some high-quality wines from the original 13 colonies
by josh perilo
with the fourth of july fast approaching, i was given pause to think about the state of our union and the divisiveness that currently seems to hang in the air. while there are always issues being fought over and differences of opinion in this vast country, right now there seems to be more conflict than ever. it is at these times that a holiday like independence day holds the most significance.
so instead of merely suggesting wines that might match well with picnic fare or barbecue, i've decided to show my national pride by highlighting wines that are made in america. not only are these wines made in america, but they are made in the cradle of america, the birthplace of the union: these are wines from the original 13 colonies.
a few places in the original 13 are actually considered world-class areas for growing grapes and making wine. most, however, are up-and-coming, mom-and-pop operations that are only beginning to experiment in winemaking. at this time, every state in this country has at least one operational winery within its borders. while that effort is commendable, unfortunately there is a reason why only certain parts of the world are renowned for wine. most of this vino blows.
however, there are some shining lights within the mass of "hobby wineries" that can truly compete quality-wise with other big-name wines from around the world.
starting in our own backyard, new york has had a long history of winemaking. the wineries of upstate new york have a longer history of growing grapes and making wine than even california. more recent to the fermentation biz, however, is long island. only a handful of decades ago, the areas now inhabited by wineries were potato farms. now they are home to myriad producers. for a fantastic rosé from this area, go to the south fork of long island and try the wolffer estate rose 2009 ($13.95 at sherry lehman wines, 505 park ave. at 60th street, 212-838-7500). this crisp merlot and chardonnay blend has a light, salmon hue and a refreshing acidity that will remind you of a french provençal-style rosé.
further south, in the home state of our country's first presidential oenophile, virginia has a burgeoning winemaking community. thomas jefferson was a fan of bordeaux and burgundy, but the wines here tend to be much more new world than anything that our third president likely drank. for a great example of the type of light, summer reds that are being produced currently in virginia, go no further than the veritas red star 2008 ($18 at www.veritaswines.com). this meritage blend is made up of merlot, cabernet franc and chambourcin grapes, and the end result is a light-bodied, berry-packed wine that is a perfect stand-in for a beaujolais nouveau.
even further south, in north carolina, many old tobacco farms are slowly being converted into wineries. it is not uncommon to drive through rural north carolina and see miles of trellised vines. the attention to quality is also on the rise here. on the grounds of the biltmore estate in ashville, one time home to the vanderbilts, lies one of north carolina's highest quality vineyards. the biltmore dry riesling 2009 ($12.99 at www.shop.biltmore.com) shows a commitment to serious wine production. made in the style of a typical australian riesling, this zesty wine has intense floral and citrus notes that make it a great match with a north carolina-style (vinegar-based) barbecue pulled-pork sandwich.
explore the original colonies this summer and you'll be surprised at what these historic areas have to offer the ever-growing world of wine.
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