It’s one o’clock in the morning and I am helping sort pinot noir grapes under a not-quite-harvest moon at Freedom Run Winery on the Niagara Escarpment of New York State. It’s been a gorgeous, warm growing season, and the fruit is ripe, sweet, and juicy—dream conditions in a cool-climate state. But the winemakers are more excited about what’s in the throwaway bin.
This wine marks the first time that winemaker Vinny Aliperti has decided to arrest fermentation instead of back-sweetening, and the results are outstanding. By picking slightly earlier than his colleagues, he allowed the grapes to maintain a crackling natural acidity.
It is generally accepted that wine growing and making originate in what is now the country of Georgia. With a few exceptions, Georgian varieties have existed in a juxtaposition of global obscurity and vast planting in the cradle of viticulture.
What remains to be seen is how cider fits in a beverage market that is increasingly saturated with craft beer and local small-production wines.
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.
In some ways, New York’s wine regions are ideal for making sparkling wine. The generally cool weather—combined with lake effect in the Finger Lakes and ocean breezes in Long Island—allows grapes to ripen slowly with gorgeous aromatics and natural acidity.
Though it’s a bit more expensive than most of the others, this wine is richer and beefier, with fragrant notes of almond croissants, toasted wheat bread with lemon marmalade, orange blossoms, hazelnut, and honeydew. It’s complex, slightly earthy, and well integrated, with lively bubbles and a puckering acidity.