July 28, 2010

The Grape Escape: Locawino

I’m a locavore. I like to keep my carbon footprint as tiny as I reasonably can, and I support local farmers.

I’m a regular at the farmers markets, and during the growing season, most of our produce comes from regional farms or our own garden.

Meat? Poultry? We’ve sworn off industrial products. If I can’t get natural, humanely raised beef, pork, lamb or chicken from a Kentucky or Indiana farmer, I’m not going to dine on tasty animals at all. Ditto for free-range eggs.

So how about local wine? We’ve got plenty of small-farm wineries around the region nowadays, so it’s as easy to swear off long-distance vino as it is to cut back on food miles. Right, Mr. Critic? Right?

Uhhh … Well. Pardon me while I blush.

Here’s my story, and I’m sticking to it: Although I’ll pick up a bottle of Kentucky or Indiana wine for an occasional change of pace, I’m not going to commit to this for the same reasons I don’t buy local coconuts or bananas.

Some agricultural products — and wine, after all, comes from grape farmers — simply cannot shine in the Ohio Valley’s four-season climate.

Tomatoes and green peppers may thrive in our long, stormy, muggy summers, but grapevines really want to live somewhere like Napa Valley or Tuscany: a mild, Mediterranean climate that brings neither killing freezes nor humid summer days.

Look at wine as we do cheese: Capriole Farm makes outstanding cheeses here, but it would be self-sacrificing foolishness to forswear the great cheeses of France — or California. Kentucky’s Smith-Berry Winery makes interesting wines, too. I’ll enjoy them now and then. But they don’t inspire me to give up wine from Napa or Tuscany or the world’s other great wine zones. 

I disagree, Robin!

By growlur
Let me say at the outset that I'm a Robin Garr fan. I trust his reviews on Louisville restaurants more than anyone else. I also find his wine column fun and informative. However, I must take issue with him on the Locavore/Locawino piece. Actually, I'm taking issue with most local wine snobs (I can be one as well). Local wine snobs seem to talk out both sides of their mouths. As they attempt to educate the public about wine, they tell us that good wine is wine we like. Drink whatever your taste tells you is good. Alot of people in Kentuckiana and beyond are in love with local wines. Sometimes these are fruit wines or semi-dry whites and reds. Many of these wines are crafted right here in Kentuckiana or nearby by local artisans who grow their own fruit. I'm a dry red wine drinker who has watched the likes of Huber Winery, Smith Berry, and Acres of Land go from making mediocre red wines to producing some very nice products. I'm a little put off when local wine experts are so quick to write off our local products. Do we avoid local onions because they're not vidalia? Do we avoid local apples because they're not from Washington State? Now nobody in their right mind would say that our local wines can compete with world renowned wine regions like Napa and Sonoma and the old producers in Europe. But, it is quite impressive that we have local, hard-working people making very good wine in our backyards. It seems a bit inconsistent to say "drink what tastes good to you" on the one hand, but to essentially shun local producers on the other. Folks in Kentuckiana are voting with their feet. Local wineries are springing up everywhere. Friends are bringing local wines to parties (some of them are...gasp....wine snobs)! These wineries are not popping up (and staying open) by making substandard products that people don't buy. On the contrary, folks are getting in line to buy these wines. Local stores are giving more space to local wines and even serving them at tastings. So, with all due respect to Robin Garr, I say support your local winemaker. He or she might not be producing the world's best wines. But, he or she is often growing his or her own products, crafting them by hand, and will gladly discuss the process while you taste! Drink up, Kentuckiana. Drink local and, by all means, taste wines from all over the world so you can compare! Tony L. Sheppard, Louisville Keeping Louisville Weird is Possible Here!