Road Trippin’ 2013

Little Wine on the Prairie Logo

As you may have noticed, I head out on a road trip nearly every year.  Last year was the exception but only because my girlies started school the day before WBC12 began.  Hm.  Miss the last first day of school for daughter #1 after making a consecutive 14 previous?  or skip the road trip for the year.  Yeah.  You know how I went on this one.

But this year, I am off again for adventures. I’ll be heading west to Penticton, BC for WBC13. This is the first Wine Bloggers’ Conference held in Canada and I am looking forward to it. The bummer? I need a passport this time. I know that this need seems self-evident for most of you, but as a gal who used to cross the border for dates in high school it seems a little crazy to me. Strangely enough, it isn’t getting into Canada that is the issue, but rather coming home and I am loathe to risk another lecture from a self-important douanière (long story).

Since I am largely taking the route that I took to Walla Walla for WBC10, I am looking forward to seeing some sights that I missed on my way out there – namely all the Little House on the Prairie historic sites. Knowing me as you do, you can’t be surprised that I want to do something so nerdy. I loved those books and know that I would have to make these stops sans ma famille. Why? Well, the girls would never put up with more than one stop. Heck, I couldn’t get them to even read the books. It breaks a mother’s heart, it does. But luckily I will indeed be on the road without them and am looking forward to stopping where I please. Oh. Did I mention that there is wine nearby at every stop. Yup. It’s true. Because of this, I have dubbed this trip: Little Wine on the Prairie.

Since Laura Ingalls Wilder never made it further west than the eastern portion of South Dakota, I’ve had to put on my thinking cap (bonnet) to come up with other plans. Here are a couple of ideas that I have thrown around:

  • Sturgis, SD – the location of the big biker rally every year. I believe it is in August. Good lord, I hope it is in August.
  • Yellowstone National Park – Yeah. I want to see the sites but I don’t want to camp or stay in the cabins and develop Hanta Virus (yeah, I said it). Old Faithful, Grand Prismatic Spring, Mud Volcano and the Mammoth Springs are tops on my list. Oh, and if I could figure out where the caldera edge for the mega volcano is, that would be swell too.
  • Lake Okanogan, BC – Naturally, I will be seeing the lake as I will be staying on it. But I think an extensive search of the lake to find the Ogopogo, the lake’s native monster. Is it a plesiosaur like the Loch Ness Monster and Champie from Lake Champlain are thought to be or a basilosaurus like other cryptozoologists think? Either way. Or not. With my luck my camera will jam as I am eaten by the thing.

But first? Before I leave, I must survive high school graduation. Not mine, of course, but rather Celia’s. Cross your fingers and hope for the best both before and after graduation.

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Wine From the Sunshine State

Yeah, we fancy with out paper towel napkins

Photo by Gretchen Neuman for

When in Florida, you expect to see a lot of citrus. And man do you ever. But surprisingly enough you don’t really see many grapes. Particularly near Orlando. All you see there are mouse ears and you know who they belong to….

Nevertheless, I, your intrepid locapour am always on the lookout for the local wine. And even in the heart of Disney managed to located Florida wine. Florida Wine? Yes.

The wine from Lakeridge Winery & Vineyards is made from grapes but not of the vinifera variety. These are muscadines, the native grapes of the south, vitis rotundifolia. They are bigger than vinifera grapes and found in smaller, loose clusters. Muscadines are bronze, purple and black and have been used to produce wine and jelly since Europeans have been in the American southeast, even in the heat and humidity of Florida.

This wine was brought home from Florida last year and put away in the wine fridge. Last night, Kevin brought it out as a accompaniment of barbecue ribs. Now, Kevin loves to grill. All year long. And he makes a mean sauce. By mean, I mean spicy. I was a bit apprehensive when I saw a bottle of tabasco being used to make the sauce.

But it turns out this wine perfect match. This wine, was a sweet muscadine, which in all fairness is the type you are more likely to find. The flavor was like a bright cherry pop. Except a wine, of course. Cool and sweet in contrast to hot and spicy.

So maybe you don’t like sweet wine. And maybe you don’t think wine should be made in Florida. But last night sweet, Florida muscadine wine was exactly what I needed.

If you are in Florida, visiting the folks or the grands and are Disney’d out, you can find wine in Central Florida just 45 minutes northwest of Orlando.

Lakeridge Winery & Vineyards
19239 U.S. 27 North
Clermont, Florida 34715

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Snake River Valley AVA

Located in both Oregon and Idaho the Snake River Valley was previously best known by me as the location where Evel Kneivel jumped a canyon with a rocket* (or a strangely conceived steam powered motorcycle). My eight-year old self aside, the appellation was designated in 2007 after the Idaho Grape Growers and Wine Producers Commission submitted the petition which was granted due to unique qualities of the region.

And what are those qualities? Specifically, it is cooler, drier, at a higher elevation and with a shorter growing season than nearby appellations (Oregon’s Umpqua Valley, Oregon and Washington’s Walla Walla Valley and California’s Napa Valley (which seems to be a de rigueur comparison)). Unlike many appellations, the soils are varied but are underlain by the remains of ancient Lake Idaho which largely forms the border of the area.

Viticulture had begun in Idaho in the 1860s but it wasn’t until the 1970s that it took root in the Snake River Valley. From that time number of wineries and vineyards to grown to nearly thirty and is producing wines from a wide range of vinifera grapes including:

  • Cabernet Franc
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Carmenére
  • Chardonnay
  • Gewürztraminer
  • Lemberger
  • Malbec
  • Merlot
  • Mourvédre
  • Muscat
  • Petite Sirah
  • Petit Verdot
  • Pinot Gris
  • Pinot Noir
  • Primitivo
  • Riesling
  • Sangiovese
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Semillon
  • Syrah
  • Tempranillo
  • Viognier

I have been to Idaho, though not near the AVA but I did stop and buy a from the appellation.  The wine was a dry Riesling from Ste. Chapelle and I will be looking for more in the future as it was dry and crisp with a bright burst of fruit.  Sadly, on my trip to Oregon this year for WBC12, I was no where near the Snake River Valley.  Maybe next time.



















* Turns out the area that Evel Knievel took off from and landed was in the AVA. Worlds colliding?!

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Rogue Valley AVA

The Rogue Valley viticultural area is located within Southern Oregon and is nestled among the foothills of the Siskiyou Mountain surrounding the Rogue river and its tributaries. Comprised of the river valleys of the Rogue River and its tributaries (the Illinois, Bear Creek and the Applegate) and at the convergence of three mountain ranges (the Klamath, the Coast Ranges and the Cascades) the soils are more variable than in some of the other Oregon appellations but are amongst the warmest and driest in the state.  This allows for the production of a wider variety of grapes including: Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Dolcetto, Gerwurztraminer, Grenache, Malbec, Merlot, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillion, Syrah, Tempranillo and Viognier.

Viticulture has a longer history in the Rogue Valley than in other parts of Oregon.  The earliest settlers into the are in the 1840s planted the first vineyards and by 1852 Peter Britt planted vines that became the state’s first winery in 1873.  The rebirth of the industry began in the late 1960s.
















Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Ribbon Ridge AVA

Stretching from Gaston to Newberg, Ribbon Ridge is one of the smaller appellations in the state (The smallest prior to the addition of Red Hill Douglas County, Oregon). Home to five wineries and twenty (20) vineyards, the area is like an island within the larger Chehalem and Willamette Valley AVAs and is protected by the surrounding mountains to allow for a consistently warmer and drier environment during the growing season. The soils in the area are from the Willakenzie series which are less red then the Jory soils but is deep, well drained with a low fertility that makes it perfect for wine grapes.

Viticulture began in the region in 1980 and became and AVA in 2005.

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Silver Lining?

They say that to produce a great wine, first the grapes must suffer. Well, the Midwest has certainly suffered this year. In areas more known for producing corn and soybeans as far as the eye can see (and beyond. It’s flat out here, people) there has been a terrible drought. So far 1,692 counties in 36 states have been listed as disaster areas with crops so parched that they look burned. It is believed that the drought will increase prices for virtually every type of food product and probably fuel too.

The silver lining?

Apparently the wine grape harvest is looking to be spectacular. Yes, it will be 1/3 smaller than in previous years, but quality wise, it should be tops and the vines have been safe from many of the diseases that are commonly caused by moisture.

And Midwestern winemakers have seen a trend in longer sunny days and higher temperatures… perhaps returning Missouri, Indiana, Illinois and Michigan to where it used to be before Prohibition. Or it might be climate change messing up our well established agricultural patterns.

map of drought conditions in the US

Map of US drought conditions at of August 14, 2012 by Richard Heim, NOAA/NESDIS/NCDC and is in the public domain was made as part of his official duties for the NOAA.

Mad, Hot Wine Tasting Skillz!

That is my explanation and I am sticking to it.

Yes, I am working slightly backwards, but that is the nature of my brain at the moment.

Yes, I have returned from Portland, Oregon and the 2012 Wine Bloggers’s Conference. Yes, I saw old friends, made new friends, made Kevin observe me in my natural environment…. oops. That sounded dirty. The point is that I am telling this tale out of order.

So last part first is this. At the end of each conference there is the introduction of the venue for the next event. Kind of like at the closing ceremony at the Olympics where England turned the stadium over to Rio de Janeiro.. In this case, it was Portland making a little room for Penticton, British Columbia. Now imagine that Rio brought wine. Now you are getting the idea.

Penticton is in the Okanagan region of British Columbia. Now, I have been to Canada before. I grew up on the border near Niagara Falls. And due to Kevin’s work schedule, I got to spend some spectacular times in Winnepeg, Manitoba and Edmonton, Alberta. We vacationed at Lake Louise in Banff and another vacation in Vancouver and Vancouver Island. And yes, I am looking forward to my visit next spring (making a mental note to get my passport renewed…).

But back to the wine tasting.

As an introduction to our conference next year, the folks from Penticton brought Okanagan wine… and gave us a blind tasting. With a challenge. Each table got a red and white and we had to figure out what they were. Generally speaking I hate doing this. I am typically pretty bad at it unless it is pretty obvious. In this case, I knew that they were from the Okanagan, so that gave us lots of hints. Pretty quickly Kevin and I and our table mates, Robin Ross of Underground Cellar, Glynis Hill of Vino-Noire and Julie Crafton from Napa Valley Vintners quickly narrowed down the red to a Pinot Noir and the white to a Pinot Gris. We narrowed down the year for each and then of course, we knew it was to the Okanagan. Then we got chatting… just as we needed to turn in our entry I scribbled down a couple of sub-appellations that we had chatted about but never really agreed upon.

Amazingly enough. We scored a perfect score.

Pure skill.

That is my excuse, and I am sticking with it.

More WBC12 stories to come.

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

McMinnville AVA

Located within Oregon’s Willamette (dammit) Valley and AVA, McMinnville is located west of the city of the same name and has had a two hundred year history of agriculture. In 1970, viticulture began in the appellation when David Lett opened a winery and has hosted an International Pinot Noir Competition every July since 1987. The Appellation is based upon both location along the eastern and southeastern slopes of the foots hills of the Coast Range and elevation between 200 and 1000 feet. The soils are primarily marine soils with intrusions of basalt which provide the grapes with a distinctive flavor. The climate stays cool from ocean breezes that enter the area through the Van Duzer corridor and helps maintain a higher acidity in the grapes.

McMinnville contains 14 wineries and produces Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Riesling varietals.

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Eola-Amity Hills AVA

Northwest of Oregon’s capitol, Salem, the Eola-Amity Hills are cooler and moister than the viticultural areas previously discussed. Pacific winds blowing through the Van Duzer corridor allow for moderated summer temperatures and increased cold season precipitation. The soils are a mixture of basalt (as the Pacific Northwest is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire), marine sediments and alluvial soils from the ice-aged Missoula Floods.

Viticulture in the appellation began in the 1850s but became much more common in the 1970s. Like other cool climate regions, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Pinot are common plantings.

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor