Grazing: 'Sup, Montcalm La Crescent?
A few weeks ago at the Woodstock Farmers Market, I saw a bottle of La Crescent I hadn't tried before, from Montcalm Vineyards in Benson. I don't know where I've been, as many others have been sipping on this while I've imbibed beloved versions from Lincoln Peak and Shelburne Vineyard. At $14.99, it's comparable in price, so I took home one of the tall, slender bottles.
Once I realized the man behind it is Ray Knutsen, the bottle gained some backstory. Knutsen is an elder of the Vermont wine scene, planting the first vines at his Champlain Valley Vineyards in 1978 when cold-hardy La Crescent was just a glimmer in some oenologist's eye.
I didn't wait for a spicy dish to pop open his La Crescent — the only excuse it took was a sunny weekend afternoon, and a friend to join me. This wine was juicy and alive. Pale gold in the glass, it has intense and heady aromas, reminiscent of lying underneath blooming honeysuckle bushes and apple trees.
On the first sip, all of that flowery promise turned to summer fruit, with off-dry, juicy waves of ripe peaches, pineapples and melons floating on that floral undercurrent, and a crisp acidity keeping the entire thing lively. At a lowish 10.5 percent alcohol, it could be called a sessionable wine, if such a term existed. (Thanks to the beer drinkers for that.)
The wine's sweetness marks it as an able escort to Pla Goong from Tiny Thai or any other spicy fish or poultry dish — it's a fine subsitute for Riesling. Me, I just drink it on its own.