Maybe this is the year to try local grapes?
You can make some new friends and possibly help out your neighbors if you are willing to take a look at grapes that grow in your area.
We get grapes from all over: Chile, Argentina and South Africa in the late spring and Europe, California and the Finger Lakes in the fall. There are so many choices, you can feel like a kid in a candy store. To be completely candid, although the grapes have been to some exotic places, I get them through a distributor, Musto Wine Grapes in Hartford, Connecticut. I enjoy picking up the grapes but exotic it isn’t.
In the Capital District of New York, now part of the Upper Hudson Valley AVA, we have a good selection of grapes that thrive in this climate. At one point, Maquette, and Frontenac seemed the signature red grapes and now there are some others. Once for fun, we made an Amarone-style wine from Marquette that was rich with tannins, flavorful and dark as sin. There are a variety of whites as well and my favorite has been LaCrescent, a voluptuous big shouldered white with assertive stone fruit tones and impressive Brix. high Brix.
I didn’t start out to sing a love song about the grapes of the upper Hudson. My thought is that in your region, local farm wineries have probably been restricted from their traditional markets due to the coronavirus and may have a surplus this year as well as unsold stock from last year. Farmers’ markets and farm sales have certainly been muted and vineyards might have extra grapes to sell to home winemakers. It might be a good opportunity to meet some nice people who have gone pro and expand your palate and winemaking repertoire. You could help your neighbors, maybe save some money and minimize your travel. A word of caution: European red and white wines are often the gold standard of wine making and hybrid grapes often fall short by that measure. That is not to say you can’t make juicy aromatic wines with those grapes because you can. Hybrids were developed for our range of climates and you can find hybrids that outperform vinifera (European) grapes in the same vineyard. Be prepared to watch Brix, pH and tannin levels and adjust. Remember, blending isn’t cheating if a good wine is the result.