Wayne on Wine Sept 17 DSC 0184 2

PHOTO BY WAYNE CRAWFORD

Wayne On Wine

East Coast and Georgia wines

By Wayne Crawford

The Big Canoe Wine Group focused on East Coast wines for this month’s wine column, tasting 15 wines from New York, Virginia and Georgia.

What are East Coast wines? States east of the Mississippi River are considered eastern but that may not be a practical description when grouping wines by growing conditions, weather, climate and soil. States like Lousiana and Arkansas, for example, are more similar in wine-growing style to southern states, so defining the East Coast is a challenge.

Located in Stetson, Maine, the most northern winery in the east is Dragon Fly Farm & Winery, which grows cold-hardy vines like Louise Swenson, Frontenac, St. Croix and Marquette. The most southern winery is St. Petersburg’s Florida Orange Groves Winery, using all non-grape fruit. Air distance between the two wineries is 1,581 miles.

In the East, the leading wine states include New York with 385 wineries, Virginia with 287, Pennsylvania with 229 and North Carolina with 142. Today, in Georgia, we have 56 wineries. Winery numbers are dynamic and change annually.

If you live in Georgia, you likely are not familiar with the cold-hardy hybrid vines growing in Maine any more than Maine citizens are familiar with the 24 muscadine or 15 hybrid grapes grown in Georgia, along with 33 Vitis vinifera, one Vitis labrusca and one Vitis aestivalis.

In Georgia, our leading production grape is Carlos, a muscadine grape for white wines committed to wine. As a note, Georgia is the leading muscadine producer in the world. Georgia's leading European grapes are cabernet sauvignon, merlot and chardonnay. Trending upward in production are Norton, a Vitis aestivalis producing a fruity red wine and Blanc Du Bois, an American hybrid producing a very crisp, fresh white wine.

In New York, the leading grapes are concord, riesling, and Niagara. In Virginia, the main grapes are cabernet franc, cabernet Ssauvignon and chardonnay. The white grape viognier also is seeing wide acceptance in Virginia.

Complementing this tasting were four ice wines from New York utilizing vidal blanc, riesling and vignoles as the primary grapes. All range in age from 2006 to 2008 and three are produced by Wagner Vineyards and one from Hunt Country Vineyards in the Finger Lakes. All were luscious with honey, apricot and tropical fruit aromas and flavors and were priced in the mid-$20 range. The fruit in each wine projected varying flavor profiles.

We divided the tasting into two parts—white and red—providing a varied cross section in grapes. The best white wines included two from New York and one from Georgia utilizing chardonnay, riesling, gewurztraminer and petit manseng. Two red wines were Cabernet Franc and the third was a red blend.

East Cost wines drinking well now

Barboursville Vineyards 2014 Virginia Cabernet Franc Reserve, $23.99. A dark red wine with aromas and flavors of raspberry and black currant. This full-bodied, well-balanced, well-structured wine with a warm, round mouthfeel, lingering finish was our first-choice red wine in the tasting. Highly Recommended.

Tiger Mountain 2104 Cabernet Franc, Georgia, $28. This wine exhibits dark ruby-red color with violet, plum, blackberry and black currant aromas and flavors. On the palate, dark fruit dominates this balanced, well-crafted, medium-plus bodied red wine with soft tannins. This grape increasingly is becoming one of the best wine grapes in Georgia. Highly Recommended.

Chateau Morrisette NV Black Dog Virginia, $11.79. This blended red wine with cabernet sauvignon, Chambourcin and merlot is a dark ruby-red color with purple hues on edge. Aromas include raspberry and plum. On the palate, it offers a medium body and light tannins with fresh berry flavors dominating and some spice overtones. It is a semi-dry red wine that is fun to drink and a surprise choice in our blind tasting. Best Buy.

Stonewall Creek 2014 Boraina Petit Manseng, Georgia, $27. A full-bodied white wine that is 100 percent petit manseng, Georgia grown. It exhibits a light gold color. On the nose, lemon, lime and peach carry over into flavors on the palate. It is a balanced wine with a smooth, round mouthfeel, lingering finish, excellent structure and complexity. This wine was selected last year as the best overall wine in Georgia in the Trustee Garden Competition. Highly Recommended—look for 2015 or later.

Wagner Vineyards 2012 Estate Bottled Meritage, New York, $13.99. This wine is a light gold color with apple, pear and honey aromas and flavors. It is a full-bodied, dry white wine that is crisp and fresh with citrus flavors dominating the palate—an excellent wine at this price. Highly Recommended and Best Buy.

Wolffer Estates 2015 Long Island, New York, $17.99. This wine has a light straw color with peach, apple and white floral aromas. A blend of chardonnay, gewurztraminer and riesling, it is a well-crafted, crisp, light white wine with a medium finish. Best Buy.

Food pairings abound for these wines. The whites pair well with both soft and harder cheeses, salads, fruits, Chinese foods, white chicken, pork and fish. The red wines, particularly the Cabernet Franc, pair well with lamb and pork along with goat cheese and braised lean beef. For the blended Virginia, consider pork, sausage, pasta, Greek salads, pizza with meat toppings and goat cheese.

‘Drink what you like!’

My next article will focus on Cru Bordeaux red wines from Medoc, Franc—a wine classification ranked just below the five classified growths in the 1855 Bordeaux Classification, increasingly providing great wines at affordable costs.

Wayne Crawford is a French Wine Scholar (FWS), a Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) and a member of the Wine Scholar Guild, Society of Wine Educators and American Wine Society.

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