Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Four Fabulous Midwestern Reds

By Joy Neighbors

When you think of “wine country” in the U.S. California immediately comes to mind followed by one or all of the following - Washington State, Oregon and New York. Unfortunately, it takes a while for wine aficionados to remember that the Midwest is another great wine destination.

This region might garner more respect if wine drinkers knew something about the grapes that grow here, what the resulting wines are similar to and a flavor profile.

So with that in mind, here are four Midwestern red wines that are sure to make a delicious impact on your taste buds paired with fall's hearty foods.

Chancellor Grapes/Wine        
This is a hybrid red-wine grape originally developed in France in the mid-1800s, but the French did not utilize the grape and Chancellor found a new home in the U.S.

In the 1970s, New York State renamed the grape Chancellor and it became popular in the East and Midwestern wine regions because it's cold hardy and very prolific. The states that produce the most Chancellor grapes include New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Illinois and Nebraska.

This wine is crafted like a Cabernet with an earthy flavor profile and hints of berries. Chambourcin ages well and pairs nicely with a steak or a hearty beef stew. Prices can range from $10 to $50 per bottle.

Norton Grapes/Wine
This grape was first cultivated in Virginia in the 1820s by Dr. Daniel Norton. It is the oldest native grape in the U.S. (Sorry, Zinfandel lovers.) In the mid-1800s, the grape was taken by settlers to Missouri where it acclimated well to the Midwestern climate including cold winter temperatures; the grape is also resistant to mildew and rot, making it a “perfect wine grape” for the Midwest. Norton’s popularity grew through the early 20th century until Prohibition was enacted in 1920. Once alcohol was illegal, vines were pulled up and it wasn’t until 1989 that the grape caught on again, fittingly enough, back in Virginia.

Riedel Norton Glass
Today, world-class Norton wines are crafted around the U.S., especially in Missouri where it has been designated at the state grape. (The Norton grape is also known as Cynthiana.) Norton wines are so popular in the Eastern and Midwestern sections of the country that Riedel has created a Norton wine glass.

Norton wine is similar to a Merlot or Cabernet. The grapes are thick-skinned with fruity flavors and hints of vanilla. Norton goes well with rich red meats, game and spicy foods.

Maréchal Foch
This hybrid French grape was developed in 1910 by Eugene Kuhlmann. It was named after WW1 French General Marshall Ferdinand Foch and arrived in the U.S. in 1946.

Foch produces early yields and can withstand cold temperatures - two pluses for Midwestern growth. It is, however, vulnerable to mildew. It grows well in Canada, Minnesota, Michigan, Illinois and Oregon. This is another Midwestern wine that ages well and is similar in style to a Pinot Noir.

The flavor profile leans toward jammy, berry flavors, with a touch of spice and earthy, almost smoky undertone – pleasant, not foxy. Foch goes well with roasted chicken or venison.

Chambourcin is a French-American hybrid grape that is versatile enough to be crafted like a big-styled Rhone, a full-bodied Burgundy or as a soft red table wine. The origins of the grape are unknown, but it has only been available since 1963.

The grape is very popular in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and southern Illinois. Prominent fruit flavors can include cherry, berry, currents and plums. There's a spicy element of cinnamon, pepper or cloves with aromas of tobacco, leather and smoke.

Chambourcin is food-friendly. A heavy-styled wine pairs well with beef, pizza and barbecue. A lighter-styled Chambourcin goes nicely with lighter pasta dishes or ham.

Next week, a look at some outstanding Midwestern white wines to sip and savor this autumn.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Join In the Month-Long Celebration of Our Native Spirit

By Joy Neighbors

September is National Bourbon Heritage Month. Known as America’s “Native Spirit,” Bourbon has an extensive history in the U.S., especially in Kentucky.

Elijah Craig
While Bourbon can be made anywhere, Kentucky holds claim as its birthplace. It is said that Baptist minister Elijah Craig first aged whiskey in a charred oak barrel imparting that reddish hue and distinctive taste that is the mark of a fine Kentucky Bourbon.

White Oak Barrels
Bourbon’s taste appeal comes from the amount of time it spends aging in charred white oak barrels extracting those perfect flavors of caramel, wood, nuts, spice and smoke – the taste profile of a fine Bourbon. And that caramel color is the real thing. Unlike Scotch, Bourbon is bottled the way it comes out of the barrel – in all its amber tones and rich flavors.

Just as Portugal is the only country that can call a dessert wine Port, and only Spain can craft a Sherry; only the United States can produce Bourbon Whiskey, thanks to an act of Congress in 1964. In 2007, the U.S. Senate passed the resolution decreeing September as National Bourbon Heritage Month, and so we celebrate.

In honor of the beverage, a weeklong celebration known as the Kentucky Bourbon Festival is held each autumn in Bardstown, Kentucky – “Bourbon Capital of the World.” This year will mark the 25th anniversary of the festival, which will be held from September 12- 18.

Take time this month to hoist a glass of Kentucky Bourbon and celebrate National Bourbon Heritage Month in style with our only designated “Native Spirit!”