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.
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.