EducateEco-Friendly Wine: Alaska

Eco-Friendly Wine: Alaska

Alaska is known for its breathtaking natural beauty and cold climate. When we started this series, we set out to find all the eco-friendly wine regions of the United States. The Alaska wine scene has been hard to track down, especially in the organics section and while they don’t have their own AVA or specific qualifications on winemaking, it is still fascinating to see the wines available from this lovely state. This cold climate place is not typically associated with wine production, but it could be making waves in the industry soon. It not only has surprising viticultural potential but it also uses non-traditional winemaking methods that are eco-friendly. In this article, we’ll explore the wine production in Alaska and give you information on the surprising grapes, and other fruits that are used for the wines there! 

Alaska’s Terroir

Alaska’s challenging climate and remote location may not be the first choice for grape cultivation, but it’s precisely these factors that make it an intriguing region for wine enthusiasts. Some vineyards have successfully harnessed the advantages of the long daylight hours during the summer growing season, while also using creative techniques to protect the vines from the harsh winter cold. The result is a unique Alaskan terroir that produces wines with distinct flavors and characteristics.

What does Alaskan wine taste like? 

Alaskan wine is very unknown. Its extreme northern climate makes it challenging to grow traditional wine grape varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot, which thrive in warmer climates. However, some Alaskan wineries have been experimenting with cold-hardy grapes and organic fruits to produce their wines. 

The taste of Alaskan wine can vary depending on the grapes or fruits used and the winemaking techniques but these are some general characteristics for most Alaskan Wines! 

1. Fruit-forward: Many Alaskan wines are made from fruits other than grapes, such as berries ( blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries), rhubarb, and apples. These wines tend to have a fruit-forward profile with pronounced fruity flavors and aromas. Blueberry wines, for example, may have a sweet and tart berry taste.

2. Cold-hardy grape wines: Some Alaskan wineries cultivate grape varieties like Marquette and La Crescent, which are developed to withstand colder climates. These wines can have characteristics similar to traditional grape wines, with flavors ranging from light and crisp to full-bodied, depending on the grape variety.

3. Acidic: Alaskan wines often reflect the unique terroir of the region, with the influence of Alaska’s cold climate and shorter growing season. Shorter growing seasons = less time for the grapes to develop. This results in two defining characteristics of Alaskan wines: freshness and acidity.

4. Sweetness levels: Many Alaskan fruit wines are a bit sweeter than your typical wine, but you can also find drier varieties. The sweetness levels can vary, but most wines you encounter will range from off-dry to very sweet. 

Sustainable Viticulture

Alaskan winemakers understand the importance of preserving the pristine environment that surrounds their vineyards. Many have embraced sustainable viticulture practices to minimize their ecological footprint. This commitment includes Organic and Biodynamic Farming. Some wineries have adopted these farming methods, which prioritize soil health and biodiversity. These practices reduce the need for synthetic chemicals and promote a more balanced ecosystem.

Vineyards in Alaska 

Note: Not all of these Wineries are 100% organic or eco-friendly, but we wanted to showcase a selection of the wonderful wines Alaska has to offer since this region is widely unknown.

1. Alaska Berries

Alaska Berries takes pride in cultivating all of its own fruit. Distinguished as the sole winery in the state with an “Alaska Grown” certificate, they warmly welcome visitors to explore their farm, where every aspect of the winemaking process unfolds. They have an impressive array of award-winning wines encompassing everything from a delightful pink raspberry wine to a deep complex wine with rich blackcurrant flavors. Their selection includes an abundance of other fruit-based offerings as well such as in-house crafted jams and syrups!

2. Denali Winery 

Denali Winery, situated in Anchorage, Alaska, offers an impressive selection of wines crafted from a variety of fruits, including apples and berries. They take pride in their sustainable viticulture practices and active support for local conservation efforts. This winery also has a unique twist. Guests have the opportunity to craft their own personalized wine through a guided tasting session led by experts. Everyone can select their preferred flavors, and the skilled team sets to work producing exclusive bottles of their customized blend!  Also, for those who enjoy experimenting with wine pairings, Denali welcomes tasters to bring their own culinary creations.

4. Glacier Bear

Glacier Bear exclusively produces wine using fruits grown in Alaska, such as red raspberries, yellow raspberries, blueberries, black currants, strawberries, gooseberries, apples, low-bush cranberries, and rhubarb. In some of their blends, they incorporate Chardonnay grapes along with rhubarb, which has been nicknamed “Alaskan Chardonnay”. Winemaker Louis Maurer has also named a few of his berry wines, like Blu Zin and Mirlo, after the grapes he aimed to replicate. 

5. Bear Creek Winery 

Bear Creek Winery is the sister winery of Glacier Bear Winery. It’s situated in Homer, Alaska, and joins the ranks of distinguished wineries in this region! They are dedicated to crafting exceptional wines from locally sourced fruits and berries, and their commitment to sustainability and eco-friendly practices is extremely important to them. In their day-to-day operations, they are intentional about their reduction of energy consumption and water conservation. They have also implemented a wide range of winery recycling, including reusing wine bottles and repurposing corks. 

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