Among Idaho’s state slogans and motto (which have included Esto perpetua, “Great Potatoes,” “What America Was,” and “Tasty Destinations,”) was the phrase “Not California.”
There’s a slight air of desperation and defiance in defining your identity in the negative; though in the case of Idaho’s budding wine production scene, it’s not entirely inappropriate: despite 150+ years of winemaking history, this is a state whose first AVA (Snake River Valley) was recognized less than fifteen years ago (and is probably more famous for Evel Knievel than it is for wine). Idaho’s other two AVAs – Eagle Foothills and Lewis-Clark Valley – are less than five years old, and one of those is a sub-AVA. Despite its visually stunning expanses, the state has a mere 1300 acres of grapes planted, almost all of it in the Snake River Valley, and is home to just over 50 wineries (for some perspective: California has about 4400).
We can forgive Idaho for having a bit of a petulant-attention-seeking-middle-child chip on its wine producing shoulder, because there’s little reason that the state can’t make very, very good wines. Formed from ancient volcanic and flooding activity, Idaho’s soils are sandy, sedimentary and well-draining, and its climate is dry with cold winters; all of which are good conditions for reducing pest and disease pressure for grape vines (and in some cases, allow the vines to be own-rooted).
Actually, there is one very good reason why Idaho wine doesn’t get the media luv right now: there simply isn’t enough of it. As Idaho Wine Commission Executive Director Moya Shatz Dolsby told me when I visited the state last year, “our biggest problem is that we don’t have enough grapes.”
Following is a (very) brief overview of the wines that stood out the most to me during my Idaho travels. There are, I think, three basic themes that, like Idaho’s famous rafting rivers, run throughout the best of their vinous experimentation: a sense of purity (possibly helped by the lack of a need to graft on to American rootstocks), a pioneering spirit (sometimes to a fault), and a diversity that few American wine regions can legitimately claim to be able to match…
I taste a bunch-o-wine (technical term for more than most people). So each week, I share some of my wine reviews (mostly from samples) and tasting notes in a “mini-review” format.
They are meant to be quirky, fun, and (mostly) easily-digestible reviews of (mostly) currently available wines (click here for the skinny on how to read them), and are presented links to help you find them, so that you can try them out for yourself. Cheers!
My friend and colleague Michael Cervin recently penned an article for IntoWine.com, titledThe Angry Liver, highlighting the health hazards of my chosen second career – namely, kind of sort of drinking for a living. He asked me to share some thoughts on the matter, which you can read in the finished article.
While most of Michael’s focus is on the hits that our livers are potentially taking by being attached to the bodies of those of us who have decided to make professional wine-related stuff our living, my quote in his article has more to do with overall health, in the form of a warning that many wine lovers conveniently like to forget: wine contains alcohol, and alcohol consumption is empty calorie intake.
This begs the question “how many empty calories?!??,” the answer to which is “it depends.” Generally, for most dry and sparkling wines, the answer is about 100 to 130 calories per 5oz glass. WebMD has a nice little infographic on this (see inset pic – click to embiggen), as well as the following helpful reminder:
“…alcohol also delivers empty calories and not many nutrients… The higher the ABV, the higher the calorie count.”
I would revise this slightly to “the higher the ABV and sugar content, the higher the calorie count” – meaning that sweeter wines (especially those with more booze, like Port) will potentially hit your waistline harder.
At this point in any such related discussion, I usually get asked “how the hell do you not weigh 300 lbs?!?” The answer is a combination of anxious temperament, genetics, and making exercise a priority (especially as the salt-and-pepper hair thing becomes more and more prominent). The moral of this short story is that wine is not a zero-sum game: there are likely several health benefits to moderate consumption, and there are definitely detriments to over-consumption (particularly to your liver and waistline).
During my recent travels in Piedmont, I was part of a (rather large) media group that took part in a “Barbera Revolution” masterclass, held in the small town of Nizza Monferrato, organized by the Consorzio Barbera d’Asti e vini del Monferrato. There was nothing about that tasting of 2016 vintage releases to make me personally think that Barbera was undergoing some sort of quality revolution; likely a result of the fact that, given my history with the region, I was already convinced that Barbera in Asti was experiencing a quality renaissance.
So, no arms were taken up during the sampling of these 2016, but we did take up several glasses of promising Asti reds. Now that my stint with the My Name is Barbera program has wrapped up (for now, anyway), I felt comfy in taking a more critical eye on some of the latest Barbera d’Asti releases (not that you can ever fully take the critical eye from the critical guy, but I’ve generally avoided talking about Piedmonte Barbera here on 1WD while I was cashing checks for the video and blog work over at mynameisbarbera.com).
Here are my personal highlights from the tasting, many of which I think have been given short shrift from other critics in the past, and others that might be looking for US representation (importers… I’m looking at you!)…
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