“Getting serious about midwestern wine.”

It was one of those awkwardly timed afternoons where, if I chose to drive home from my first meeting before my next, I’d only but have time to step inside before I had to leave again. As such, I opted not to return home and instead to strike out for my meeting out of town, knowing I’d be early but pleased to beat the rush of post-work traffic on Interstate 80.

Somewhere on the way, before arriving to Mahoney State Park, I realized how close I was to two wineries that Sonja and I used to frequent. Glancing at the clock and realizing I’d be extremely early to my meeting — even more so than I had originally thought, I opted to take a small detour to Cellar 426.

Upon stepping inside I first noticed the expansion of the tasting room, but more interesting was the expansion of the tasting menu. In particular, a series of reserve wines aged in oak — a practice often neglected in a market where sweet wines are king and twenty dollars is considered graft for most bottles.

The reserve LaCrescent and Marquette, hybrid varietals that are able to survive in Nebraska’s harsh and erratic climes, impressed the heck out of me. They aren’t “good for Nebraska wine” at all, they’re simply good, maybe even great, regardless of what they’re up against, and they cost a modest $20 to $25. I sipped and enjoyed and thought about how far the industry had come since I first started to write about it six or seven years ago, back when an Edelweiss drowning in residual sugar was every winemakers’ specialty.

I looked at my watch. I was four minutes from my meeting, and only that many from another tasting room. I had thirty-five minutes. A quick trip seemed in order.

Across the highway in Ashland, Glacial Till has also expanded their tasting room. It’s massive and as beautifully adorned as any in Napa. I was surprised to see how much had changed; there was a long row of cider on tap, with a sparkling Edelweiss in the middle. There were also Nebuchadnezzars and Methuselahs of midwestern reds on display and, presumably, for sale.

Glacial Till has always produced quaffable wine, but I’d dare to say they’re far better now than in years past, with dry red and dry white offerings, as well as a beautiful new sparkling and their infamous and excellent fortified wine.

I left yesterday’s brief outing having spent about twenty dollars (picking up another wine key for my collection) and having learned a great deal. There’s no question that the wine industry in Nebraska is making leaps and bounds, and the emergence of quality dry wines is an important factor. If you find yourself driving down Interstate 80 between Lincoln and Omaha, a stop in Ashland will offer two beautiful tasting rooms and a chance to try some of the best red wine being made anywhere in the American Midwest. It’s definitely a good way to pass an hour between meetings.

Cheers to growth and progress,

Mark

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