From the Bitterroot Valley to Misoula to the slopes around Flathead Lake, Montana viticulture is truly a continuing experiment. Extreme cold of winter, occasionally dipping as low as -20F, is the problem when it comes to vinifera, while cold hardy hybrid grapes have a much easier time.
The shining star of vinifera appears to be Pinot Noir, grown around Flathead Lake, where it's waters help keep temps a little higher during the cold winter periods. Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer and even Merlot show adaptability. Hybrids such as Maréchal Foche are favored, but all must also ripen in the very short growing season that typically provides just a May to earlier October window. That is a tough test at best, but dedicated soles are making it happen.
Not surprisingly, with such challenges, many wines are made with imported fruit from Washington, Oregon and California. Fruit trees, most notably cherry, native berries also are a prime component for some Montana wineries who care not to risk the efforts to grow wine grapes.
Take in those big skies and wide open spaces with a Montana wine. You will most likely have to go there to taste as few if any leave the state commercially.
The multiple appellations of Washington will be tasted in a unique banquet dinner at this years Washington Association of Wine Grape Growers Annual Meeting and Trade Show. Nuances of that regional diversity have been paired with the meal being prepared by Chef Dan Carr.
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