CRAFT by Under My Host® Issue No. 18 Made in America: Part III - Page 84

W W W. C R A F T BY U M H . C O M gotten so much better in the vineyard. We’ve been working with grapes like Vignoles for twenty years, while collectively we’ve had a thousand years to get Pinot Noir figured out,” he said, adding, “We want to grow the flavors that are in fact, what we want in the bottle.” This idea trans- lates to less processing or less manipulation by the winemaker working to extract more desirable flavors or to mask or blend away less-desirable notes. According to Frost, “There’s an adage among growers, that the only opportunity after the field, is to not screw it up.” With varied growing seasons and differing soil types across the U.S., several universities and researchers have worked to take the field knowledge from the last few decades and put it to work in develop- ing varietals specifically geared to do well, based on the geograph- ic strengths and weaknesses. Across the country, American-grown grapes often include unabashed fruitiness as a distinct characteris- tic. As you travel East to the Midwest and Northeast, the fruitiness is accompanied with an abundance of tartness. Ironically, some of these regions became known for sweet wines, which Frost explained, is often from the effort towards balancing this natural tartness, on the path towards making a dry wine. As this effort and technique has ma- tured, improved grape selection has led to less processed, more nat- ural and more agriculturally relevant, signature wines. Frost encour- ages wineries to explore evolving possibilities as part of their creative process and adaptation to climactic conditions. “Developing our own new flavors is more important than replicating a wine from somewhere else,” Frost said. He lists modern, hybrid varietals such as Vignoles, Brianna, Itasca, Chambourcin, and Traminette as grapes that have given winemakers and wine drinkers fresh opportunities. they just assumed it. I read about Dr. Konstantine Frank in New York, who had been growing vinifera over in the Finger Lakes area since the fifties. I looked at the map, I looked at the weather data, and I thought, ‘Well if he can do it — then we can do it here.’” Lester visited the late Dr. Frank’s son, Willie Frank, and returned to Michigan, confident in his mission. “I planted only 100-percent vin- ifera; I wasn’t interested in hybrid grapes. I was only interested in growing the so-called noble varieties, responsible for the finest wine in the world. I really wanted to make wine that rivaled some of the best wines I had tasted from Europe, and I believed it was possible to do it here.” Lester lists macro-factors he considers essential for a wine growing region. The region must include a climate that is hospitable to the grape, and a growing season about the same length as the vegetative cycle of the vine. Proximity to a body of water which moderates the climate is important, as well as decent soil, rich in nutrients and min- Frost considers Missouri, Michigan, and New York to be as well-es- tablished, maturing markets beyond the West Coast. He added several other, perhaps counter-intuitive regions that are also delivering on flavor and experience, including Colorado, Arizona, Virginia, Ohio, Iowa, and Minnesota, where Peter Hemstad has been leading a charge towards developing new grape varietals. That said, one shouldn’t rule out traditional grapes and wine styles. James Lester, of Wyncroft Wines, a small vineyard in Southwest Michigan is both a winemaker and grower, dedicated to vitis vinifera, the non-hybridized species of grapes known for “old world” wine varietals. When Lester’s career began in the mid-eighties, growing these varietals was not the conventional wisdom in Michigan or the Midwest. “It was assumed that the vitis vinifera, the noble European vine, would not survive here well enough, or give us enough crops to make it commercially viable,” Lester said. “Nobody had ever tested that theory, © Hundred-to-One LLC 2018. All rights reserved.