Kelly J. Hayes : WineInk
July 23, 2009
I am nearly two-thirds of the way through a drive across America.The trip is ostensibly the result of a buddy’s request for a co-pilot to help him maneuver his black Lexus from the east side of Manhattan to the west side of Vancouver. Truth be told, however, providing a helping hand is merely the subterfuge I used to justify the devotion of a summer’s fortnight to a road trip. The real reason I am here (Whitefish, Mont., currently) is a chronic case of wanderlust. I needed some time where anticipation of what is to come and discovery of things new are the high points of the day.That, and getting 800 miles down the road by nightfall.Last night, somewhere north of the Wisconsin Dells, a radio program crackled faintly across the airwaves featuring an interview with a woman who had recently written a book about the wines of Wisconsin and Minnesota. I knew that both states grow grapes and had bonded wineries, but I frankly had not given much thought to the upper Midwest as a viticultural region.For the next 30 minutes, I recalibrated the radio, switching from one decimal point to the next, straining to hear each word the author had to say about a subject that heretofore had not crossed my radar.”Marechal Foch is a significant grape in the region,” intoned Patricia Monaghan, who I later discovered was the writer of the book. She told the interviewer, whose knowledge of the region’s wines seemed to be on par with mine, “In Minnesota the rules are that 51 percent of the grapes in a wine must be grown in the state to qualify it as a Minnesota wine. This means that the wines reflect the terroir of the region.”Minnesota has its own terroir? Who knew?Some of you may have read my past ruminations about the geography, geology, biology, climatology, scientology (OK, scratch that last one) of wine. You know, all those -ologys that make wine interesting from a clinical or intellectual point of view. But, when you get to the heart of it, I think that, like most people who love wine, my joy is found in those same fuzzy, visceral things that make a road trip so worth taking: anticipation and discovery.Anticipation runs like an electrical current through wine. It begins with the planting of grapes when a winemaker first anticipates what the Pinot Noir (or the Marechal Foch, if you like), will taste like. Each season brings it own anticipation. Will it rain or be too hot? Will the bugs be bad? Will there be a freeze? Once harvest comes around, there is anticipation as to which day is the perfect one to pick the grapes. Can they hang for another couple of days, or are they best now?Once in the bottle, the anticipation changes to concerns about shipping, distribution and the unforeseen problems that can occur.Then there are reviews. A journalist tastes the wine and the winemaker must wait in anticipation of how the wine will be rated.For wine drinkers, anticipation comes from buying a bottle of wine that they look forward to drinking. You may buy a $10 bottle of wine to take to a barbecue, but if you like Zinfandel and baby back ribs and you’re hungry, well, then let the salivating begin. If you collect wines, you may place some in a cellar and look forward to how that bottle will age over the years, how much it may be worth in the future and how it will show once you open, decant and pour it.At the end of all that anticipation comes discovery – that moment when a winemaker gets the first taste from the barrel of the new vintage, when the $10 Zin is gulped while the barbecue sauce is still sweet on the tongue, when a road trip provides you with a radio program that sings the praises of Midwestern wines.Part of the deal when I agreed to take this trip was that we could detour 150 miles or so out of our way to visit the Okanagan wine region of British Columbia. Since the day I signed up for the 3,500-mile trek, I have been anticipating the people, the scenery and the wines of the region.I will report back soon on my discovery.
Kelly J. Hayes lives in the soon-to-be designated appellation of Old Snowmass with his wife, Linda, and a black Lab named Vino. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.