Wine may not be the first thing on your mind for the fourth of July, but let me use the occasion as a springboard to explore some different angles to this idea of “American Wines.”
The Melting Pot
Conundrum (Wagner Family Wines),
Perhaps California’s most famous blend of disparate grapes, this enticing white reflects our country’s motto, e pluribus unum. Five different grapes—Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Muscat and Viognier—yield a richly perfumed white with spicy ripe peach flavors. Lovely with shrimp spring rolls.
The Great American Grape
Seghesio Zinfandel, Sonoma, $20
Zinfandel originates from Italy, but has assumed an American identity so
different from its European roots.
Seghesio are Zin masters and this blend shows the influence of American oak with enticing chocolate aromas. It’s full-bodied and rich, but more importantly, it tastes fresh and vibrant. A great match with Kansas City–style ribs.
A Native American Grape
Spurgeon Vineyards “Ruby Lady,”
Highland, Wisconsin, $9.50
All of the famous grape varietals used to make fine wine come from the Vinifera species, which originated in Europe. However, the most famous North American species, Labrusca, can make some compelling sweeter wines as evinced by this tangy local wine. Made from the Concord grape, this juicy, light-bodied sipper is delicious with chicken livers sautéed with lots of shallot and blueberries.
The American Style
Boomtown Syrah, Washington State, $15
If I were to identify a uniquely American wine “style,” I’d posit rich, fresh fruit, generous texture and immediate appeal. This Syrah has all of this and more—ripe blackberries and Nutella with a hint of blue cotton candy, which should go well with parades and fireworks.
Available at Madison’s finer wine stores. If unavailable, most purveyors will special order from their wholesalers if requested. Michael Kwas is wine director at L’Etoile restaurant. He writes this column monthly.