This year, of course, we’re more or less stuck wherever here happens to be, our wanderlust curtailed by the coronavirus pandemic. We can’t all be like Carlo DeVito, who over the summer sold his Hudson-Chatham winery in New York’s Hudson River Valley and set out on a cross-country wine adventure. We can follow along — DeVito chronicled his exploits as “The Great American Winery Stroopwaffle” on YouTube channel and his blog.
We can also do some armchair exploring to whet our thirsts for when we do travel again. Some of these wines are finding their way through distribution, and, of course, the Internet, with direct access to producers and their wines, frees us of dependence on the traditional distribution system.
It’s impossible to give a full overview of wine in “the other 47” in a column such as this, but here are a few of my favorites, plus some on my radar. And in this week’s recommendations, we have five regional benchmark wines available through distribution in the D.C. area. I am not including Virginia and Maryland here, because I have written about them over the years, but, of course, I urge readers to support their local wineries.
Fans of hot-climate wines from Spain’s Rioja and Priorat, France’s Roussillon, or Italy’s Apulia should look to the U.S. Southwest. Mediterranean grape varieties have found a home in the Texas High Plains and Hill Country wine regions (known formally as American Viticultural Areas, or AVAs). Tempranillo, touriga, tannat, cinsault and mourvèdre are popular red varieties. Albariño, viognier, roussanne and a fascinating hybrid called blanc du bois lead up the whites.
McPherson Cellars sets a high standard for good quality, affordable wines from the Lone Star state, and they do get into distribution. My other favorite Texas wines have come from Bending Branch, Brennan, Pedernales, Spicewood and William Chris wineries.
A little-known fact about Colorado wine: The industry there was established in the late 1960s with the help of Warren Winiarski, who later founded Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars in Napa Valley, Calif., and made the cabernet sauvignon that won the 1976 Judgment of Paris tasting. Last month, Winiarski’s family foundation gave a $150,000 grant to the Western Colorado Viticulture and Enology Program at Colorado Mesa University in Grand Junction to create a viticulture center and fund scholarships for aspiring winemakers. What type of wine might they make? My favorites from the Grand Valley AVA near Grand Junction have been the riesling and gewurztraminer from Carlson Vineyards. Petite sirah and cabernet franc also perform well in Colorado. Other wineries worth following are Bookcliff Vineyards, Creekside Cellars and Guy Drew Vineyards.
Michigan’s Leelanau and Old Mission peninsulas, extending north from Traverse City, showcase cool-climate viticulture producing crisp, refreshing wines. Riesling, pinot blanc, pinot noir, gamay and lemberger do well. The Leelanau Peninsula AVA also shines with chardonnay and sparkling. Left Foot Charley, Brengman Brothers and Chateau Grand Traverse are my favorites, but there’s a diverse and energetic wine scene here, with 2 Lads, Black Star Farms, Mari Vineyards and Mawby Vineyards as highlights.
Missouri is best known for bold, spicy reds made from norton, but I’m drawn to the wildly flowery yet dry wines made with vignoles, a hybrid white grape. Some wineries also work with chardonel, another white hybrid that makes a nice full-bodied wine. A little history: Missouri’s Augusta region, west of St. Louis, was the first in the nation to become an official AVA, in 1980. Stone Hill for norton, and Augusta Winery and Montelle Winery for vignoles are standouts. An insider tip has me hoping to visit Les Bourgeois Vineyards as an emerging star.
To help with research, Jessica Dupuy’s “The Wines of Southwest U.S.A.,” published in October by Infinite Ideas, covers New Mexico, Texas, Arizona and Colorado. Long Island-based writer Lenn Thompson introduces us to the wines and winemakers of the Eastern United States on his website, thecorkreport.us.
Finally, a sad note. Arnie Esterer, a pioneer of Ohio’s wine industry, died Oct. 28. He was 88. Esterer founded Markko Vineyard in 1968 in northeast Ohio, within sight of Lake Erie. He was a disciple of Konstantin Frank, who advocated for European grapes over native and hybrid varieties. I visited Esterer in 2014, several months after a polar vortex had destroyed his vineyard. As he poured me some of his riesling, chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon, some of the best I’d ever tasted, he talked of restoring the vineyard that had been his life’s work. “I’m retired,” he said. “I have nothing else to do.”
Finding the regional gems of American wine requires an adventurous mind-set and extensive exploration, in person or on the Internet. There are a few distributors and retailers with that sense of adventure, so some of these wines are available at retail in the District and beyond. Here is a short, representative, but by no means exhaustive, list of regional gems available retail in the D.C. area.
McPherson Cellars EVS Windblown 2017
Texas High Plains, Tex., $19
EVS stands for Earth Vine Sky, winemaker Kim McPherson’s mnemonic for evoking the terroir of the Texas High Plains, near Lubbock. This is a Rhone-style red blend of mourvèdre, petite sirah, carignan, cinsault and grenache. Will you mistake it for a top Rhone from Gigondas or Vacqueyras? Probably not. The EVS perhaps speaks more of the sky, while its French counterparts dig into the earth. But that’s fine — this wine is elegant and electric. It benefits from sitting open an hour or two. McPherson makes a wide variety of high-quality wines at affordable prices. Alcohol by volume: 13.8 percent.
Distributed by Siema: Available in the District at Ace Beverage, Cleveland Park Wine and Spirits, Cork & Fork, Uptown Market. Available in Maryland at Dunkirk Wine & Spirits in Dunkirk. Available in Virginia at Planet Wine & Gourmet and Unwined (King Street and Belleview) in Alexandria, Screwtop Wine Bar & Cheese Shop in Arlington.
Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard Dry Riesling 2019
Seneca Lake, Finger Lakes, N.Y., $22
This is classic Finger Lakes riesling from one of the region’s pioneer wineries. It embraces your palate in flavors of apricot, pineapple and Seneca Lake’s signature hint of lime zest. The winery is also pioneering work in organic viticulture in the Finger Lakes. It’s organic “Bio” riesling is stunningly good. ABV: 12 percent.
Distributed in the District and Maryland by Lanterna, in Virginia by Hop & Wine: Available in the District at Ace Beverage, Cork Wine Bar and Market, Harry’s Reserve Fine Wine & Spirits, MacArthur Beverages, New H Wine & Spirits, Rodman’s. Available in Maryland at Fishpaws Marketplace in Arnold, Friendship Wine & Liquor and Wine World Beer & Spirits in Abingdon, Longmeadow Wine & Liquors in Hagerstown, McHenry Beverage Shoppe in McHenry, Off the Rox and Wine Source in Baltimore, Reds Wine Bar in Parkville, State Line Liquors in Elkton. Available in Virginia at Arrowine and Cheese in Arlington, Unwined (King Street, Belleview) in Alexandria.
Arizona Stronghold Nachise 2017
Another Rhone-style blend from the Southwest, the Nachise is warm and spicy, with dark berry fruit flavors and a hint of wild sage and thyme. Steak night! ABV: 13.9 percent.
Distributed by Siema: Available in Virginia at Department of Beer and Wine in Alexandria, Skyline Vineyard Inn & Vineyards in Washington, the Spot on Mill Street in Occoquan.
Left Foot Charley Pinot Blanc 2018
Old Mission Peninsula, Mich., $20
Crisp and refreshing, with aromas and flavors of lemongrass as well as lemon and lime zest, this is a bracing wine to stimulate your appetite and pair with goat cheese, smoked meats and lighter fish dishes. ABV: 12.1 percent.
Distributed by Siema: Available in the District at Cleveland Park Wine and Spirits, Wagshal’s Deli, Wagshal’s on New Mexico. Available in Virginia at Department of Beer and Wine in Alexandria.
Galen Glen Grüner Veltliner 2019
Lehigh Valley, Pa., $20
Grüner Veltliner is the main white grape of Austria, but it’s making head roads in the United States, in California, Oregon, New York and in the mid-Atlantic states of Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania. Galen Glen is a standout, year after year. You’ll find the white flowers and talc aspects of grüner here, with an invigorating acidity to clean your palate. ABV: 12 percent.
Distributed by Siema: Available in the District at Cleveland Park Wine and Spirits, Glen’s Garden Market, Wagshal’s Deli. Available in Maryland at Wishing Well Liquors in Easton. Available in Virginia at Market Street Wineshop in Charlottesville, Skyline Vineyard Inn & Vineyards in Washington, Unwined (Belleview) in Alexandria.
Availability information is based on distributor records. Wines might not be in stock at every listed store and might be sold at additional stores. Prices are approximate. Check Winesearcher.com to verify availability, or ask a favorite wine store to order through a distributor.
Correction: A previous version of this article mistakenly referred to the Palisades AVA in Colorado. The region is called the Grand Valley AVA. This version has been corrected.
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