WineWiz Goes to the Movies, and the Midwest, With Wine Diamonds
Wine diamonds is another name for the tartaric crystals that you sometimes find in the bottom of a bottle. I found some just last week in the last glass of an Austrian riesling. It’s also the name of a short but enticing documentary about the growing wine industry in the U.S. Midwest. You can either watch in the U.S. on Amazon Prime or buy it from their website.
Coming from New Jersey, which is also a young wine region that suffers with its own image problems (we have more to offer than Tony Soprano and Newark Airport, thanks), I’m pretty open to trying new grapes and new regions. Though I gotta say it had never occurred to me to make a special wine tasting trip to Wisconsin.
But yeah, there’s award-winning wineries in Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, and Illinois, some of which we visit here. These wineries are considered cold-climate, with winter temps that can get as low as -40ºF! Pinot noir, chardonnay and cab sauv simply cannot survive. Most of the grapes growing in these regions are hybrids developed by the University of Minnesota or Cornell. Ever heard of a Brianna, or La Crescent, Marquette or Frontenac? Many of these were developed and bred by the late Elmer Swenson, who seems to have been to the Midwest what Konstantin Frank was to the Finger Lakes.
Most of us might snicker at the idea of great wine and Minnesota. I’ve heard the snickers about great wine and New Jersey. And as author and Master of Wine Tim Hanni points out, he's old enough to remember when people snickered about wine from California. We also might see more winemakers like Mike Drash from Chankaska Creek, who after years of distinguished winemaking in Napa, moved to the Midwest so he and his wife could raise their daughter closer to family.
And hey, it’s not as if I'm getting on a plane to California or Italy anytime soon. Maybe a cross-country car trip to Utica, Illinois, to taste their sparkling wines could be fun. Maybe we should all start poking around in our own backyards, and see what diamonds in the rough we can find.
Got any ideas for the next great wine region? Let me know!