We’d like to make a toast. Here’s to the adventurous, restless American spirit. Never content to stay ordinary. Always inventing and reinventing. Respectful—at least most of the time—with regard to tradition but never bound by it. This American spirit is clearly evident in today’s winemaking. From coast to coast, an ever-growing coterie of artisans, scientists, technologists, growers and financiers are dedicated to making wine from unusual and exotic grapes, as well as experimenting with the processes in the creation of these wines. Evidence? We’ve got orange wine, late harvest dessert wine and ice wine, Trocken and Alsace styled Riesling, Kerner, Gewurztraminer, Rosé, Roussanne, Marsanne, Grenache and Grenache Blanc, Mourvedre, Viognier, Arneis, Vermentino, Primitivo, Moscato and—specialties particular to Virginia—Petit Manseng, Norton and . . . Tannat.
Introducing: a Port style wine made in Virginia from 100% Tannat grape, the 2013 STINSON VINEYARDS Imperialis. The unusualness and unfamiliarity of this should scare off no one, as this deep purple, lightly sweet and slightly syrupy digestif/dessert wine is highly amiable, luscious and cozy—made to sip sitting next to a wood-burning fire. There’s sumptuous flavors of ripe blackberry and blueberry along with notes of savory spice, black licorice, dark brown maple and smoke. It serves little purpose to linger in comparisons to Portuguese Port, as this wine is lighter (17% alcohol as compared to the 19-22% of typical aged Port), its texture more fleeting and delicate, and possessing a gripping, fresh acidity which makes itself plain on the finish. It’s a stately wine too, as stately as the drawing of General “Stonewall” Jackson of the American Civil War which graces the bottle’s label art. There is a nod to tradition here, particularly to the colorful history of the state of Virginia, but this is an adventurously modern wine, embodying the irrepressible forward-moving spirit of America. Cheers! –J.M.