I’m not sure that we need any more proof that I am an idiot workaholic, but last week a wine magazine hit the newsstands in Italy with yet more evidence in support of that.
During a (very) busy late Spring, I was contacted by my friend and co-judge in the 2013 Argentina Wine Awards, the Milan-born Alessandro Torcoli, who is the managing director of Civilta del bere. The pages of Cdb (loosely translated as “Culture of drink”) have been gracing the hands of wine and food lovers in Italy since 1974.
Alessandro wanted to know if I’d pen a feature for Cdb on the wine scene in America. “Which wine scene in America?” was my initial response, to which he more-or-less replied “all of them.” Capturing the trends and current happenings of all of the most important wine regions in the U.S. just seemed a challenge too cool to turn down, so I said yes. A crap-ton of work then ensued (I am over 40 now, so the chances that I will someday learn not to accept these workloads is probably approaching zero).
The finished article is now available (in Italian, of course, thanks to Alessandro’s translation), and it looks great (hopefully the text lives up to the presentation!). What was probably the most difficult part of the assignment was coming up with a list of thirty wines that I thought served as both an introduction to American wine, and as a faithful representation of American wine trends overall.
That part was… well, “ridiculously hard” seems somewhat appropriate. For sh*ts and giggles, I’m presenting the final list of those selected wines below. It’s certainly California/Pacific NW-heavy, but when you consider the fact that those regions account for well over 90% of all of the wine produced in the U.S., any other approach would’ve been totally disingenuous to the spirit of the article. I am quite sure that I will piss off no small number of the wine world with these selections, and most criticism that I failed to include wine/region/trend such-and-such will no doubt have some justifications. Against my better judgment, I have included short blurbs on why I choose the wines that I did.
As always, I welcome your flaming comments!
- Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs Brut – the bubbly of Presidents.
- Korbel Califronia Brut – the bubbly of everyone else.
- Robert Mondavi Winery Napa Valley Fume Blanc – which started a new category, and renewed interest in U.S. SB.
- Matthiasson Napa Valley White – which both represents the new trends in CA wine, and harkens back to Napa’s roots.
- Dry Creek Vineyard Heritage Vines Zinfandel – a quintessentially American take on one of the quintessential American wines.
- Hirsch Vineyards Estate Pinot Noir Reserve – which proves that Pinot in CA is, for sure, world-class.
- Ravenswood Vintners Blend Old Vine Zinfandel – when Oprah mentions that she digs your wine, you’re as close to a vinous American icon as you can get.
- Hourglass Estate Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – Big CA flavor meets cult-wine approach and Old World acid love.
- Wente Vineyards Morning Fog Chardonnay – High quality, low price, generous flavor; kind of defines the good aspects of CA vino, doesn’t it?
- Uvaggio Lodi Vermentino – because small producers combining high quality and oddball grapes matter.
- Edna Valley Vineyard Central Coast Sauvignon Blanc – consistency is a virtue, people.
- Au Bon Climat Santa Barbara County Chardonnay – do I really need to explain this one?
- Amici Cellars Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – high-end elegance, lower-end price point (value is still possible in CA, but you gotta look for it).
- Adelsheim Elizabeth’s Reserve Pinot Noir – a beauty, showing off the region’s poise.
- Argyle Willamette Valley Pinot Noir – a better intro. to OR Pinot would be tough to find.
- Chateau Ste. Michelle Columbia Valley Riesling – how many other eminently drinkable American wines are made at this quantity level?
- Cayuse Cailloux Vineyard Syrah Walla Walla – yes, there are cult wines in WA.
- Seven Hills Winery Ciel du Cheval Red Mountain Red – what would WA reds be today without these pioneers?
- Bitner Vineyards Dry Riesling – because yeah, we need to start taking this state seriously.
- Canyon Wind Petit Verdot – CO’s now-iconic producer.
- Garﬁeld Estates Vineyard & Winery Vin Rosé – because we like underdogs.
- Caduceus Cellars Sancha – Might be Maynard’s (and one of AZ’s) best; oh, and finally Tempranillo has somewhere it shows well outside of Rioja!
- McPherson Cellars Roussanne – because too many in the know about TX wines recommended these guys to me!
- Black Star Farms Arcturos Dry Riesling – tough conditions, nice results; that is, after all, the American spirit.
- Tierce Finger Lakes Dry Riesling – because when you get some of the best winemakers in the region together, they come up with stuff like this.
- Fox Run Finger Lakes Semi-Dry Riesling – sometimes, residual sugar is not the splooge of Satan!
- Shinn Estates Vineyard Long Island Merlot – you local wine nerds thought I’d forget about LI, didn’t you?
- Jefferson Vineyards Viognier – Jefferson: President, drinker, wine collector… duh.
- Chrysalis Vineyards Estate Bottled Norton – because we had to have a Norton; this is North America!
- Waltz Vineyards Reserve Chardonnay – because I am a homer; and because Jan Waltz’s wines are showing promise, and the quality levels that can be achieved by Right Coast vintners.