As the fireworks rage and the barbeques smoke and bellow this July 4th, the cans of High Life crushed on dimpled foreheads and Mike's Hard Lemonades sloshed back in mighty, diabetic gulps, one is left to wonder why there isn't a wine that symbolizes the American spirit similarly. On New Year's Eve we toast with Champagne or sparkling wine as if the French invented the holiday and sing "Auld Lang Syne" as if Robert Burns was Baby New Year himself. Our celebration of our Independence resembles more a rag tag Hillbilly Fallujah than a marked and poignant remembrance of our Nation's emergence. I'd love to see our wine industry take a stab at marketing the 4th as a wine-centric event like NYE. Maybe if only long enough to raise one glass and shout a mighty "Huzzah!," but to do so anyway, convincingly, and with a unified spirit of purpose.
But what to fill one's cup with? Zinfandel? Petite Sirah? Chardonel? Jo Diaz makes a convincing argument for the dark and brooding Petite Sirah here, and I'd buy it, too, if I thought you could actually drink Petite Sirah with anything other than a giant steak, a lamb, or an elk. Zinfandel is too Croatian and Chardonel is disqualified for being a hybrid (I really only brought it up because I had one once and it was decidedly un-terrific). This leaves us with only one clear choice: Norton. Norton is an indigenous variety of the Vitis Aestivalis species, and is grown only in North America, but most famously in Missouri. The best way to describe wine made from Norton is "purple-y", in my experience. Haven't heard of it? That’s because it actually doesn't do very well in California, that place of Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, all Frenchified and stuff. So what if we all rallied around a Norton producer from Missouri or Georgia and bought a bottle every year for the 4th? What if we cultivated a relationship with wineries in Virginia that are embracing this American classic (it is said that US Grant stocked his presidential cellars with the stuff)? What if, what if, what if?
As a gal who came to Oregon via Missouri, I tip my hat to your Norton theory. However, Independence Day is all about barbeque and fireworks, hot weather and flip-flops. Only in Oregon are we still enjoying red wine during the day, as summer has yet to actually begin here. Elsewhere in our great nation, and this past year especially, summer has been going on for months - long before its actual calendric date would indicate. In places like Norton's preferred growing region, summer has already reached a scorching crescendo. As I write this, it is a balmy 93 degrees Fahrenheit at 11:30pm in Missouri. I say America needs whites – crisp, refreshing, chilly whites – to go with our potato salad, grilled chicken and blistering heat. We're all about the blending of cultures in our country, so why not allow for the adoption of something with its roots on another continent? After all, that’s who we are as a nation, isn't it- a melting pot of different cultures that fought to gain independence from their oppressive former nations? With that in mind, I vote that we make something like Sauvignon Blanc our 4th of July wine. While it might have its roots in Bordeaux, there the grape’s name is hidden behind the region or village name – oppressed, you might say. In America, it has found its freedom. So let's toast a chilled glass of crisp, clean, fruity, refreshing Sauvignon Blanc at our hot summer 4th of July picnics this year. And, hey, why the heck not… Huzzah!!