It is officially the summer, school is out, the barbeques are all fired up, and it is July 4th weekend. The US wine industry just keeps growing and growing, and it remains the largest in the world. So on this most American of occasions why not be patriotic and make a point to drink wines from the USA?
American Wine, 2010
California dominates production, but wine is produced in all fifty states as well as the District of Columbia (DC). As well as California, many of us are probably familiar with the wines of Oregon, Washington and New York State. But what about Virginia, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, New Mexico and all of the other states. Have you tried their wines? Perhaps this is the weekend to be a locavore not just in what you eat but also in what you drink?
Easier said than done for many people, as apart from nationally distributed brands such as Gruet sparking wines from New Mexico, unfortunately many of these wines are not widely distributed outside their producing states. However, following the 2005 Supreme Court Decision to liberalize direct shipping of wine between states it has become so much easier for us to buy direct from wineries regardless of where they are located.
If there is one grape I totally associate with July 4th celebrations it is Zinfandel. Its prevailing aromas and flavors are of bramble fruit with attractive spice and peppery notes which are perfect for any gathering around the grill. In addition Zinfandel is truly at the heart of California's wine history, and justifiably regarded as its heritage grape even though DNA testing has determined that Zinfandel had the same DNA as the Croatian red variety Crljenak Kaštelanski (soorl-yen-ak kash-tel-ahn-ski),
Wines Made in the USA
Below are some great 'made in the USA' wines that I have recently tasted and are perfect for any July 4th weekend gathering.
• Gruet NV Brut Sparkling Wine, New Mexico, $13 – I've always considered this a great value easy drinking sparkler. Lovely and crisp on the palate, with a smooth creamy mousse. Citrus, apple, slight floral aromas with hints of brioche.
• 2006 Biltmore Estate Chateau Reserve Blanc de Blancs, North Carolina, $30 – Recently tasted this wine for the first time. Made from Chardonnay, it has a lovely fresh attack, smooth creamy persistent mousse, green and red apple aromas with layers of 'biscuity' brioche. From the home of the Vanderbilts and reputedly the most visited winery in the US.
• 2008 Channing Daughters 'Scuttlehole' Chardonnay, South Fork Long Island, New York, $16 - unoaked - This wine bursts with juicy fruit. Crisp acidity, and smooth texture. Flavors of quince, pear and apple with a minerally finish.
• 2008 Dr. Frank Dry Riesling, Dry, Fingerlakes, New York, $15 – Crisp with lots of floral and citrus aromas (pink grapefruit, clementine, lemon) with sweet apricot and peach notes on the palate. Though 'dry' some sweetness on the finish balances the acidity.
• 2009 Forefront, Pine Ridge Vineyards, Pinot Gris, Willamette Valley, Oregon, $16 – Spicy, floral aromas with white peach. Juicy vibrant, creamy white store fruit flavors, brazil nut notes and a spicy kick on finish.
• 2008 Seven Hills Pinot Gris, Oregon, $16 – While based in Washington, Seven Hills makes this fantastic Pinot Gris from Oregon fruit across the boarder. Enticing aromas of pear, grapefruit and tangerine, with hints of tarragon. Very lively on the palate, refreshing with ripe fruit flavors of quince, pear, apple and orange citrus. Lingering finish. Has about 10% oak treatment but beautifully integrated.
• 2008 Seven Hills Viognier, Columbia Valley, Washington State, $15 – Fairly full-bodied, but lively and refreshing. Attractive aromas of acacia honey, spice and white blossoms with flavors of nectarine, apricot and citrus. Nice creamy texture and good length with a hint of spicy vanilla on the finish.
• 2007 Seven Hills Merlot, Columbia Valley, Washington State, $22 – Merlot can often disappoint, this one certainly does not. Quite the opposite. While packed with warm ripe plummy fruit, it is vibrant and fresh, begging another sip. Red fruit mingles with coffee, spice, butterscotch and hints of wild flower. Smooth, long finish.
Other great producers that I have tried from around the country include Chaddsford in Pennsylvania and Chrysalis in Virginia (especially their Albariño)
Dry, Red Zinfandel wines
Apart from the wines recently tasted below, you can find lots more great value suggestions in an earlier post dedicated to Zinfandel.
• 2006 Nalle, Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma $27 – Nalle remains one of my favorite Zins because it is more on the restrained side with very reasonable alcohol level (13.9%). Lots of bright, ripe berry fruit, juicy tannins and well integrated oak, with nuances of cedar, spice, clove and vanilla adding complexity.
• 2008 Bella Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma, $25 – Aromas of baked forest and bramble fruit, damson, clove and sweet spice. Soft, smooth and round on the palate. Lots of jammy red fruit and sweet spice flavors, Easy drinking
• 2007 Bella Zinfandel, Big River Ranch, Alexander Valley, Sonoma, $36 – this was my favorite of the Bella Vineyards Zin wines. Earthy, underbrush, damson jam aromas with attractive gamey notes. Flavors of wild ripe black and red berries, coffee, clove and creamy butterscotch. Firms tannins give it nice structure and grip. While warm, alcohol is balanced. 14%
• 2007 Bella Zinfandel, Lily Hill Estate, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma, $36 – Enticing aromas of cassis, blackberry, and jammy forest fruits. Full-bodied with cherry compote, clove and ginger spice. Supple round tannins. Quite warm on the finish.
• 2007 Dashe Zinfandel, Louvau Vineyard Old Vines, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma, $32 – Creamy blackberry, mocha and black peppery aromas draw you in. Intense and ripe but fresh the flavors are a compote of forest fruits interwoven with baking spice and vanilla. Round smooth texture with supple tannins. Quite warm but balanced.
• 2008 Dashe Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma $25 – on the lighter side, it shows some attractive bramble, damson and dried fruit aromas and flavors with notes of clove and sweet spice. Medium bodied, it is fruity and easy-drinking. Very versatile, to be enjoyed on its own or with food.
Happy July 4th and Happy Grilling!
Mary Gorman-McAdams, DWS, is a New York based wine educator, freelance writer and consultant. She holds the Diploma in Wine & Spirits from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), and is a candidate in the Master of Wine Program.
(Images: Mary Gorman and bottle shots from company websites)