Happy Thanksgiving. I am grateful most of the time for all that life has provided and on this day, I remember to say it about all the food on my table and all the lovely wines that come into my life. I was thinking of writing about one topic today but then changed my mind. I decided I would write about some of the amazing wines from the USA that I have had the good fortune to taste this year. My goal for the coming year is to taste wines from all 50 states, or at least more of them. I have had wines from Texas, California, Washington, Oregon, Virginia, Maryland, New Mexico, New York thus far so I have a lot of ground to cover.
What I have found is that there is a lot of variation as one would expect in the regions and across the States but that they quality of wine and the skills brought to bear by American winemakers and their foreign colleagues making wines in the USA is relatively high and for that I am thankful as well. It is easy to get a good bottle of American made wine almost throughout the country and almost as easy to visit a tasting room.
This Thanksgiving, I am remembering some of the great American wines I tasted this past year. I like to bring many different wines to the table to pair with parts of the meal. As a lover of sparkling wine, how could we not start the meal with a toast and a glass of bubbly.
I had this one from Argyle in Oregon on my birthday this year. Argyle is located in the Dundee hills. I visited the region in 2017 and was impressed by the quality of the wines. I know everyone loved Pinot Noir from Oregon but I think the Chardonnay is just as good. I found them exceptional and Chablis like in terms of their fresh, bright style and acidity and minerality. They make a host of sparkling wines.
Argyle was founded in 1987 by Rollin Soles. His idea was to make world class Sparkling Wine in the suitably cool Willamette Valley. Their grapes come from vineyards in the Dundee Hills and Eola-Amity Hills AVAs.
This one is dominated by Pinot Noir. It had lovely foral notes, ripe peach and nuts on the palate, long and lovely, it was a great way to celebrate and would be lovely to share today with my 40+ cousins at our Thanksgiving.
For the Turkey and some of the sides, I have a couple of ideas that I think would work, including one from the Finger Lakes region in New York and one more from Oregon that I tried this year, a Pinot Noir.
I visited Swedish Hill winery last summer during a Society of Wine Educator conference. It was my first experience with a Finger Lakes winery. The winery is celebrating their 33rd year. The Peterson family who owns the winey are now on their third generation.
I particularly liked their Vidal blanc, a grape that grows well in the Finger Lakes and in Canada. It’s an interesting variety, a French hybrid, a cross between Ugni Blanc and Seibel, that was developed in the 1930’s by the French hybridizer, Jean Louis Vidal. It does really well in cool climate viticultural areas as it is a sturdy grape that has good acid and good sugar levels.
This one had a lot of peach, apricot and floral aromas and flavors. Swedish Hill was founded in 1986, one of the earlier wineries on Cayuga and part of a larger group that includes Goose Watch winery.
Vidal blanc can be made into a host of styles from dry to sweet. I think it would be nice pairing with Turkey and be delicate enough to not overwhelm the palate. I find with Thanksgiving, there are so many flavors on the table that getting the pairing right means being flexible with your choices and not being wedded to tradition. The sweetness that I think is inherent in Vidal blanc can complement some savory notes in the food.
Of course, like many I wanted to have Pinot Noir on my table at Thanksgiving. I really enjoyed this one. The Pinot Noir was a 2015 from Citation. The grapes come from their Erratic Oaks Vineyard. They do careful row selection and create different fermentations and then blend lots from different rows and age it in French oak barrels. The wine had a lot of complexity. At 13.9% alcohol, it was a wine with depth and weight but also silky tannins and inviting rich fruit and spice notes with a long finish. It also had nice acidity which will offset some of the heavier flavors of today’s side dishes such as those with sweet potatoes and pecans.
Another wine which I was thinking of today that I tasted this year was also from Virginia. It was a Cabernet Franc reserve from Veritas winery in Virginia. The winery was started in 1999 by Andrew and Patricia Hodson. They planted 5 acres of grapes which has blossomed into over 50 acres these past 20 years. The couple who actually hail from the UK have three children. Their eldest daughter named Emily who is the head winemaker. The other two children George and Chloe also work in the business. I very much enjoyed their Cabernet Franc Reserve and think it would be perfect with the ham which will undoubtably be at our table this Thanksgiving.
One of my cousins is a pastry chef and she always brings exquisite desserts to out table. In terms of pairing, I was thinking of a wine I tried from Maryland this year thanks to #winestudio. Tasting wine from Maryland was a first for me.
The wine is from a winery called Old Westminister. It sits at 800 feet above sea level on channery loam soils overlaying a bedrock of greenstone schist. They have 10,000 vines on their own land, and work closely with local vineyards to source grapes for some of their other wines. Their agriculturist Drew Baker both rotates where he does treatments in the vineyards as well as uses cover crops to draw insects and promote vine health. The winemaker is Lisa Hinton. They use gravity rather than pumps for the must and ferment with ambient yeast.
The Baker family that owns the vineyard planted their first grapes, 7,600 vines of Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Chardonnay and Albariño Easter weekend in 2011. In 2013, they bottled their first wines and had a release party. Today they make about 30,000 bottles. It’s a family affair with three siblings all working together – Drew, Lisa, and Ashli.
Maryland has a very information winery association which you can find here. They have a plan for 2020 called Vision 2020 which is encompasses the following: “Maryland Wineries Association [MWA] strives to grow a sustainable wine community throughout Maryland, and to grow its impact on agriculture, tourism, preservation and economic development.”
Apparently there are almost 1000 acres of grapes growing in Maryland. From what I read there are 10 wine trails in Maryland, March is Maryland wine month, a couple of wine competitions worth following and this comprehensive book about Maryland wine by Rebecca McCarthy called “Maryland Wine: A Full-Bodied History (American Palate)”
This vin doux naturel was sweet but not over the top and it is perfect addition to our holiday table with its amber hue, sweet mature fruit aromas and a touch of cedar on the palate. A great way to finish this lovely meal.
I hope to take another oenological tour around America next year on Thanksgiving with wines from regions I have never tasted.
While we are all giving thanks, remember that Tuesday is #GivingTuesday, support your favorite cause. Among the charities and non-profits I support are ones that work on hunger both abroad and in America, access to clean water, caring for the elderly and protecting animals. I firmly believe that all of those in the wine industry should be sensitive to the plight of those without even the basic staples of life, especially food which is so primary to our main industry – wine.