John discusses his wines with visitors to the Barrel Head tasting room .
Hill Winery credits Chris with steering him toward making sparkling wine . He went on to form the Illinois Sparkling Company , which makes about six different varieties of bubbly ( carried by Family Beer ), and it is very good !
While on the road , don ’ t be afraid to follow signs that point toward a winery along the way . Stop and sample their wines and take notes so you ’ ll remember . Buy a bottle or two if you like it and tell your friends . That ’ s how we can support and grow our local wine industry .
One of my goals last year ( and it will remain one this year ) was to share with readers wines from other countries or lesser known wines to hopefully expand our knowledge and appreciation of wine . The trip to France exposed me to small , local , and regional wines that truly express terroir . Many that I visited were small productions , family-owned vineyards and wineries that just made good wine . They didn ’ t add a lot to the grapes ; they simply cultivated the vineyards , harvested the grapes mostly by hand , and then let the grapes create the wine , which was a true reflection of where they lived .
For the most part , we don ’ t have that experience when purchasing wines from big name producers . Large , commercial wineries work hard to produce wines that taste similar year after year , so you know what to expect when you buy one of their wines . In this way , your 7 Deadly Zins will taste pretty much the same each year . This can be helpful when you are looking for a particular taste profile , but I feel we are missing out on the nuances resulting
40❖Julien’sJournal from year to year changes . Now don ’ t get me wrong , I very much like many of the name wines , it ’ s just that a part of me thinks we are losing a bit of the sense of place with large production wines .
You have the opportunity to experience that sense of place when you visit many of our regional wineries . When you visit a winery , ask them about the grapes . Why did they choose the grapes they are growing ? What challenges are they running into with neighboring farmers and drift from crop spraying ? Before you taste local wine , reset your palate to expect a new taste profile . Wine from the Midwest isn ’ t going to taste like California wine , or wine from Australia , South Africa , or Europe . It is going to taste like wine from the Midwest , so be open to experiencing a new flavor profile .
As an experiment , purchase a bottle of your favorite wine . Now , whether it is red or white , go to one of our local retailers and buy a couple bottles of the same varietal ( Cabernet Sauvignon , Chardonnay , Syrah , etc .), but from different countries . Take them home , invite a few friends over and open and compare the wines . How are they the same ? How are they different ? This is a wonderful way to learn about wines and growing regions … and it can also be a very enjoyable evening with fellow wine lovers .
Happy New Year ! ❖
WINES I ’ VE RECENTLY TASTED ...
2014 Bien Nacido Chardonnay Santa Maria Valley – Sandhi Winery , Santa Barbara County
This wine had balanced notes of lime , almond , and a touch of spice . It was bright on the palate and had a delightful mouthfeel . This wine served to open our Thanksgiving meal . 12 % ABV
This wine was served with the primary food course of our Thanksgiving meal and it did its job well . The wine accompanied everything but the roasted root vegetables with Brussels sprouts . With all else , it was delicious . It is a well-balanced wine with an easy earthiness . Unusual for a Pinot Noir , it took quite a while to open up to its full complexities . 13.4 % ABV
2005 Reserve Late Harvest Ice Wine – Terra Blanca , Yakima Valley
This wine had the most amazing amber color with flavors of ripe pear accompanied by hints of vanilla and apricot . Served with poached pears and pumpkin pie , this wine capped off an incredible meal with friends . 11 % ABV
2014 Niederösterreich Gebling Grüner Veltliner – Niederösterreich , Austria
A delicious white wine offered a wonderful hint of bright , crisp , white fruit with melon , pears , and a tinge of citrus . This wine was excellent with fish , but would be splendid with salad . 12 % ABV ❖