'Blank slate': Montana sees growing opportunity to be the next wine country

LENA BECK The Daily Yonder

CORVALLIS — It was a warm morning in early September, and Roxann McGuire was walking through the crop rows at Willow Mountain Winery, strategically sampling grapes off the vines. With every grape she tasted, she was looking for the signature combination of acid and sweetness that tells her the grape is ready to be harvested.

McGuire has trained her palate to be able to taste this nuance — through years of experience in the wine country of Italy, the vineyards of Argentina, and beyond. Today, she uses that expertise in a location that isn’t known for its wine prowess but someday could be — Montana.

The grapes that Roxann and Brian McGuire grow here are cold-hardy interspecies hybrids. Nearly all well-known wines  — malbec, merlot, chardonnay, and more — are made from Vitis vinifera grapes. V. vinifera is a European grape species that consistently produces great wine but is not amenable to cold environments. In the U.S., you’ll find V. vinifera permeating California wine country, Oregon, and Washington.

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