The third part of James Conaway’s keynote speech at the Wine Bloggers’ Conference in Penticton, British Columbia, Canada. In this segment, Mr. Conaway reads from his latest novel, Nose.
Where are the big woods? Well, they really aren’t there anymore. Heck, the Little House isn’t really there anymore. Just a wayside on a hill near where the house used to be. In all fairness? It hasn’t been there in over 100 years.
So I went to look at the site. It took a bit longer to find than I anticipated. Sigh. Typical. The cabin was tiny. A loft, a big hearth, a table. But it reminded me of being a girl and imagining what it was like. And the it was the sounds. Wind through the trees and the grass. Birds and insects chirping away….The description of what sounds surrounded the Ingalls family was always pretty descriptive in the Little House books. So I listened. and recorded. I ate lunch at a table on the grounds and watched people come and go.. Mostly people my age or older. In Jazzy’s and wheel chairs, some wandering around the site, others just in and out of the cabin. We all acknowledged each other sheepishly, but didn’t speak to each other…
Then I went down and took a look at Lake Pepin. I remember reading about Laura taking a trip into the town of Pepin. In the book it is seven miles drive to town and the horses periodically get bogged down in the spring mud. The going is easier now. The roads are paved… It still is seven miles (or so). Laura experienced awe when she saw the lake and the town. For me, Pepin isn’t the biggest place I have seen. Even at age five. Lake Pepin is less a lake and more of wide spot in the Mississippi River. But the lake glistened in the sun and I tried to imagine what it must have been like for Laura and Mary to run along the beach. I imagined that the location of the local Laura Museum was the the store.
By the way? Museum people? Your Laura looks like Holly Hobbie…. imma just saying…
Now the original plan was to stop at wineries along the way, This is part of the Upper Mississippi River Valley AVA after all, but… I killed too much time dealing with construction and getting lost and I still needed to make my way to Minnesota. So, I wandered along the town and noticed that there was a winery there. Villa Bellezza is a bit grand a space for Pepin, Wisconsin and very Italian looking but they were growing Foch, Frontenac, Frontenac Blanc, Frontenac Gris, LaCrescent, Marquette, Prairie Star and St. Pepin on twelve acres of vineyard located in and around the region. Interesting…. It was Saturday afternoon though and late at that. Ugh. Same deal with the Maiden Rock Cidery that I had looked up. So I resolved to avoid the tasting room crowds and stock at an area liquor store.
You know what happened. Nothing from those places were being sold. But there was Wisconsin wine there. Cranberry wine from Spurgeon Vineyards which is in Western Wisconsin but more than 150 miles away. sigh again. Not about the wine being made from Wisconsin. That makes sense as Wisconsin produces more cranberries than any other state in the U.S. (The More You Know!!!). Still. I was expecting something a little more local. Perhaps tomorrow.
Where am I now? Seems like I did a lot of driving but am still in Montana. Which in fact, I am. But not for long.
Today Now I will be off. To La Canada. Not La Cañada, that is in California. We (royally speaking) are heading to visit our neighbor to the north. Think maple leaves instead of surf boards.
I have been on the road so long at this poing that I have no idea what day it is or what I am supposed to look at. Oh, that is right. I am a wino. Is there wine along this route?
Well, totes (I say ‘totes’ instead of ‘totally’ just to irritate my teenagers). At the end of the road today I will be in Penticton home of the Wine Blogger’s Conference for 2013. So that means I will be driving through the rest of Montana, Idaho, Washington State and then British Columbia.
This is probably the winiest portion of my trip. With nearly 30 wineries along my route including:
Lolo Peak Winery
Rock Creek Winery
Beauty Bay Winery
Coeur d’Alene Cellars
Green Horse Wines
Timber Rock Winery
Latah Creek Wine CellarsKnipprath Cellars
Arbor Crest Wine Cellars
Vin du Van
Robert Karl Cellars
Grande Ronde Cellars
Cannon Hill Vintners
Seven Bays Winery
Rock Wall Cellars
Esther Bricques Winery
Copper Mountain Vineyards
Amazing. And these are just the wineries on the United States side of the border.
They are coming to Chicago. Or another Midwestern city near you!
Ryan Opaz of Vrazon and Catavino fame is leading a caravan of Portuguese winemakers throughout the Midwest. The stop in Chicago will be hosted at Bin 36 and has an amazing menu with pairings! Hope to see you there on June 3 and 4th between 5-9pm.
Tickets are available at Bin36 or OpenTable.
It’s Willamette Dammit! And rightfully so, as this appellation is the big daddy of Oregon winemaking. (also, it is pronounced Ora-gun not Or-e-gone. These folks are making you delicious wine. Be respectful of their ways). Stretching 150 miles north to south and 60 miles wide in some places, this is the home of Pinot. The climate is perfect for it. Located in the same latitudes as the vineyards of Alsace and Burgundy with warm dry summers and a cool rainy season all that this viticultural area needed for success was the perfect soil conditions. And what do you know? They got them. Oregon’s Jory soils are located in the foothills of the region are are composed of igneous rocks that were swept through the region thousands of years ago at the time of the Missoula Floods. The soil is thick, well drained and full of minerally deposits that grapes just love.
While there is a long history of agriculture in the region, viticulture didn’t really take off until the mid to late 1960s when UC Davis alum Charles Coury, Dick Erath and David Lett found their way up north of California. From there the industry has grown by leaps and bounds with around 200 wineries and an additionally six new sub-appellations in existence. And while Pinot Noir is King, it isn’t the only game in town, additionally grown are:
- Cabernet Franc
- Cabernet Sauvignon
- Marechal Foch
- Muller Thurgau
- Muscat Canelli
- Muscat Ottonel
- Pinot Blanc
- Pinot Gris
- Pinot Noir
- Sauvignon Blanc
- Tocai Fruiulano
A town so nice, they named it twice!
Well, not so much the town in this scenario as the entire appellation. This seems only fair as the this AVA is located in two separate states – Oregon and Washington. The justifications for the establishment of the viticultural area are historic, geologic, geographic and climatic.
Walla Walla translates at “rapid stream” or “many waters” in the Sahaptin language that is shared by the Walla Walla, Umatilla, Yakama, Nez Perce and Tenino peoples. Western settlers moved into the area beginning in the 1830s when Marcus and Narcissa Whitman came as missionaries to the Walla Walla people but were murdered by the Cayuse following outbreaks of measles that the indians believed were caused by the whites (they were, but they didn’t do it on purpose as no one was aware of germ theory quite yet). Viticulture began informally with French fur trappers in the 1840s in an area previously known as Frenchtown, now called Lowden.
The geologic basis of the creation of the appellation is based in part on the similarity of the river plain of assorted wind blown loess soils well drained by smaller streams that cut through the area. Being located between the Cascades and the Blue Mountains along the Washington, Oregon and Idaho border means that the area is blocked from the moderating temperatures nearer the Pacific but also in a rain shadow as well. This means that the climate is more intense with warmer days with cool evenings and semi-arid which requires irrigation for cultivation.
Modern viticulture (i.e. post-(the dreaded) Prohibition) began with Leonetti Cellars in the 1970s with Woodward Canyon Cellars and L’Ecole 41 coming along in the 1980s . The Walla Walla AVA was established in 1984 and amended to extend the territory in 2001. Varietals produced in the area include:
- Cabernet Franc
- Cabernet Sauvignon
- Petit Verdot
- Pinot Gris
- Pinot Noir
- Sauvignon Blanc
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
- Petite Sirah
- Petit Verdot
- Pinot Gris
- Pinot Noir
- Sauvignon Blanc
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?!
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.
That is my excuse, and I am sticking with it.
More WBC12 stories to come.
My favorite way to discover local wine is through travel. As I drive to conferences or visiting relative, I like to stop by the local winery and taste what they are producing. I love talking to the wine makers and learning about their story. Their passion for wine is always infectious. Currently, I have a problem. Getting away has increasingly become difficult due to family responsibilities (i.e., reining in teens)
My solution? Well the first option is to comb my local wine shops (which may in fact be local grocery stores). Grocery stores? Well, being a foodie type, it makes for easier menu planning. I have found myself doing this on the road as well. In part, because I eat better on the road when I am picking fruit and veg instead of eating fast food, but also because in many states, grocery stores have wine (Yes, I know you don’t New York State – get over yourselves on that matter).
I have picked up great wines in Virginia, Indiana Illinois and Nebraska at grocers or their closely associated liquor stores.
Some standouts? Bloom, a small chain that I found while visiting my 104 year old grandmother and other relatives in Virginia Beach. They have a nice wine section that has got one of the nicest selections of local wines that I have ever seen.
My nationwide? Whole Foods is a great choice. With its dedication to fresh and local ingredients, it makes sense that they would feature local wine. Given their national reach? Local wines extend to regional options extending my non-travelling reach. Lately, I have found Firelands Gewurztraminer from Isle St. George, near Sandusky, OH and from Illinois, Prairie State Winery, Lynfred and Glunz Family all in my local WF.
Surprisingly, in Chicago, I have found that smaller, ethnic groceries are full of local options as well. Maybe this is because they are being supplied by alternative distributors. I am not going to argue the point so long as I can find new and original options. In my neighborhood, I am recommending Foremost liquors which vary from neighborhood to neighborhood as to their options.
These are very pleasant surprise for a local wine lover.
My new way to get local wine? If I can’t get to the wine? I am having it brought to me.
While not all smaller wineries can and do ship, we should take advantage of those that do. How to chose? I am using results for wine competitions. An imperfect system to be sure, but one that is making it easier for a lover of local wine to extend their selections.
What are your favorite regional American wines? Let us know and maybe I will be checking them out soon!
October 10, 2011
To be honest, Gretchen, I hadn’t even started thinking about my route yet. But since you’ve asked…
Like you I have a couple of different options, both of which hover around 9 hours of driving time (that’s NOT counting New York/New Jersey/DC traffic) – definitely do-able in a single day, but I will likely split up the drive both days for some stops along the way.
The first and most direct route is I-95 which, after skirting Manhattan, will take me down through Jersey, past Philadephia, through “Baltimore and DC now” (hmm… are you hearing Martha and the Vandellas, too – “don’t forget the Motor City…” Oh wait, that’s the previous weekend), and then a quick jog west to Charlottesville.
This route takes me through the southern New Jersey wine country which is home to 17 wineries in the area south and east of Philly, four of which appear close to I-95 according to the Garden State Winegrowers Association map.
The alternate route bypasses Philadelphia and DC, cutting west across New Jersey on I78 to Pennsyvlania and then picking up I81 to head south into Charlottesville. The attraction to this route (other than missing the Jersey and DC traffic)? Gettysburg. Not only have I never visited the battlefield, but what better tie in with the War and Wine series I hope to kick off with this trip? And there are also two wineries in close proximity to the park.
I still need to build out an actual itinerary, but right now I’m trending towards the I78/I81 route on the way down with a stop in Gettysburg the first day to visit the local wineries as well as the park. The park itself is open until 10 pm, so if I time it right, I should be able to make it to the area in time for lunch, visit the wineries and then make my way over to the park before the visitor’s center and museum closes and still have some time to drive around the battlefield in the evening. The next morning would then be a leisurely 3-hour drive to Charlottesville.
Then I’m thinking it’s the I95 route home; hopefully if I leave early enough I’d miss the worst of the DC traffic. My thoughts right now are to stop outside of Philly, spend the afternoon touring some of southern Jersey’s local wineries, then dinner and a relaxing evening in Philadelphia, before heading home the next morning.
Those are pretty full agendas, so I need to do some work on the itineraries – this is supposed to be a vacation after all, not an endurance test!