Author Todd Kliman’s history of the American grape, Norton’s Virginia Seedling, starts off in an almost sultry manner as he teases the reader by veiling his intent. What begins to look like an unhealthy promotion of a single vineyard, Chrysalis, breaks the bonds of being a wine book and launches into the story of an American epic, a battle against nature and God: the stuff of Manifest Destiny as fought by American outsiders.
The heritage of the grapes that make our favorite wines has always been European, but will it remain so? Are there currently legitimate rivals to the vinifera monopoly that has ruled our palates? “Drink American” could be the slogan for the United States’ fairly recent class of vanguard winemakers and vintners declaring that there are.
Can American Vitis species produce wines that compare with those made from vinifera on a global stage? If so, will the wine traditionalists ever accept them? While continued research and experimentation with these varieties will hopefully answer these questions, perhaps an educational introduction will get the ball rolling.
Less than a hundred feet away from my desk a handful of young Frontenac and St. Croix vines are entering their third year here in Salt Lake City, and maybe they aren’t the only ones around. A few industrious pioneers and forward-thinking visionaries are betting blood, sweat, and acres on a ridiculous proposition: to create an authentically American, native grape capable of transforming the wine world.
Most Riesling connoisseurs have long considered Germany, specifically the Mosel Valley, as the varietal’s rightful throne. This is probably still true. The Mosel Valley’s unique, steep slopes of sun-absorbing slate have allowed the cool climate of Central-Western Germany to create ideal Riesling wines for over 150 years. But, as Riesling slowly grows in popularity, vintners around the world, the United States included, are giving it a go in new regions and climates. It is no wonder. While the retail sales of Pinot Gris outgrew all other white wines from 2004 until 2007, Riesling has taken that title for the last few years.
Utah, well known to many for its Mormon-based teetotaler ways, surprisingly has a historical legacy of making and drinking wine. That legacy is being carried on today by passionate folks like Will Fryer of Castle Creek Winery north of Moab.
Idaho isn't just for potatoes anymore. With 48 wineries, 34 located in the AVA, Idaho is finally generating buzz from vine to glass.