Saturday, January 19, 2008

Wine cred? Part I -- These places make wine???

I can't remember exactly when I graduated from the cheap, sweet stuff to "real" wines, but it must have been before 2002, when my husband and I stumbled in to -- and, admittedly, out of -- the Georgia Wine Fest. A group of my friends from graduate school and we had all chipped in and rented a large cabin near Helen for the Memorial Day weekend, and after a morning of tubing, we decided to go wine tasting at the Habersham Winery. Being graduate students, we tended to be unaware of the details of the world around us, and although we noticed that there were a lot of people in Helen that weekend, we were surprised that there was actually a festival dedicated to showcasing Georgia wines. The wine bouncer at the door told us that tickets were fifteen dollars. Some in the group thought it was a great deal: all the wine you can drink for fifteen bucks, and you get a glass! We thought it would be a good chance to taste wines that we wouldn't find elsewhere. That's where we got our first "expensive" bottle, a $24 bottle of Merlot (hey, we were in grad school!), and where we were exposed to wine culture for the first time. Georgia may be a strange place to start, but you've got to start somewhere.

Georgia was only the first odd place that we tasted wine. We've also tried wines in Arkansas, which has one plateau with the perfect micro-climate for growing wine grapes. Remember season one of the Simple Life television show? Okay, me, neither, but I don't watch reality t.v. That's the area where it was filmed. As if the proximity of Paris Hilton's and Nicole Ritchie's launch to fame to the wineries wasn't odd enough, Arkansas wines are the only ones that are allowed to be sold in the grocery stores, or at least that was the situation when I lived there in 2003-2004. For all others, I had to go to a liquor store. No, I never saw Paris, Nicole, or Bill. The Arkansas wines tended to be a little sweeter due to the German heritage of many of the wine-makers.

The third unexpected place we've tasted wine is around the Research Triangle area of North Carolina. Apparently the big wine growing area is in a different part of the state, so I don't really feel it fair to give an opinion of NC wines quite yet. Let's just say that they must be serious because there's a winery and tasting room right by the airport (Chatham Hill).

Just to clear up any confusion that I'm a wine freak who only tastes in states that are a) convenient or b) not usually thought of as making wine, I do plan to chronicle my husband's and my trips to California (Sonoma County) and the Pacific Northwest (Willamette, Okanagan Valley, and various areas in Washington) in the future.

My husband's and my long-term goal is to taste wines in all of the states that make it. This should be an interesting journey. The short-term goal is to enjoy all the wine we brought back from our last trip.

Wine of the evening: Windmill old-vine Zinfandel, California
Like a lot of the zins from the Lodi area of California, this one is big and fruity as well as very smooth. It's the wine of the evening because it pairs really well with chocolate.

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