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
ABV: 12.9%
Price: $22*

* Review sample provided by the winery

American Wine Project 2018 “Summer Land” Brianna

American Wine Project 2018 "Summer Land" Brianna

87 points

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.

About Author

Lenn Thompson, a proud Pittsburgh, PA native, moved to Long Island more than a decade ago and quickly fell in love with the region’s dynamic and emerging wine community. A digital and content marketing and community professional by day, he founded in early 2004 to share his passion for the wines, beers and spirits of New York State. After running that site -- which became the premier source for independent New York wine commentary, reviews and news -- for 12 years, he launched in late 2016 to add the wines of Virginia, Maryland, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Vermont and beyond to his beat. Lenn currently serves as the wine columnist for The Suffolk Times weekly newspaper and is the former editor of the Long Island Wine Gazette. He contributes or has contributed to publications like Wine Enthusiast Magazine, Beverage Media, Edible Brooklyn, Edible East End and Edible Hudson Valley. Lenn served on the board of directors for Drink Local Wine, and is the creator and founder of TasteCamp, an annual regional wine immersion conference for writers and trade. An admitted riesling and cabernet franc fanatic, he’s intensely passionate about eating local and the many local wine regions of America. Lenn lives in Miller Place, NY with his wife Nena, son Jackson, daughter Anna and their dog, Casey Lemieux Thompson.

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