I learned three things on a recent visit to Tennessee. I don't like frog legs, speed limits in Kentucky seem to be merely a suggestion and Beachaven Winery in Clarksville is quietly making some very good wine.
Now, about those frog legs. We stopped at an out of the way seafood restaurant in southeast Missouri and they were simply part of the platter we ordered.
Despite my wife's objections and mutterings of "I'm not eating any frog legs," I figured they would be good. I mean, all those good citizens of Louisiana can't be wrong, can they?
Anyway, no more frog legs for the foreseeable future. But let's skip ahead to the wine.
Clarksville has the advantage of being above the sweltering heat of the deep South, but below the cold of the Northeast, and its climate works quite well for white wines in particular. Pair that with a winery committed to quality and you've got the ingredients for some fine wine.
What I want to see when visiting local wineries outside of California and the West Coast is what varietals they are producing and whether they are actually growing the grapes, or just buying someone else's surplus.
This is where I tread carefully and try to avoid snobbery.
There is some pretty good wine being made from certain hybrids, and some decent wine being made from a few native American grapes. But not much.
At Beachaven, they are producing Tennessee Chardonnay, and making varietals such as merlot, syrah, riesling and viognier from grapes grown elsewhere in the United States. They are also growing such hybrids as vidal blanc, seyval blanc, and chambourcin.
You may or may not know that French hybrids grow well in the United States, but are not seriously considered in the world of fine wine. In fact, they have no legal status in the French Appelation system, but can make very good wine nonetheless.
Beachaven's classic white, a blend of vidal and seyval, is described by the winery as "very much like pinot grigio." I paired the bottle, a dry white, with a vegetarian pasta and found it worked quite well
Melody, an off-dry white, is a blend of seyval blanc, catawba, and cayuga white. It is very floral and I thought it was so much like viognier, I decided to taste them side by side.
At dinner, I poured Melody in one glass and Incognito, the viognier from Micheal-David Vineyards in Lodi, in another. Tasting blind, my wife could easily distinguish the two, but the reason was the sweetness of the Melody, not the taste itself.
In fact, when I tasted them, knowing which was which, I was amazed at how they were different on the nose and on the finish, but nearly identical on the palate. Both matched very well with apricot glazed pork chops, but I found the Melody to be too sweet without enough backbone for the grilled swordfish I also paired it alongside.
Beachaven is an award-winning producer who will ship outside Tennessee if you live in a state where such purchases are legal. Visit them in Clarksville or at www.beachavenwinery.com and see for yourself.
And if you're driving through western Kentucky, step on it or get out of the way.
Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org . Until next time, happy pours.