When discussing wine, the conversation often centers around the grapes from which it is made. Very few of us consider wine made from other fruits being of any significance in tasting status, which, of course, is incorrect. My first introduction to a non-grape wine was made from rhubarb some 15 years or so ago, developed by Maple River Winery in Casselton, N.D. It was overwhelmingly good — so much so that my wife, Betsey, and I decided to make some of our own from the rambunctious rhubarb patch in our backyard. Surprise to us, it was enjoyable.
If it were possible to ask my readers to raise their hands if they like Italian wine and food, I'm sure I would be confronted with a forest of raised hands. Little wonder, as Italy has mastered the winemaking and culinary crafts to perfection beginning with the establishment of the Roman Empire.
During my career with North Dakota State University as Extension Horticulturist, I traveled all over the state's 69,000 square miles of land, getting to know the good people and their potential for horticultural enlightenment or additional income. In my travels, I discovered many good places to grab an economical and healthy meal. One of my favorites was in Dickinson, where Jack's Family Restaurant served the best tasting borscht west of the Mississippi River. Without fail, I would have a bowl for lunch, and if I was on my way back to Fargo, I'd get a container of it for my wife Betsey, to enjoy — which she did.
If you are over age 40, you are either wearing bifocals or squinting to read this print. On this day in 1785, Benjamin Franklin invented bifocals, a fixture that has been a part of my life over four decades.
If President Thomas Jefferson was alive today, he would be pleased to see Americans enjoying wines from southeastern France for their regular evening meals. When some of our favorite wines — Burgundies and Bordeauxes in particular — became too expensive, Jefferson turned to what he called "country wines", Côtes du Rhône (CDR) from the Rhône Valley of southeastern France. These wines, in addition to being a bargain, are generally light, fruity and not offensive.
Cinco de Mayo is Saturday and, along with some fantastic Mexican styled food, there are some great wines to enjoy as well. Not to be confused with Mexico's Independence Day (Sept. 16), Cinco de Mayo celebrations the outnumbered and under-armed Mexican army's unlikely victory over the vastly superior French army at the Battle of Puebla on this date in 1862 under the leadership of General Ignacio Zaragoza.
Tannins are part of the biochemical makeup of living, fruit-producing plants. In high concentrations in under-ripe fruit, they remain unpalatable until a particular level of ripeness takes place. The fruit is considered most highly edible with a sugar content and acidity level that makes them appealing to the consuming animal. That consuming animal could be anything including an insect, a bird, or one of us.
This day in history has two possible reasons to raise a toast. On this date in 1956, the beautiful actress Grace Kelly married Prince Rainier of Monaco, depriving director Alfred Hitchcock of one of his favorite blonde actresses to use in his movies. It is also the date that San Francisco was devastated by a severe earthquake and subsequent firestorm in 1906. The first reason to raise a toast is to mourn her removal in movies for her admirers, and the latter to give thanks that another quake has not hit San Francisco.
When in the Burgundy or Bordeaux regions of France, the bottles of wine from those particular regions have distinct shapes. The high-shouldered Bordeaux bottle (also called the Claret) communicates the Bordeaux wines that make up the blend. The same goes for the sloped-shouldered Burgundy bottle. If it is a red wine in the bottle, it is pinot noir, a white wine, chardonnay. The bottles from the Rhine regions of Germany in their tapered, flute-like form will be a white wine such as riesling or gewürztraminer.
March is always the month of weather battles: wind, snow, rain, sunny, balmy days. Repeat. With the arrival of April comes more consistency of warmer temperatures and visible life returning to deciduous plants, including our regional vineyards. With nicer weather being more dependable, it is time to celebrate with some bubbly wines, Prosecco selections in particular. Italian bubbly wines are all made from the glera grape and fermented in stainless steel tanks, so they will typically have retail prices below those of non-vintage Champagne.