Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Even Closer to Home

When trying to talk about “local” wine experiences, I have traveled around my slightly larger than normal neighborhood of Wyoming and the Black Hills, which we know is not small.  However, I had a TRULY local wine experience recently when two friends and I had our own tasting of wines made by winemakers in my hometown.  Though these wines aren’t going to be making Wine Spectator’s top ten, home winemaking’s increased popularity just continues to show the overall regard for wine in general.  With this in mind, we lined up our bottles and glasses and started pouring. 

The first wine was called Verdant Winery’s Valiant Grape Wine from 2010.  This wine was very sweet, too sweet for my pallet, and the alcohol was a little too generous and hot for me as well.  Though this was my least favorite of the home brews, I did like what I could learn about this wine (and others) just from looking.  The cloudy, off-brown color clearly showed what filtering does for a wine.  Though this hazy tint affected the appearance, it didn’t affect the taste.  This wine looked worse (because of the lack of filtering) than it tasted.

Wine two was a non-vintage, blackberry wine without a producer’s name on the label.  The blueberry fruit was evident from the instant one looked at the bottle.  The color was a cloudy, gray-blue--again, evidence of no professional filtering.  This wine tasted less like wine and more like the grape Kool-Aid I used to make as a kid when there just wasn’t the full cup of sugar to sweeten the drink all the way. 

The next wine was a black currant and choke cherry blend, again, no vintage or winemaker on label, but the same wine maker also made a quality currant wine (the next on my tasting list).  This wine was beginning to look like wines we were used to with its clear color.  It was slightly sweet, but not overly so, with the taste of fresh watermelon. I am not sure what the winemaker did to get the beautiful, clear color, but obviously he had made some progress in his wine-making abilities.

The fourth wine was the Weston Country Fair Reserve Champion wine, a currant wine produced by a gentleman by the name of John Halloway (maker of the above black currant/chokecherry wine as well).  Once more, the clear color was beautiful and pink.  The smell was true to the currant berries from which the wine was made.  It was slightly sweet, but very well balanced, and the taste was also that of currant.  I understood why this wine was an award-winning, fruit wine.  Again, sweet wines are not my favorite, but this wine would have been worthy of pairing with strong cheeses before or after a meal. 

Our final local tasting for the evening was the Ten Year Red, a dry wine produced from an unknown varietal of grapes by a local named Jimmy Long.  This is the kind of wine I enjoy drinking, so I was hoping to be impressed.  Guess what?  I was!  My first sniff smelled of petrol, which can be good or bad.  Then I smelled leather and berries.  The wine itself tasted of tannin and strawberries, but was very smooth with a light finish.  We then decided to have it as our dessert when we paired it with dark chocolate and were once again pleasantly surprised. 

I will admit we started our local wine tasting adventure with some trepidation; however, all three of us agreed that these samples were not bad, not bad at all!  I believe there are a few local winemakers that have developed obvious knowledge of and talent in the wine making process.  I hope they continue their ventures into the world of wine.  I would definitely be in line to taste their future endeavors!