Ask most people on the street which country they think has the highest export in wine sales and most will say France, Italy, or Spain. America would seldom be mentioned, but in reality, it is clearly in the running, with more than $1.6 billion in American wine being consumed in 2015. With a 78 percent jump in sales during the last decade, we are moving into a dead heat with the 'traditional 3' leaders of wine consumption. And, to break it down even further, California is responsible for 90 percent of all exported wines.
In my early years living and working in Fargo, I would look forward to participating in the Jim Lauerman St. Patrick's Day race. It broke winter's spell and invited spring to begin making a serious arrival. The race was followed by green beer being quaffed by all who participated. Over the past decade or more, I've had to give that little challenge up due to mechanical knees replacing my original equipment, and wine has worked its way into my life to replace the green beer.
The only way to learn about wine is to taste it, and that's exactly what I did recently at a wine tasting while vacationing in Florida, and back home here, in Fargo, North Dakota. My Florida tasting was from the Brotherhood Winery — the oldest continuous winery in America, which is based out of New York.
This completes my third year of writing "The World of Wine" column, and I celebrate the advancement I've made in the growing appreciation of wine. It is one of those paths in life that one wishes he had started much earlier. Drinking wine alone is something I have difficulty doing. As an extrovert, the allure of wine demands that I share it with someone, a gathering of friends and a selection of food.
Full disclosure: Until about 16 or so years ago, my knowledge of anything known as a mimosa was a novelty herb-like woody plant known also as the sensitive plant — Mimosa pudica. When barely touched, the leaves would fold, making it a novel houseplant for people to play with. My initiation to the mimosa drink — orange juice and Champagne in equal measures — was on a trip to the west coast on Amtrak's Empire Builder, when the conductor offered my wife and me a mimosa as a refresher prior to dinner. We said yes, enjoying every sip.
In a recent survey of the wines in my cellar, I found a preponderance of malbec. Why? The reason for me is something I call 'wine security'. This is the equivalent of what our grandparents referred to as financial security back in the days when people were taking their money out of banks and putting it under their mattresses. What makes malbec unique to all the wonderful other red wines that are offered — the pinot noirs, zinfandels, cabernet sauvignons, syrahs and merlots?
Our daughter, Amanda, very thoughtfully gave us a wine and chocolate gift for our 40th wedding anniversary, which was appreciated and totally enjoyed. Such a combination would be a hit for your Valentine as well, but being a retired horticulturist, adding flowers would make your romantic intentions crystal clear. The next question then is, which wine and chocolate would go with the flowers?
My career in horticulture and my interest in wine run on parallel tracks. Good horticultural practices can lead to a healthier environment and that leads to the occupiers of the environment living a healthier life. The same can be said of moderate red wine production — or at least it has been circumstantially shown that those quaffing a glass or two on a daily basis, along with other healthy life habits, may live a longer, healthier life by lowering risk of heart attacks, dementia and strokes.
With a good eights weeks left of cold weather facing us in the upper Midwest, my thoughts turn to everything warm, or better yet, hot. I have praised Irish coffee as one of my favorites in past columns and still do. There are, of course, many other drinks with high appeal that are not combined with coffee that can be used to 'heat' your heart and soul up during these cold dreary nights. The ultimate simplicity in drinks of this nature would be to combine a strong, zesty red wine like zinfandel, Barolo, barbaresco, or Madeira with spicy, caffeine-free tea.
Barbaresco and Barolo are Denominazone di Origine Controllata e Garantita (DOCG) wines, which means the government guarantees the wines' origins. Both of these wines are capable of long aging and amazing complexity. Originating in the Piemonte (Italian for Piedmont) region of northwest Italy, nebbiolo is finicky about where it will grow and ripen with any degree of dependability. While the movie "Sideways" got the pinot noir grape the spotlight as far as being the world's most finicky grape to grow successfully, the nebbiolo grape has to be a close second.