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Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Tuesday Tasting: Six American Wines

Tuesday Tasting is a regular feature of Lyke2Drink that explores some of the best beers, wines and spirits on the market. This week we taste a few American wines.

In my neighborhood on the outskirts of Charlotte, N.C., where we relocated to last year from Upstate New York, we were happy to find a wine dinner group that meets about once a month. My wife, Sandy, and I hosted the group a couple of months back. Often these dinners have some type of theme. We decided to make our event an "All-American Picnic," with wines from across the United States. We purposely avoided California (it had been covered the previous month) and Oregon (one of our neighbors is from that state and was planning an all-Oregon evening.)

Our goal in pulling together the wines was to try to showcase some great vineyards and prove that America's winemakers are doing some pretty incredible stuff in some pretty surprising locations. We served six different wines: two sparkling wines from the same vineyard, two whites and two reds. It was not hard to find wines that we would be proud to serve in our home or order out at a special dinner. All it required was a little research and a couple of tasting session -- which is never an inconvenience. Here are my tasting notes for the evening. If you get the chance, I recommend that you try these wines.

Gruet Blanc de Noirs N/V: Berry nose and creamy texture. Hints of wild strawberries in the palate. 75% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay. NY Daily News “Best Sparkler Under $20.” $12. Gruet Brut N/V: Full bodied, with green apples and citrus in the flavor profile. Slightly toasted finish from barrel aging. 75% Chardonnay, 25% Pinot Noir. Wine Enthusiast 89 pts. “Top 50 Value.” $14. Gruet Winery is located near Truth or Consequences, N.M., at 4,300 feet above sea level so that cool nights moderate scorching days in the vineyard. Founded in 1984 by Gilbert Gruet, operator of the Gruet et Fils Champagne house in France since 1952, the winery produces 80,000 cases of still and sparkling wines.

38 Vines 2003 Chardonnay: Medium body dry wine with hints of apples and lemons, nicely balanced by oak barrel aging. Double Gold at the North Carolina State Fair Competition. $13. Old North State Winery is a cooperative of 38 vineyards in North Carolina that operates a winery in Mount Airy, which formed the basis for the mythical TV town of Mayberry. The 2003 vintage is the first released under the 38 Vines label.

Hermann J. Wiemer 2004 Semi-Dry Riesling: Semi-dry wine with a floral and honey nose, with hints of pears, peaches and apples in a crisp flavor profile. Spatlese Rhine-style wine with 2.3% residual sugar. $16. Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyards is run by a German-born winemaker whose family has been producing wine in the Mosel Valley for 300 years. Founded in 1979 in New York’s Finger Lakes, it was named New York Winery of the Year in 2003.

Gordon Brothers 2001 Syrah: Plum, fig and candied fruit flavors that give way to peppery accents and a hint of smoke. The vines benefited from a mild winter and the summer was dry with average temperatures. 91% Syrah, 9% Merlot. Aged for 17 months in French oak. Wine Spectator 91 pts. $20. Gordon Brothers Winery is located in Washington’s Columbia Valley, not far from Oregon, at the same latitude as Bordeaux. Jeff and Bill Gordon planted their first vines in 1980 and released their first wine in 1985.

White Hall 2002 Monticello Cabernet Sauvignon: Ripe fruit that starts with a black cherry and cassis aroma and gives hints of anise and spice in the palate. 81% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc, 9% Tannat. Aged in French and American Oak. Virginia Governor’s Cup Silver Award. $14. White Hall Vineyards is located about 10 miles from Charlottesville, Va. Established in 1991 by former California vintner Mike Champ, the vineyard has twice been selected as the Virginia Winery of the Year.

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