Tag Archives: Alaska

Alaska: Bear Creek Winery Strawberry Rhubarb

A fruit wine from Alaska...

A fruit wine from Alaska…

Last year, I read in an article that every single state in the United States now has at least one winery. At first, I was puzzled because I immediately asked “How the hell can Alaska have a winery????” (Nina is from Alaska, so I have at least a rudimentary understanding of weather conditions there….)

Some friendly bloggers gleefully pointed out that in the U.S., fruit wine makers actually qualify as wineries. Maybe it is just me, but it might also be the European in me that could only shake his head. Seriously? While I acknowledge that there is wonderful cider out there (aka “apple wine”) – although, at some point someone will have to explain to me how a bottle of cider can cost $20 -, I do not consider that to be a wine really. Same goes for any other type of “fruit wine”. In my world, wine is alcohol made from grapes. Period. The other stuff might be called “wine”, but the producers are definitely not winemakers. They might be farmers or millers or whatever, but not winemakers. So how can fruit wine producers call themselves “Winery”, that hallowed of all terms?

Sigh. End of rant. I still don’t get it. But, clearly my one and only Alaskan reader, one of my brothers in law (thanks Weldon!), was intrigued as well and gave us a bottle of Bear Creek Winery Strawberry Rhubarb wine for Christmas last year. We had a good laugh, and I vowed to try it (reluctantly).

And then spring came and went, then summer which we spent in South East Asia, upon our return summer was over way too quickly, and the bottle was still stacked in a wine rack (yes, we do have standards!)…what to do? Would it still be drinkable?

So, last Saturday, as I was preparing and heating up Glühwein (aka mulled wine) to make Feuerzangenbowle (literally “fire tongue punch”), a German winter tradition that involves Glühwein, sugar cones, lots of rum and fire (you have to have seen it to understand), Nina decided to throw the bottle in the freezer to chill it down quickly so we could have it before the guests arrived….and in time before I was leaving for Alaska to face my brother in law.

So, we tried it. In December. The rather well made label states boldly “Other than standard” and that the wine is made from equal parts strawberry and rhubarb. It is produced in Homer, Alaska (I’ve been there, it’s gorgeous), and has 10% ABV. It poured in a blush wine color and was immediately fruity on the nose (duh). Other than feared, it definitely had not suffered from waiting a year for its consumption. On the palate, it was fruity and fresh, the aromas as were to be expected, but it was neither in any way cloyingly sweet (as I had anticipated) nor boring. The rhubarb seemed to give it a nice acidic punch, and the strawberry was just fun. I have to say that I enjoyed it quite a bit. I can totally see us drinking this in summer on the porch, a nice switch from our obligatory Vinho Verde when we want something less citrussy.

We’re now actually talking about acquiring a couple more bottles when we are in Alaska for the holidays. Strike that. I just checked the price list and the Strawberry Rhubarb has a whopping $20 SRP (which makes it one of the cheaper wines on offer from the winery). And that, honestly, is not just a tad too much. Ah well, at least we were considering buying some of it…Who would have thought? Will my mother in law (and my mother, for that matter) stop referring to me as a wine snob? Probably not. But do I have a new found appreciation for fruit wines? For sure. Do I think they’re wines? Nah….

Also, given that I now have tried wines from several states (Alaska, Oregon, Washington, California, Michigan, New York, Texas, and New Mexico – I think New Mexico, not entirely certain), I think I will go on a mission to try wines from every state in the Union. Keep suggestions coming my way.

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Crush Wine Bistro and Cellar in Anchorage, Alaska

As a few of you might know, I spent Christmas with my in laws in Alaska. The first time I went to Anchorage was in the summer of 2009. And during that first visit, my now father in law decided to take this “wine snob” (my mother in law’s favorite descriptor for me) to the new attraction in town: Crush Wine Bistro and Cellar. It had just opened sometime earlier that year. It was a wonderful place: a rather small establishment in the heart of Anchorage, a great long bar and small tables filling the room. The staff was friendly and knowledgeable, never overbearing. It just had a good vibe to it. It gave me that feeling of belonging, welcoming me, a place I wanted to be in. Why is it so hard for all too many places to create that atmosphere?

Upon looking at the wine list I had to laugh out loud: Certainly, there were Gunderloch wines on the list. Gunderloch is a phenomenon: The winery is located in my hometown Nackenheim and has been available worldwide for a while now: I have found their wines in hotels in Seoul, Korea and pretty much anywhere else I have been (I visited the winery in June 2012, here are my thoughts). I told the owner and he informed me they had more in their storage. So he took me to his upstairs storage facility and there they were: magnums, double magnums, half bottles, lots and lots of Gunderloch. The owner loved riesling, and it was a lot of fun to talk with him. We had a great time that night. The wines we tried were good, the food was wonderful and like I said, the atmosphere was stellar. It was clear that the owners were still trying to figure out what their wine bar would be about and like, but I liked what I saw. I liked it a lot!

Over the last 2 1/2 years I followed Crush on an off. I had not been back over Christmas 2011, for whatever reasons, I don’t actually know why we never made it. Their Facebook site was growing, their chef won award after award, and clearly they were doing something (or a lot of things!) right. They were even named one of the Top 100 wine bars in the United States by the Wine Enthusiast in 2011 (not that I am fond of that magazine or its ratings, but still)! Somewhere, deep inside me, I was becoming uneasy about Crush. What if with that growth and praise they were changing, not to the better?

Well, no way to find out but going. So this winter we finally visited Crush again. We went there after dinner with two friends of ours, and the place was bustling on a Friday night. The staff was as cordial and friendly as ever, and I was pleased to see that the atmosphere had not changed at all: still the small place with the great bar. They also had made some nice changes, including the bar lighting which now consists of empty wine bottles with a light bulb in them. Looked really great, and gave me ideas for a home improvement project…

We put our names on the wait list and I spotted a bottle of Dr. Hermann‘s H Riesling, one of my go to easy drinking rieslings in Germany. I chatted up the guy in charge of the wait list and he told me they also had an Erdener Treppchen. We had a long chat, he was very knowledgeable, as was to be expected, told me to check out their upstairs sales room. It turned out they had followed through on their plans to turn the upstairs storage area into a sales room, aptly named The Cellar above Crush. I grabbed my buddy Will and we headed up there. And what a great selection of rieslings did we find: Dr. Hermann’s 2009 Erdener Treppchen Kabinett, two rieslings by a tiny producer with stellar wines (Loch winery), Dr. Loosens and other wineries I knew. It was incredible, especially because they only had about 250 wines in total, I would guess.

We grabbed the Erdener Treppchen, because it was also quite reasonably priced at $19.50 and had it chilled downstairs. By the time we got back down, the girls had secured a spot at the bar and we were offered complimentary sips of the H Riesling. We chatted with staff and among each other, the bar was still full and I was so glad to be back. One of the bar tenders was actually a classmate of Nina’s; Anchorage is a village.

After a while, a table opened up and we moved there. We took the Erdener Treppchen and enjoyed it there. I will write a review of the wine in a separate post, suffice it to say it fit our mood. After that, Nina and I shared a flight of Austrian reds (more about those in another post) and our friends had a Washington riesling. The wait staff continued to be friendly and attentive and we had a great time. We left Crush as they were about to close down.

A red flight at Crush Wine Bar in Anchorage in 2009

A red flight at Crush Wine Bar in Anchorage in 2009

If you ever get a chance, check Crush out. It is kind of my idea of a wine bar: open space, but close knit atmosphere; knowledgeable staff, people who care and know what they talk about; great food; and rotating wine lists, challenging my taste buds and expanding my horizons. If I lived in Anchorage, I would be a regular. They offer several flights of three wines each for $12 that rotate quite often, from the eclectic to the exclusive. While we were there they had an Austrian red wine flight, a mourvedre flight, a Southern Cross flight (red wines from the Southern hemisphere), a garnacha flight, a “spicy” white flight with wines from Argentina and Spain, and a dry riesling flight.

Crush Wine Bistro and Cellar
343 West 6th Avenue
Anchorage, AK 99501
(907) 865-9198

 They are on Facebook, too.

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