Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Supporting Local Wineries

Yesterday in her wine blog, Dr. Debs posted a great article titled "Living Not So Big Wine Life." In the post she listed five ways of making our wine purchases and drinking habits less about chasing numbers and pursuing the "best" wine and more about seeking wines that inspire us, that fit our life styles and are "sustainable in all the ways there are," such as the environment, your pocket book and local wineries. (If you haven't seen the post, check it out at Good Wine Under $20.)

I really liked what she had to say but the part about supporting sustainability made me a little nervous. As I understood the point, this meant supporting local wineries especially those that treat the environment respectfully. My fear was that my choices in wines would be limited. I recently went to a Portuguese wine tasting and really enjoyed the red wines made from the same grapes they use to make port. I love the earthy, dried cherry and spice flavors of a Tempranillo from the Rioja in Spain. And I've really been enjoying discovering white wines from Italy with their light but distinct flavors. Would I have to give all this up to support local wineries? It almost seemed a contridiction with another point made about being adventurous.

After calming down...and thinking...I realized that Dr. Debs article was not advocating drinking only what I could find locally. It meant making local more a part of my wine life. It meant not seeking those big, famous wineries that get all the scores to the exclusion of small, local wineries. Besides, there is a lot of variety, and the kinds of wines I've come to like, in my own backyard!

I did a quick search on Google maps to find out how many wineries are local to me. I searched in a 40 mile radius from my house. (If I had expanded the radius to 80 I would have included the Napa Valley wineries, but that would have defeated the purpose of this exercise.) The map to the left shows the partial results of the search, almost 40 wineries. Several of the wineries I have already visited didn't show up in the search and there may be at least a hundred wineries local to me. (Click on the map to see a bigger picture.) I know the message of the article was not to only drink from local wineries, but if I had to, I would still have a lot to choose from!

What's more important than the number of wineries is that these wine makers are growing some of the grapes I've come to love. The Sierra foothills is a great place to grow grapes for Rhone varietals. (Vinography recently said that the Granache from one of my local wineries, Cedarville Wineries, was one the best he tasted at the recent 2008 Rhone Rangers tasting.) Many growers in Lodi, Clarksburg and the Sierra foothills are growing traditionally Italian grapes like Sangiovese and Barbera or even lesser know ones like Primitivo and Vermentino.

You may not be as lucky as I am to live in an area so densly populated by wineries. But seek out local wineries. I was surprised when reading "Wine Across America" how many wineries there are all across the US. I used to envy the French and Italians because it seemed like every community had a winery associated with it. I know that that's not the case, but I'm not very far from having that situation myself! It isn't going to be very hard to support sustainability after all.

Here's an example of how I don't have to do without when drinking locally:

Tasting Notes:

2005 Bray Vinho Tinto: A blend of Portuguese grapes Touriga, Tinto Cao, Souzao and Alvarlhao grown in the Lodi area.

Color:  Deep ruby

Aroma:  Earthy, reminds me of a Rhone

Taste:  Just like a Portuguese red, but with less earthiness. Not a lot of fruit (just a hint of plum), but with a distinct, good flavor. Medium mouthfeel and tannins.

Finish:  Medium finish, tart with nice tannins



Dr. Debs said...

FANTASTIC! This is exactly what I mean about sustainability--not banning Portuguese wines from your life, but making sure that those purchases are balanced out by supporting the closeby, the small, and the often overlooked. Looks like you've got some treats in store as you go exploring. And now I'm off to Google map my 40-mile radius in search of wineries...

Thank you so much for such a great post. I'm going to post a link to it in the comments on the original post, too.

Orion Slayer said...

Thanks for the comment, Dr. Debs. And can't wait for you post about making 100 grapes!!!

Alex said...

Don't forget that wine tends to be freighted by sea so it's not as wicked environmentally as air freighted fruit & vege!

Having grown up in Adelaide, South Australia (where 'foreign' wine came from Victoria - why would you drink that?!) I've really enjoyed living in England and drinking European wines. You can actually get a bit too insular and parochial about your wine!

Orion Slayer said...

Alex, thanks for the comment. I wondered if this post would make much sense to someone outside the United States. Variety (especially in location) is the spice of life.

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