The 2010 Mid-American Wine Competition at the Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) in Iowa this month provided a joyful journey off the beaten wine path. From native American and hybrid grapes that some consumers may have never heard of, winemakers are crafting wines that range from intriguing and pleasantly quaffable to downright lovely. Wines for this competition must come solely from producers in Mid-American states including Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee and Wisconsin. Here is a glimpse of some of my favorite award winning wines:
Stone Hill Winery 2009 Vignoles; Branson, Missouri: Awarded Best White Wine of the competition, this elegant Vignoles showcases tantalizing fruity aromas leading to a lush mouthful of fresh pineapple and pear flavors that enliven the palate. The vibrant acidity complements the generous fruit beautifully. This wine is artfully balanced and the lingering finish is lip smackingly delicious!
Beans Creek Winery NV Chardonel; Manchester, Tennessee: Chardonel is a hybrid cross of chardonnay and seyval. This tasty example opens with inviting floral aromas captivating the nose, and expands gracefully on the palate with tree ripened apple and pear flavors. A dash of caramel weaving throughout adds a nice touch of sweetness; an easy to quaff Gold Medal winner.
Wollersheim Winery 2009 Dry Riesling; Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin: Minerality awakens the senses and broadens on the palate alongside layers of pineapple, crisp pear, crushed stone, a splash of citrus and delicate floral notes. This lovely Gold Medal winner is a great wine to pair with Sole Piccata or any white fish or shellfish.
Augusta Winery 2009 Seyval Blanc; Augusta, Missouri: The fragrant aromas on this Gold awarded wine (a French American hybrid grape) steer the way to a pretty punch of fruit at first sip. Honeydew and mouthwatering summer melon flavors carry through deliciously on the palate. A light and refreshing pleaser that remains fresh and clean through the finish.
James Arthur Vineyards 2009 Brianna; Raymond, Nebraska: This Brianna (a winter hardy hybrid) with exotic, foxy aromatics is well worthy of the Gold. The enticing flavors enthrall the palate with a beautiful expression of tropical fruit accented by a touch of spice. Focused and lively through the finish, it simply dances on the palate.
James Arthur Vineyards 2009 “2 Brothers” LaCrosse; Raymond, Nebraska: Lacrosse is a hybrid that also does well in winter climates (a cross between Seyval and another Minnesota hybrid). This Gold awarded wine is delightfully fruity and lifted on the palate with sweet and tart tones intermingling tastefully from start to finish. Bright fruit with a hint of citrus, this wine sits pretty on the palate with a smooth texture and pleasing aftertaste.
Summerset Winery NV Frontenac; Indianola, Iowa: This Gold award winning (a red wine cross of French-American hybrid Landot 4511 and native American Vitis riparia) captured the Best Dry Red Wine award of the competition. This fine example of Frontenac supports the notion that DRY RED wines can and are being made in Mid-America. This handsomely structured red wine opens with alluring aromas of black cherries and red berries that expand and blast juicy fruit and spicy flavors splendidly across the palate. Lively and balanced with a hint of oak on the lingering finish.
Prairie Berry Winery NV Calamity Jane; Hill City, South Dakota: A Gold Medal winner that claimed the Best Off Dry Red Wine Award is crafted from the Native American Concord grape (a variety of Vitis labrusca). Inviting fruity aromatics leap from the glass and really grab your attention. This is a rich, round, juicy example of Concord wine that is zesty and full of liveliness with an impressive purity of fresh grape and berry fruit, and finishes with plenty of length.
Oliver Winery Harvest Flavors Watermelon; Bloomington, Indiana: This brilliantly hued mead (honey wine) captured Gold and delighted the judges with its appealing juicy watermelon aromas that stay focused and bright on the palate. Think of the sweet, fleshy core of a fresh watermelon. This wine joyfully screams summertime; I can picture it in the rainy winter months when I’m yearning for a taste of summer.
Prairie Moon Winery 2007 Winter Moon Vidal Blanc Ice Wine; Ames, Iowa: This beauty took home Gold along with the Dick Peterson Trophy Award. Intoxicating aromas of fresh sauted apple slices dotted with brown sugar and a drizzle of honey completely captivate the nose. Powerfully built with decadent layers of baked apples, creamy butter, honey and spice that coat the palate heavenly. The rich, viscous elixir has just the right touch of acidity to keep it balanced and bright through the memorably finish; wow – a wonderful dessert in a glass!
When your travels take you to the middle of the USA, don’t hesitate to stop and visit these wineries, and discover a number of others that can also be found in the Mid-American states; I think you will be delightfully surprised.