The Grape Escape: Locawino

Jul 28, 2010 at 5:00 am

I’m a locavore. I like to keep my carbon footprint as tiny as I reasonably can, and I support local farmers.

I’m a regular at the farmers markets, and during the growing season, most of our produce comes from regional farms or our own garden.

Meat? Poultry? We’ve sworn off industrial products. If I can’t get natural, humanely raised beef, pork, lamb or chicken from a Kentucky or Indiana farmer, I’m not going to dine on tasty animals at all. Ditto for free-range eggs.

So how about local wine? We’ve got plenty of small-farm wineries around the region nowadays, so it’s as easy to swear off long-distance vino as it is to cut back on food miles. Right, Mr. Critic? Right?

Uhhh … Well. Pardon me while I blush.

Here’s my story, and I’m sticking to it: Although I’ll pick up a bottle of Kentucky or Indiana wine for an occasional change of pace, I’m not going to commit to this for the same reasons I don’t buy local coconuts or bananas.

Some agricultural products — and wine, after all, comes from grape farmers — simply cannot shine in the Ohio Valley’s four-season climate.

Tomatoes and green peppers may thrive in our long, stormy, muggy summers, but grapevines really want to live somewhere like Napa Valley or Tuscany: a mild, Mediterranean climate that brings neither killing freezes nor humid summer days.

Look at wine as we do cheese: Capriole Farm makes outstanding cheeses here, but it would be self-sacrificing foolishness to forswear the great cheeses of France — or California. Kentucky’s Smith-Berry Winery makes interesting wines, too. I’ll enjoy them now and then. But they don’t inspire me to give up wine from Napa or Tuscany or the world’s other great wine zones.