How To Drink Local Wine

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.

I have also found increasing local options at my neighborhood Jewel where the wines of Indiana’s Oliver Winery  and Michigan’s Tabor Hill have found themselves on the shelves.

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!


Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor
October 10, 2011

Sometimes I Cheat…

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

I don’t always go visit wineries… Sometimes I pick up wine at the liquor store, like I would if I were at home. That way, I can bring home more wine.

5 TrailSuch was the case with this wine that Kevin suggested that we open this bottle last night. It is from 5 Trails Winery in Nebraska, which I did not visit. I went to Feather River and tried to go to South Fork Winery instead. And to me, this is a shame as this was a GREAT wine. It tasted of pears and citrus and was full and fruity.

It is produced from the Frontenac Gris grape which came from one cane of Frontenac grapes grown at the University of Minnesota. This one cane produced gray fruit instead of black and is the source of all the existing stock of the Gris varietal. I had to look this up as I had never heard of it before.

I was once asked if I could claim that I wine from Southern Illinois (or any of the other places that I look for local wines) was as good as a wine produced in Italy or France. At the time, I argued that it was irrelevant because they were different wines and were meant to be so… This wine, however, I will put up against a Moscato anytime. It was excellent.

And this is what I love about VinoVerve and local wine.

Now THAT Is A Field Of Dreams!

Gretchen Neuman
Editor, VinoVerve

If you build it, they will come.

Oh, forget about a baseball diamond. Besides, this isn’t Iowa. It’s Nebraska.

Long RoadI made it!When you travel to the center of the cornfield in Nebraska, you just might find a vineyard. At least, I did when I visited Feather River Winery. And frankly, there was a lot of traveling to get to the middle of that cornfield. Unlike my previous attempts in Nebraska, I actually got usable directions from my GPS system. It gave me accurate instructions which only made me think that I had gone astray a couple of times as I drove down the long roads in the country. Long Roads

As I made the final turn around the bend, I found an entranceway that led to a small building surrounded by grapes. Now this is more like it! I parked the car and entered the tasting room to find a cute, compact little winery. The tasting room occupied most of the second floor that you enter from the ground floor level in the front of the building. The back entrance leads you to the lower level that houses the winery proper. A viewing window from the tasting room allows the curious (me) to watch what is happening in winery (not much that day). This was a pretty sophisticated set up, not at all what I expected from a sleepy Nebraska town, which is exactly why you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.

Tasting RoomWineryThe winery is a partnership between two couples, Jeff and Connie Brittan and Kurt and Jeanne Pieper and was established in 2001 when a test plot of vines were planted by three high school boys.  At the winery, this is referred to as the Noble Experiment and a wine produced from those grapes bears the name as well.  Wine was offered for sale for the first time in 2007. The winery initially had hired a professional wine maker but he did not work out (to say the least) and winemaking was taken over by Connie Brittan.  The grape varietals grown in the vineyard are generally cold hardy hybrids although this year the winery did produce a Riesling. Currently there are 37 acres of grapes being cultivated, making Feather River the largest vineyard in the State of Nebraska.

Being on the road means that you can’t try every wine on the menu so I limited myself to four of the fourteen selections offered.  From the white wines, I tasted the Sevyal Blanc that was off-dry and very lightly oaked and the Traminette-based Solstice.  Both of these wines were a little light (though not to the extent that I found the wines at  Wallace Winery) and had mild chemical aftertaste so mild that it might just have been my tastes that day (I had been breathing road fumes all day). From the selection of reds I tried the Frontenac.  The hybrid was created at the University of Minnesota to withstand bitterly cold winters but is known to be a difficult grape from which to produce wine.  The color was a nice garnet and had a plummy flavor.  It was my favorite wine of the day.  I also tried the Harvest Red which was a little sweeter than I anticipated but a nice fruity wine that would be good with a fall dinner.

TastingHarvest RedOther wines offered at Feather River include a LaCrosse, Edelweiss, Trinity Blanc (a blend of of LaCrosse, Edelweiss and Seyval Blanc), St. Pepin, Marechal Foch, St. Croix, Saints Reserve and Marquette.  All wines are priced at $16.00.

Feather River Winery
5700 SE State Farm Road
North Platte, NE 69101

Fall Hours at Friday-Sunday 2pm-6pm.