Great Wines for 2020, Part II

Abacela’s Chaotic Ridge Parcel. | Courtesy Abacela Winery

As the Sharks so enthusiastically sang in the movie “West Side Story:” “I like to be in Am-er-i-ca,” especially in this installment of our 2020 wine adventure.

Let’s start in the heartland and visit Norton in Missouri. No, not Ralph Kramden’s best friend Ed Norton, but the indigenous American grape of the same name. Why this grape has not garnered fame and fortune can only be attributed to bigotry because wine lovers worldwide refuse to allow any American grape into their country clubs. But this underdog, born of the heartbreak research project of a widowed Dr. Norton in Virginia and moved to America’s prairie land shortly after birth, doesn’t care what others think, it just does what it does — grows and ferments into structured and delicious red wine mostly in Missouri, Virginia and Georgia. I suggest the Missouri versions because they are the most evolved. Nortons go great with — you guessed it — American cuisine: fried chicken, barbecue, mashers and peppery gravy. You bet.

Read Part I.

Now we are off to New York where we meet the lovely Seyval Blanc. Demure and sophisticated and not afraid of a little chilly weather, Seyval Blanc gracefully creates both dry and sweet wines that remind me of a light-bodied love child of Riesling and Grüner Veltliner. It goes with sweets, but also spicy Asian cuisine; dry versions waltz with salads and veggies as few can.

Why this grape has not garnered fame and fortune can only be attributed to bigotry because wine lovers worldwide refuse to allow any American grape into their country clubs.

Southern Oregon’s Rogue, Applegate and Umpqua valleys are veritable think tanks for wines from unique varietals. Abacela Vineyards and Winery in Roseburg is a thought and action leader here with multiple, different wines each vintage, the majority of which are out of the box and, more importantly, delicious. It also farms some of the steepest vineyard terrain anywhere; one vineyard is Chaotic Ridge Parcel, which along with climate and soils, translates into real terroir in the bottle.

As we know, all U.S wine roads lead to California. But where do we find outliers here? Valid question because California has as many climates and geologies as most continents; it really does excel with all of the usual suspects leaving little motivation for vintners to pursue oddball wines.

A good strategy is to look at lesser-grown grapes from prime viticultural regions. This shows that the winemakers are committed because they could clearly be making more moolah by selling the local favorites.

An example is Massican’s northern Italian white varietal wines from Napa Valley. Owner Dan Petroski grew up in an American Italian family in Brooklyn, so maybe the juice of Ribolla Gialla and Tocai Friulano, two of his favorite cultivars, is running through his veins. They are not inexpensive for whites at around $40 plus, but well worth it and comparable to Italy’s best.

Tune in for our next yellow brick-road trip in the next edition or at TheTahoeWeekly.com; click on Local Flavor: Wine Column.