Okay, you caught us. Here we are claiming to be wine bloggers, wine enthusiasts, winos, what-have-you, and yet, if you trace our IP address, you’ll quickly discover that we live in Nebraska. Nebraska? What could we possibly know? When we speak to people outside of the Cornhusker state about wine, we always encounter the same stereotype, namely that Nebraska wines are entirely too sweet, “basically grape juice,” we have heard. And that’s if those we’re speaking with even know that wines are being made in the Midwest. However, we also find that these statements are most often being made by people who, upon inquiry, have never had Nebraska wines or, if they have, haven’t given them much of a chance. Point being, there’s actually some really lovely wine being made right here in Nebraska, and we would strongly encourage you to try some the next time you’re in the area.
Glacial Till winery is located in Southeast Nebraska, and they have a wonderful tasting room on the main street of the little town of Ashland, just off I-80, as well. This snowy Saturday, we stopped in once again with the plan to write a blog post and share the Nebraska wine tasting experience with all of you. We chose Glacial Till, though we easily could have chosen Deer Springs, Superior Estates, James Arthur Vineyards, or any number of other fine Nebraska wineries. We love California (as anyone who reads our blogs surely knows), but what we have to offer right here in the area is a blessing, and more than just worth mentioning. We’re excited to share today’s experience with you.
The moment you walk in the doors to the tasting room, you’re no longer in small town Nebraska. With the contemporary architecture, hardwood floors, exposed brick walls, and vaulted ceilings complete with catwalks, well, this converted old building could be anywhere we’ve been, from Brugge to Omaha. Heck, it could easily be transplanted into the middle of Sonoma’s wonderful and storied main street square and nobody would be any the wiser. But it’s right here in Nebraska, and that, to us, makes it all the more delightful. Adding to the ambiance is a lovely upstairs art gallery, with some of the best work by local artists that we have encountered, making this a more diverse stop, perhaps reminiscent of Imagery in Sonoma, than most other wineries one sees. While tasting, an experience that one can have for a mere pittance of $5, we also ordered the meat and cheese plate. The low price of the food was misleading; the meats and crackers were nice enough, but the seasoned curds of locally made cheeses made us wonder where we could get more, and enhanced the tasting experience overall. In the end, however, fine cheeses and ambiance are nice, but wineries are ultimately about one thing: wine. And in this area as well, Glacial Till more than holds her own.
Sometimes we find wineries that bank on fancy tasting rooms and kitschy gimmicks to make up for sub-par wines. Glacial Till is exactly the opposite. Though the tasting room is gorgeous and the smiling staff are knowledgeable and happy to provide excellent service, they are nevertheless overshadowed by the truly excellent wines the Murman family is producing. Their Chambourcin, a French varietal unique to the area, is comparable to pinot noir in that it is a well-balanced, medium-bodied wine, with more tannin than one generally finds in Nebraska wines and a kind, fruity finish that truly leaves nothing to be desired. Their Seyval Blanc is another phenomenal offering; the 2009 is darker in color being oaked while the 2012 is a light golden color, un-oaked, a tribute perhaps to the winemakers’ creativity and willingness to try new things. Both are excellent, as is their Zephyr, a white blend named after a favorite family dog, and a blend in his own right. And the award-winning La Crosse and Edelweiss, sweeter white wines that are crisp and balanced, are delights unto themselves as well. For desert wines, they make a Vignoles that is quite nice, and a port-style wine they call Prairie Fire; at $17 for a 500ml bottle, this fortified wine is a treat to the palate and easy on the wallet as well. In fact, all of their wines come in under $20/bottle, making all of them, all of them, truly worth trying. In the end, we left with a bottle of the Zephyr and a bottle of the Chambourcin, and, of course, a Glacial Till logo glass to go on our chandelier!
Glacial Till also makes various Sangrias and, as we recently learned, mulled wines and even the occasional fruit wine, depending on the season. Their new blackberry Sangria is light and crisp and makes us long for summer as the snow falls outside. While we were sitting in the tasting room enjoying a glass with our meat and cheese plate, a group of locals came in to order a pitcher. They must be longing for warmer days as well…
Over time, we’ve come to find that we really like the taste of the dirt in California. Wines from Sonoma, Napa, Paso Robles, Temecula, and other places possess a complexity, a fruit-forward nature, and a propensity for well-balanced tannins and acids that, perhaps originally, even turned two near-natives like us away from local products. However, spending some time this afternoon in one of Nebraska’s many excellent tasting rooms reminded us that the Cornhusker state produces more than just corn and the world’s best beef. We also make great wines. Our whites are becoming well-known all over, but Glacial Till’s Chambourcin is evidence that local wine makers can produce excellent reds as well. Every soil has it’s own personality; if you’re new to the area, ease into things. Or, better, look us up. We’d love to show you around. (It would give us a great excuse to come back soon.)