Your shelves are stocked with wines from California, Washington, Oregon, and maybe even New York. But how about taking a closer look at wines from other U.S. states? Those wines will make your shelves look more interesting, and you will have unique talking points. It’s your chance to offer something new. Here’s an abbreviated overview of a few of these ‘other’ wine states.
Why should you be interested in Texas wines? Because there’s lots of it, and it’s very good. Texas ranks 5th in production after CA, NY, WA and OR, but was also the site of the first vineyard in the U.S., planted by Franciscan priests in 1662. In 1974 a collection of vines was begun by Roy Renfro, PhD, and today has about 75 different varieties, mostly vines bred by historic horticulturist Thomas V. Munson, for whom the collection is named. It is housed at Grayson College in Denison. Adjacent to this collection is the T.V. Munson Viticulture Enology Center where most of the growers and vintners of Texas have received their degrees. Today there are eight AVAs across the state.
A favorite winery and resort of mine is Messina Hof, originally in Bryan, and which is now building a second winery and resort in the Texas Hill Country AVA. Besides producing delicious wines, it has an active calendar of road shows. Any retailer would get full support. Look to their lightly oaked Private Reserve Chardonnay for an elegant white.
Why should you be interested in Virginia wines? Because Thomas Jefferson was right when he said: ‘We have every soil, aspect and climate of the best wine countries.’ And for those who doubted Thomas, a visit to historic Barboursville Vineyards is in order.
Jefferson hadn’t figured on vine-damaging insects and humidity, but those problems have now been solved. With the backing of the Zonin family in Piedmont, the resources are in place to combine fine wines with U.S. history.
Their Octagon wine, named for a Jefferson built octagon-shaped space on the property, is a red Meritage blend, with a base of Merlot and Cabernet Franc, and additions of Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot. It is aged 15 months in new French oak, using barrels made by Angelo Gaia’s barrel maker ‘ showing the benefits of having Zonin in your corner. Besides 750 ml bottles, Octagon is also available in Magnums and Double Magnums for collectors.
Why should you be interested in Minnesota wines? Because through the efforts of the U. of Minnesota, the state is leading the way in the development of high quality, cold hardy varieties, in spite of Minnesota’s harsh winters. By working with Vitis vinifera varieties, as well as French hybrids, and a Minnesota native grape based on the Vitis riparia species, they have produced vines that are cold hardy, disease resistant, with good productivity, and with practical dates for bud break and ripening.
The main grapes thus far are the red Frontenac and the red Marquette, which is a ‘cousin’ of Frontenac, and a ‘grandson’ of Pinot Noir, according to the Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station. Whites include Frontenac Gris and La Crescent, which has some Muscat Hamburg in its lineage, and is often made in an off-dry style. Falconer Vineyard just won the Governor’s Cup for the best Minnesota wine at the International Cold Climate Wine Competition. It is Frontenac Reserve Port, a ruby-style that reaches over 18% alcohol without any fortification.
Using these wine grapes, areas in other colder locations can now be turned into vineyards. One of the newest wine regions not in Minnesota, is Lake Champlain, north of Albany in NY state, where it touches the border of Vermont. This follows the Thousand Island area on the St. Lawrence Seaway, which borders Canada.