oenology Merlot 2005, North Fork, Long Island, New York
360 cases;

In the wine biz, I love a great story—and what’s better than the story of a 30-something woman who leaves the corporate world to follow her dream of making wine—but not just anywhere—the vision to build a winery in the heart of Brooklyn. So goes the story of Alie Shaper, proprietor of Brooklyn Oenology. Currently her wines are made from Long Island grapes at a winery on the North Fork but will eventually be made in a winery in Brooklyn. The labels are cool too, each featuring works from Brooklyn artists and they peel-off for safekeeping. Alie makes a killer Chardonnay as well as this Merlot.

Tasting Note: Very Bordeaux-like—dark cherry and herbal, layers of fruit, cedar and vanilla spice. Soft tannins. Medium bodied. Its good enough to be served at the famed Gramercy Tavern in NYC.

Sawtooth Syrah 2004, Snake River, Idaho
1500 cases;

Idaho is not just for potatoes—the dry and arid climate in Western Idaho is similar to that of Eastern Washington, which we know produces fine wine. Sawtooth is one of Idaho’s best and primarily focuses on Rhone Valley grape varieties.

Tasting Note: Rich and brooding aromas of chocolate, cedar, dark plums, hint of earth. An explosion of black cherry and chocolate in the mouth, rich and velvety finish.

Sawtooth Elevation Red, Snake River, Idaho
139 cases;

This limited-release bottling is only available from the winery. The blend is 35% Syrah, 22% Petit Verdot, 17% Tempranillo, 17% Malbec and 9% Primitivo.

Tasting Note: Brooding dark fruit aromas with a whiff of smoke, plum, black cherry and cassis plus cedar spice and silky tannins.

Lynfred Seyval Blanc 2007, Illinois (Semi-Sweet White)
279 cases;

Lynfred is a fantastic gem located outside Chicago near O’Hare airport. It doesn’t grow any grapes yet contracts with growers in Illinois and California to obtain the best fruit for their wines. I recently visited the winery and was blown away by both their California and Illinois offerings.

This is one of my favorites and is made from another hybrid grape. Think of it as Sauvignon Blanc meets Riesling. The grapes for this were grown in Southern Illinois.

Tasting Note: A rockin’ Sauv Blanc meets Riesling styled white made from a French-American hybrid grape in America’s heartland. Loads of gooseberry, lychee and exotic tropical fruit notes with a slightly sweet finish. If you like Riesling, you are gonna LOVE this one.

Please support your local family-owned wineries. Read more about various American wine regions on

For more information on direct shipping and state laws, please visit, a national, grassroots coalition of consumers, wineries and retailers who seek to remove restrictions in states that still prohibit consumers from purchasing wines directly from wineries and retailers.

No comments: