Saturday 24 February 2018

American Dream

Nature background with Vineyard in autumn harvest. Ripe grapes in fall.
Nature background with Vineyard in autumn harvest. Ripe grapes in fall.

Corinna Hardgrave

While a certain tee-total individual may be busy making America great again, as others steel their nerves by gazing into the bottom of a glass, there will no doubt be a resolute clinking of glasses this weekend as the celebrations for the USA's Independence Day on Tuesday get under way. In keeping with Fourth of July tradition, the White House will greet a procession of dignitaries, followed by parades, fireworks, and live music to salute the American dream. But Trump himself will be toasting the day with an alcohol-free glass, "Not that there's anything wrong with that", as Jerry Seinfeld said in another context.

While Trump is not the first president to forswear drink - George W Bush banished the divil from his highly indulged palate on his 40th birthday, quite a bit before he upgraded to the oval-shaped office, and Jimmy Carter was bone dry in his hospitality during his reign - Trump does hold the distinction of being the only US president to have shied away from drink throughout his life. Fr Mathew would be proud.

As I am married to an American, whose mother was born on July 4, this is always a day for celebration in our house. If we celebrate in the US, Californian Chardonnay with steamed lobster on one of Maine's wonderful wharfs is the order of the day, but beyond the shores of those 50 states, I tend to forget to seek out American wines. This is something I have started to change.

In case your reference point for American wine is a blush pink, easy drinker loaded with sugar, it's time to think again. While Zinfandel may be used for rosé, which is the number one wine for export, people are discovering that there is a lot more to American wine than the low-cost, high-volume supermarket wines. California, with its Mediterranean climate, is the number one producer, and Washington state and Oregon come in strong as the next biggest states producing quality wine.

In the US, rather than the Zinfandel blush we so often see, the top varietals are Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Blended Red, Pinot Grigio/Gris, Merlot and Pinot Noir. And Pinot Noir is the breakout star. It's not just the Sideways effect - cooler climate wines are the hot trend in the US and at the recent London Wine Trade Fair, Pinot Noir made a big impact. Much of this comes from the fact that wine buyers and sommeliers outside of the US are beginning to realise that top US wines offer great value for money and, at the same time, consumers have started to trade up to more premium bottles.

But it's not just about the perfect climate for growing grapes which have global appeal. California takes sustainable practices in vineyards seriously and organic is becoming the norm. Trump may have withdrawn from the climate agreement, but the state of California hasn't. Mendocino County in California is one of the greenest agricultural growing areas in the world and has the highest density of organic vineyards globally.

Of particular note is Parducci Wine Cellars, where a water conservation programme captures, treats, and reuses 100pc of the water used in winery operations, and the wildlife habitat in the wetlands beside the vineyard provides biodiversity and a natural system for managing the vineyard's pest population. This all makes for very good wines, so do check out wines from Mendocino, as well as other regions of California, Oregon and Washington State.

4 wines to try...

Atalon Pauline’s cuvee 2011

14.5pc, €27.45 O’Briens

Sideways may have shunned Merlot, but this beautiful Pomerol-style Merlot is a stunner. With an intense aroma of ripe plums, cherries and a touch of spice, this beautifully structured wine is rewarding on the palate. Worth every cent.

Cambria Estate Julia’s Vineyard Santa Maria Valley Pinot Noir 2012

13.5pc, €29.95, O’Briens

The cool climate of Santa Barbara County’s Santa Maria Valley ensures that this beautifully crafted Pinot Noir is awash with lots of red fruit — rich cherry and raspberry with notes of vanilla and spice. Perfect for a special occasion.

Parducci Chardonnay 2011

13.5pc, €23-24.95, Redmonds of Ranelagh, Jus de Vine, and Blackrock Cellar, all in Dublin; Parting Glass, Enniskerry, Co Wicklow; and leading independent off-licences

Lively and well balanced, the flavours of Asian pear, apple and wildflower honey in this Chardonnay finish with a touch of vanilla and nutmeg.

Ravenswood Zinfandel Old Vine Lodi 2011

13.5pc, €20, McHughs, Whelehan’s Wines, Donnybrook Fair, all in Dublin; La Touche Wines, Greystones, Co Wicklow

From the Sonoma Valley, this smooth Zinfandel has a delicious nose of ripe blackberries, cherries and plums. Round and easy to drink, there’s a touch of sweetness on the finish.

Irish Independent

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