Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Nebraska Wines

NOW, IF THAT headline doesn't get your attention, you must live in Nebraska.

The format of this entry is going to be a little looser than usual, so my Google-sent visitors will have to click away. Or, alternatively, bear with me. No, just click away. Go! Get ye to another website, with the information you want right there at the top of the page in tabular format, or better yet in an embedded YouTube video!

I was in Nebraska recently, on a business trip. One of my favorite fellow geeks, Terry, was at the same meeting. We've all had that moment, saying to ourselves, "Thank god so-and-so is here; this meeting is going to be survivable, now." Terry can geek out about our work, but as I discovered a few years ago, what makes him particularly awesome is that he and I can geek out about wine.

He's an appreciator, rather than a palate-policeman. A drinker, really, who loves great beer and good food, even if he can't always describe what things taste like. And as a long-time New Yorker, he loves a good bargain. When in Nebraska, we drink at an Indian restaurant called The Oven, which has one of the best (and most reasonably priced) wine lists I've ever seen. The food is great, and there are some delightful, hard-to-anticipate pairings to be encountered there.

So I was surprised when Terry invited me to go tasting Nebraska wines after our last full day of meetings. I was contemplating a lovely Willamette Pinot on The Oven's outdoor patio. Instead, we headed to a Nebraska-centric gift shop to taste six Nebraska wines each.

This was an education: I had never had wine made from a single one of the varietals on the tasting list. Frontenac; DeChaunac; Chambourcin; Marechal Foch; LaCrosse; Vignoles; and many more. They're sweet, unsurprisingly, given Nebraska's average temperatures and palatal preferences, and they're young. But some of these wines had interesting layers, and folks who like sweet wines should find Nebraska wines offer an astonishing variety for those who have been stuck with White Zinfandel and Gewurtz for all these years.

My favorites (as confessedly a fan of drier wines): Among the whites, I enjoyed the James Arthur Nebraska White. James Arthur bottles an astonishing number of varietals, but this white blend, of Dry Vignoles, LaCrosse, and Seyval, was fruity-sweet, rather than candy-sweet, and had some haunting notes of mineral and earth. It was also comparatively inexpensive, between $10-20. Among the reds, I enjoyed the Cuthills Chancellor, which had a bit of a Pinot Noir-like structure, and a delightful balance of fruit and earth. It was shockingly $32 a bottle, but for special occasions, or Nebraska state business dinners, it's more than worth it.

For Nebraska residents, I highly recommend the Nebraska Wine Tour, which you can find more about at http://www.nebraskawines.com. A hint: be sure you get up to Pierce, off the beaten track though it may be, because there's some good wine terroir a-borning up there.

As always, my thanks to Terry for enlightenment. I'm looking forward to my next Nebraska wine adventure.