Domestic Wines that Continue to Surprise Us

Sometimes the most exciting and unexpected wines are being made closer to home.

Don’t get me wrong, I adore European imported wines, whether it’s a Vin jaune from Jura or a Sumoll from Catalonia. But sometimes the most exciting and unexpected wines are being made closer to home, perhaps because conventions of Old World winemaking don’t apply in the United States.

That’s why this week I wanted to highlight three wines from around the country, two from the Finger Lakes region of upstate New York and the other from Oregon’s Willamette Valley, two of the industry’s emerging regions. One red, white and Pet Nat embody these winemakers’ commitments to natural winemaking processes that let the grapes speak volumes about terroir. Some of the flavor notes on the palette may be familiar but the journey from vine to glass is anything but.

Bloomer Creek Pet Nat 2015

Bloomer Creek Pétillant Naturel Sparkling Wine (2015)

This is a blend of Riesling and Cayuga White from natural winemakers outside of Ithaca, New York. It is cloudy and golden in color with tons of sediment floating in the glass. Upon drinking, the wine is a bit soapy at first, with tangerine and mandarin orange acid, a bit of honeysuckle sweetness, and generous yeasty funk that lingers on the palette. Throughout the strong balance of these elements, a freshness also predominates, giving the wine a welcome levity as it opens up in the glass. The vineyard is also practicing organic, a rarity in New York, but they use a hands off approach to their advantage to highlight the full potential of the grapes native to the region.

Minimus No. 23 Noir

Minimus No. 23 Noir (2016)

Part of the Minimus experiments series, this wine challenges the conventions of what is accepted in Oregon wines. A blend of Pinot Noir, Gamay and Trousseau, it is a wonderful surprise: full of generous acidity and juicy cherry upfront with a delightful tannic grip, some vegetal and spice notes, and surprisingly long, tart and mineral-forward finish. This a lively wine now and will likely mellow out with age, given the abundance of fruit and acid. Though the winemaker said that these yields in 2016 are individually average, he remarked that the end result, through a careful co-fermentation process, speaks volume to blended wines as the next frontier of the Willamette Valley.

Bellwether Dry Riesling 2015

Bellwether A&D Dry Riesling (2015)

This wild fermented version of their signature Riesling from upstate New York on a bluff overlooking Keuka Lake is as pure and clean an expression of the grape we’re seen. Very pale yellow in color, the wine has an evocative nose of soft flowers, lime and earth. On the palette, it’s quite clean, a little bit effervescent, acidic with fresh green apple and lime notes, but has a lovely textured mineral structure with slightly chalky, wet stone qualities. This is a 9.5% ABV wine, which means it’s particularly enjoyable and quaffable on a hot summer day. But the mineral structure and evolving aromatics also make it well suited for a slow evening of sipping.

Stay tuned for next week’s post examining a host of sparkling wine offerings from Clos Lentiscus in Spain! 

enter your email below to sign up for our newsletter