According to the waitstaff, it’s the unofficial start of summer. The grill is heating up, steaks are marinating, shrimp kabobs are being threaded, and a gaggle of humans have appeared in the backyard. There’s the usual noises associated with such gatherings – loud talk, laughter, and the only welcome sound, the clinking of wine glasses.
We also heard several of the humans mention that this is Memorial Day. Now we don’t profess to understand most of what humans do or say, but we appreciate the desire to honor those who have fought to protect their home. We don’t always understand much of what humans fight about – but home is definitely one reason we happen to think is worth the battle.
Why do you think we become so incensed by the invasion of a strange cat?
So we’ve decided to turn our attention to wines that have a special connection to military veterans and to suggest that a toast offered to those who served could best be accomplished by holding up a glass of one of these fine wines.
First up is Valor Vinery, started by Josh Laine in 2007. Laine, an Iraq war veteran, makes a point of hiring veterans to work the vineyard. Many have been homeless, often desperate for jobs. The vines provide a safe haven of sorts, and the meticulous work required to grow and maintain the grapes can provide a sense of accomplishment as well as a way to soothe battered nerves and selves. The vineyard has come a long way in such a short time, having won several awards for its three wine varietals – Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Moscato.
2007 also saw the arrival of Mercer Estates. The Mercer family had been growing wine grapes since 1968, but current head of family, Rob Mercer, decided to add wine-making to the family’s portfolio. Mercer is a veteran as well as a fourth generation farmer, and his family has a long history of service in the military. The Mercer Estate’s Cabernet Sauvignon is always a top wine, one with a long finish and plenty of dark, berry flavors.
On the harder to find side, you may want to see if you can find a bottle from the Indian Creek winery in Idaho. The winery’s owner, Bill Stowe, spent twenty years in the Air Force. Now he’s producing some top-notch wines, including a deep and fruity port and a perfect wine for the start of summer, a rose made from Pinot noir. All the flavors you love in a Pinot noir, but with more emphasis on the fruit and flower side. Just right for watching a summer sunset.
And if you would like to do a little more to support veterans, we would suggest a bottle of Purple Heart Wine. Created to help raise funds for the Purple Heart Foundation, these wines are part of the Mondavi family, with master wine maker Ray Coursen at the helm. Coursen is himself a Vietnam veteran, and he took on the task of creating the wines for the cause with a profound sense of determination and gratitude. Though newcomers in the wine world, Coursen’s products have already won top reviews.
So no excuses – whether you prefer to say your toast with a glass of strawberries and champagne (Oh so Perfect!) or a more somber (though quite delicious) red, don’t forget to say thank you on this Memorial Day.