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My Wish for the Next Cool Thing

So much of our life and experience is based on outside influence – marketing, prevailing wisdom and the times.

I’m almost self-conscious to this, wondering if the financial crisis is going to imprint an indelible “Greatest Generation” thriftiness upon me, eschewing credit of any sort.

Yet, I know that the greatest gifts come from inside, my own understanding and principal. 

From a wine perspective, case in point of influence based on the times is clearly Pinot Noir and its incredible rise in the last 5 – 7 years, influenced in part by a certain movie.  Riesling is right around the bend, as well, this time from a grassroots movement from Sommeliers and wine professionals.

Another movement that we’ve seen in the media over the last two years is being green, eating local, a focus on heirloom vegetables, and the like.  Yet, the translation point of this “localization” hasn’t quite manifested itself the wine world.

However, as I spend a weekend at my family’s lake house, enjoying an Indian summer weekend, Notre Dame Football on the television, rustling leaves in the background, quietude on the lake paces from me, wine glass beckoning, I have one wish for the next new thing. 

I wish hybrid wines from LOCAL wineries across the country would become in vogue.

The fact is many of these wines are the showcase wines from wineries across the country – wineries that are not in California, Oregon or Washington.  And, typically, these are estate wines, the wines a winery hangs its hat on made from their grapes from their vineyard; not the Cab and Chardonnay from grapes bought elsewhere.

I’m talking about Norton, Chambourcin, Chardonel, Seyval Blanc – grapes capable of making excellent wine.

This thought came to mind on two different levels.  First, as I made the 2.5 hr. drive up to our cottage last night, sans iPod, I was relegated to winding roads through small towns and local am radio featuring country music stations and high school football games.  This is America for most of the country, not the idealized European fantasy.  Second, the thought came to mind weeks ago as I toured Creekbend vineyard, the estate vineyard of Oliver Winery in Bloomington, IN.

Viewing the vineyard, and then tasting the Chambourcin and the Traminette, these are good wines—not good wines for what they are, but good wines, period. 
And, they are interesting, conversational wines, as well. 

Sadly, this shift in mindset takes influence from the highest levels.  AppellationAmerica does this, but it will have to come from elsewhere, as well.  Popular wine media will have to get on the bandwagon, a notion they haven’t demonstrated much interest in aside from the occasional curiosity piece on New York or Texas wines.

That said, however, indicative of the times, though, is the fact that media is becoming fragmented and we are becoming our own change agents.

My wish is that local wines will grow in mindshare and awareness nationally.  When you’re out shopping, California mass market wine in hand, set it down and grab something unknown, nestle it next to the locally grown produce and the heirloom tomato and celebrate the local bounty.  If nothing else, forsake the outside influence and start it from within.


Posted in, Free Run: Field Notes From a Wine Life. Permalink | Comments (8) |


On 09/28, Richard Shaffer wrote:


I like the music you are playing in this post!

I was reading through Hugh Johnson’s 2009 Wine Pocket Book on a plane ride to San Fran earlier today, and he had these things to say (and others like them) in one of his intro essays:

“forget about the ‘world’s best’ idea…what you really want - if you are like me - is character and value, local (indeed personal) interest and the pleasures of variety.”

And later he writes that the rarest thing in wine is AUTHENTICITY “the picture of a place that a wine contains”

I like the way Hugh Johnson thinks.


On 09/29, Arthur wrote:


I agree. Besides hybrids, there are indigenous/native labrusca grapes which may not rival the vinifera grapes’ ability to produce seductive and complex wines, but offer unique character and diversity.

On 09/29, Arthur wrote:

I should have also mentioned that it seems the average consumer wants things they are familiar and comfortable with. For that reason, maybe, the hybrid and labrusca grapes are being pulled to be replaced by pinot, cab, merlot and chard.

On 09/29, Arthur wrote:

Sorry to hog the comment thread, but after reading Jo Diaz’s post ( it occured to me that maybe some of these varieties need advocacy groups.

On 09/29, .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) wrote:

Hey Jeff. This is perhaps your best post, ever. I especially liked the “this is America for most of the country, not the idealized European fantasy” quote.
  Speaking of Europe, in France, Spain and Italy, they have solved the “localization” quandry for wine in many locales. The “house” wines in many retaurants and bars are, and have always been, locally produced wines. Sure, you can look at a wine list in these haunts, but if you want to really experience the “place”, just ask for a glass of red or white.
  One early morning in San Gimignano, Italy, I watched a man push a wheelbarrow down the cobbled street. He had a barrel of wine that he’d just purchased at a winery on the main street and was walking it to his restaurant.
  Maybe that’s the solution. Restaurants in Bloomington pouring Chambourcin by the glass…

On 09/29, Martin wrote:

A few comments:

Oliver’s Chambourcin is incredibly yummy, food friendly, and IS in fact being poured at a few local restaurants, and the winery is trying to get it’s estate-bottled wines into restaurants around the state.  A few restaurants they sell to have a little trouble selling these “hybrids” but they are sure that with persistence, education, and tasting, these wines will prevail.  Heck, my parents by Chambourcin by the case.

Secondly, I could drink Old Mission Penninsula Riesling (Peninsula Cellars, Left Foot Charley, and Ch. Grand Traverse) EVERY night of the week.  Same goes with the bubbles from up there @ L. Mawby. 

Third,  an old fella’ by the name of Bernie Rink, a stodgy, stubborn proprietor of Bosydel Vineyards @ winery (100% estate bottled since the early 1970s), rails against midwesterners trying to imitate the wines of elsewhere.  He thinks distinctiveness arises out of these unique grape varietals (and he won’t be shy about letting you know).

All this coming from a vinous Francophile.

On 09/30, Jeff wrote:


Thanks for all of the great comments.

Steve - great to hear from you.  I think I’ve written over 750,000 words over the last couple of years, so to say this is a good post is good to hear, indeed.

Martin, great salient comment.  I, likewise, think the Chambourcin is yummy and I’m a fan of L. Mawby, as well!

Thanks for reading!


On 10/25, Örgü wrote:

Great report Rameniac! (^_^) I’ll have to try and stop by Ikeda on my next Japan Trip.


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