Producer: American Wine Project
Region: Upper Mississippi Valley AVA (Iowa)
Vineyard: Amwell Ridge & Pheasant Hill (Estate)
Blend: 100% Brianna
Winemaking Notes: barrel fermented in neutral oak, 25% malo-lactic fermentation
Production: 90 cases
* Review sample provided by the winery
American Wine Project 2018 "Summer Land" Brianna
Brianna is a cold-hardy, interspecific hybrid (V. labrusca and V. riparia) white grape variety developed by the Elmer Swenson – and upper midwest grape legend who introduced many grape varieties that could survive the region's sometimes-harsh climes.
I tasted my first-ever wine made from Brianna many years ago. It was grown and produced by Hudson-Chatham Winery winemaker Steve Casscles, but it wasn't a commercial release. Since then, I've tasted a handful of other examples from the Northeast and Minnesota.
I'm far from an expert, but it's not a grape that I've found to be particularly exciting. Like many hybrid varieties, taming the acidity seems to be a challenge (with residual or added sugar the most-common remedy). The versions I've tasted tended to a bit hollow as well, lacking mid-palate concentration.
American Wine Project is in Madison, Wisconsin, but the grapes that went into this wine were grown in eastern Iowa. Owner-winemaker Erin Rassmussen's approach – neutral oak fermentation with extended lees contact and 25% malolactic fermentation – softens the edges just a bit and brings more weight on the mid-palate. It seems a smart approach to this grape.
The nose is ripe with peach and pineapple fruit that is drizzled by wildflower honey. There is a slightly foxy note here as well, but it brings some complexity rather than distracting.
The lighter-bodied palate deftly balances tropical fruit and floral-foxy flavors with a little creamy roundness on the mid-palate with plenty of acidity and focus. Long and crisp, the finish brings some orchard fruit skin and spicy lees qualities.