Never heard of the St. Pepin grape? I hadn't either until James Bateman, owner, vineyard manager and winemaker at Windham Vineyards in Windham, NY sent me a couple of his wines — including this Windham Vineyards 2008 Estate Select St. Pepin ($15).
Windham is perhaps best known as a skiing town and not surprisingly Bateman, an Englishman, presides over the highest elevation vineyards in the east — at 2000 and 2200 feet above sea level. As you can probably guess, it gets cold up there in his vineyards, which is why he is growing varieties like St. Pepin, which is a cold hardy hybrid.
There isn't a lot of information available online about the grape, but Wikipedia has some info:
St. Pepin is a modern hybrid variety of wine grape, mostly grown in North America. It produces grapes suitable for making fruity white wines similar to Riesling
or as a base for blended wines. The grapes also make a good seeded
table grape for eating. It has the benefits of early ripening and when
hardened properly in the fall it is winter hardy to at least -25 F. As
such it best suited to growing in more northern climates.
St. Pepin was produced and patented by Elmer Swenson circa 1970. It is a hybrid of the male Seyval blanc crossed to a seedling of Minnesota 78 by Seibel 1000 (aka Rosette). Unlike most modern grapes it is a pistillate female and so needs to be planted next to male vines from a close sibling variety to achieve pollination.
Windham's version, which is 11% ABV, has a fresh, somewhat riesling-like nose with notes of honeysuckle, citrus and underripe peach. There is a slightly musky, almost-foxy note too.
Feather light on the palate with crisp acidity, it's a simple white with bright citrus and citrus zest flavors. There is a little residual sugar on the attack, but it finishes dry with a citrus pith tartness. In some ways, it reminds me of an un-oaked seyval blanc blended with vidal blanc.
I'm curious to get my hands on some other St. Pepin. There does seem to be some potential here.
Producer: Windham Vineyards
AVA: Hudson River Region
Rating: (2 out of 5 | Average)