Wednesday, December 16, 2015

TENNESSEE… The New Frontier?

My father, the acclaimed wine appraiser and consultant, William H. Edgerton, couldn't contain his glee. "When you're home from tour on layoff, I have this wine you have to try. It's from Tennessee." The minute he said it, I could tell he regretted spilling the beans; he would have much preferred tasting me blind and then dropping the origin bomb.

Wineaux, you know I champion wine from less-than-usual locales — and I did have an eye-opening experience in Arizona — but typically, I expect wine produced in the "outlier" states to be thin, forgettable, mostly sweet hybrids not really worth a review.

And then I tried a pair of offerings from Reedy Creek Vineyards, the Fallen Oak Alchemy (white) and the Fallen Oak Prophecy Reserve (red).

(It is winemaker Michael Reedy's philosophy that sales are better if he doesn't vintage designate his wines, or varietally label them either. Since he manages 50% of his sales in his tasting room, I can't argue with that methodology, but after tasting them, I certainly believe that these wines can compete in a broader market, and interested Wineaux will absolutely want vintages and varieties on those labels at some point soon.)

The (2013) Alchemy White is a Sauvignon Blanc, grown on slate and schist soils. I found it exceedingly quaffable, with appropriate white grapefruit, lemon curd, straw and floral notes, and not overly acidic. Would I confuse it with a similarly-priced SB from New Zealand or the Loire Valley? Probably not, but it's from Tennessee, people. And it heralds a LOT of potential. ~$21

The (2012) Prophecy Reserve is a blend of 75% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Petite Verdot. This knocked me off my feet! Complex flavors of red berries, cassis, cedar, smoke, and violets. Fairly acidic (which masks its tannins) and a good length. Quite tasty, and again, even more impressive from young TN vines. Also bodes extremely well for what may come next. ~$26

For now, Reedy wines are only available at the Tasting Room and at about twenty retailers across Tennessee itself. I, for one, would definitely be interested in a visit, as Reedy also has a Tempranillo, some Viogniers, a Riesling, Syrah, and even a "Port" made from Tennessee Touriga Nacional on his list. (What the what?!)

An email request for an interview went unanswered, but from conversing with my father (who visited Reedy at the winery,) it seems that Reedy saw the growth in neighboring Virginia's wine culture and speculated Tennessee might share enough in climate and terroir to also be a successful growing area. However, it also seems that he is far and away making the "best" wine in TN at the moment, as other winemakers continue to produce the "outlier state" versions I mentioned above; Reedy imagines that TN is several decades behind VA in regional success.

Savvy Wineaux have been aware for a long while that the growth of education, information, and techniques have led to an elevation of quality winemaking in many parts of the world. It seems time to turn the wine world's eyes to Tennessee, and see what kind of evolution Michael Reedy is sparking there!


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