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Flurry of wine tastings reveal new affections

Ron Smith, World of Wine columnist

Wine tastings where you try something different than what you typically consume can either open a new discovery of something to adopt, or a thankful realization that this was something you probably will not ever drink again.

Fortunately, in this instance, the wines involved scored a touchdown in taste enjoyment.

The first tasting was for 12 zinfandel wines, from 12 different wineries and different vintages, accompanied by a wide assortment of food to sample while sipping our zins.

To say that one was enjoyed more than another would not do justice to the others. The three dozen people in attendance had total enjoyment in the event, hosted by the 4e winery in Mapleton, ND.

At the end of the evening I got to sample some of 4e's own product — marquette dry red wine — made from the grape with the same name. For those not blessed with the northern prairie environment, this is a grape developed to be Minnesota hardy and has genetic linkage to both frontenac and pinot noir. High in sugars as a grape, the finished wine is high in ABV at 14.5 percent, and aged in both French and American oak to give a good, well-rounded structure.

My next tasting, at another time and place, involved two wines from different parts of the world — Africa and New Zealand — both being sauvignon blanc — both 2015 vintages.

As expected, the grapes grown, harvested and fermented, are based on the objectives the two wineries want to achieve in their taste profile. The wine from Trinity Hill Winery in New Zealand was cool fermented in stainless steel tanks to maintain the fresh fruit character, giving the wine a fresh acidity with a balance of slight sweetness.

The other sauvignon blanc from South Africa's Western Cape region, employs a practice of only early morning harvesting to take advantage of the cool morning source sites — either a maritime environment or alpine regions. This wine from Mulderbosch Winery was noted for its very well balanced and long aftertaste.

It's exciting to witness the wines from these two countries making meaningful headway in the American and world marketplace. Competition like this keeps everyone in the business on their toes, which continually makes the products on the market for us to consider purchasing that much higher in quality.

We also had the opportunity to taste a wine outside my typical pricing level, and I was pleased to find that the Littorai 2010 chardonnay form Charles Heintz Winery in Sonoma County California. If you want a chardonnay that is remarkably different than any other one you've tasted, this is the one to go for.

Aromas galore or of spring flowers of jasmine, pear blossom and honeysuckle flowers greet one's senses upon bringing the glass up for a taste. And, the taste of course, doesn't disappoint. It is one of the smoothest enduring chardonnay wines you will ever experience.

Ron Smith, a retired NDSU Extension horticulturist, writes weekly about his love of wine and its history. Readers can reach him at