Friday, March 14, 2014

Irish Wines for San Patrick’s Day

By Liza B. Zimmerman

While Ireland may not be the finest terroir for producing wine, many families of Irish background have long been involved in the wine industry all over the world. More than a baker’s dozen wineries in Bordeaux have been named after Irish families, including the well-known Lynch-Bages, which was founded by a French-born descendant of the Lynches of Galway.

The Irish community has long-lived roots in Bordeaux and elsewhere. The Irish helped launch the wine industry in America—and reportedly the oldest commercial winery in California prior to Prohibition, the San Jose winery, built by the Santa Barbara Mission in the early nineteenth century—was owned by Irishman James McCaffrey in the late 1800s. Towns such as Murphys in the Gold Country of California were also built by Irish immigrants and wineries like the Irish Vineyards—which produces Blarney white and red blends—still welcomes guests there today. Other California producers with Irish background include Concannon Vineyard, which started producing wines in the Livermore Valley in the 1880s. O’Shaughnessy, in Napa, produces some vibrant Cabernet Sauvignons, such as their Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon.

The list of current California producers of Irish heritage is long: Carmody Night in Paso Robles; Chateau Montelena (thanks to the Barretts); Gary Farrell in the Russian River Valley; the legendary Kathryn Kennedy in Saratoga, just south of San Francisco; Kenwood Vineyards in Sonoma; Thomas Fogarty in Woodside and Twomey Cellars in Calistoga

The Irish in Other Appellations
The Pacific Northwest has also been a hotbed of Irish-American influence. Standouts such as Shea in Oregon’s Willamette Valley and McCrea in Washington have Irish roots. The Irish have also have grafted rootstocks as far afield as Callaghan Vineyards outside Tucson, Arizona and Delaney Vineyards in the aptly named Grapevine, Texas.

Australia also has a long tradition of Irish immigration and Irish-owned wineries. A handful of the—too numerous to name estates—include Jim Barry Winey in the Clare Valley, Southern Australia; Leeuwin Estate, in Margaret River, Western Australia; McManus Wines in Murrumbridge, New South Wales (NSW); McWilliams Hanwood Winery, in Hanwood, NSW; and Penfolds in the Barossa Valley, in Southern Australia.
The Clear Creek Distillery in Portland Oregon also has Irish roots and produces lovely eaux de vie and grappas. And Today San Patricio Fino is among the lineup of dry Sherry brands.

A Green of a different Color
If your tastes veer to a lighter-bodied wine, that works well with seafood and may well have less tannins and structure, the Portuguese Vinho Verde is also in keeping with the green theme of the the holiday season. These quote unquote “green wines” have a bit of a pale green sheen and are incredibly affordable and pair well with so many lighter foods.

The bulk of them hail from the far northern part of Portugal, hard on the Spanish border. They tend to be light, slightly fizzy (not in a bad way) and pale in color. They are called green for their fresh and clean, “young wine” flavors. Gazela and Adega de Moncao are two of my favorites.

Cheers from DrinkUpNY!

Liza Zimmerman has been writing and consulting about wine and food for two decades. She is principal of the San Francisco-based Liza the Wine Chick wine writing, education and consulting firm. She has worked on staff and freelance at national magazines such as Wine Enthusiast, The Magazine of La Cucina Italiana, Wine Spectator, Where SF and the Examiner. She currently contributes to Cheers, Wine Business Monthly and the Examiner, among others.

Zimmerman focuses on demystifying wine and transforming it into a tool for business and networking for companies all over the country. Past clients include Genentech, Roche and IBM.

She has visited all the world’s major wine regions and is one of select few in the U.S. to hold the Diploma of Wine & Spirits (D.W.S.), the three-year precursor to the Master of Wine.

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