But of course: You merely walk up and say "Hello!"
Seriously, I am a projector: I tend to project what I know onto some future circumstance, without always realizing how the future circumstance might be very different. If I have a bad wine made from Cayuga (I'm not sure if one exists--that is just an example; in fact, I love the wines I've already made from that grape), I might conclude that ALL Cayuga wines are bad. Similarly, if I read that, for one experienced winemaker in Virginia, Chancellor is too acidic and has objectionable herbaceous notes, I am inclined to write it off my list of potential candidates. (That is a ripe Chancellor cluster, on your right, and that cluster shape is what we call "shouldered," for obvious reasons.)
What I needed to learn--and what I beg you to understand--is that every grape performs differently in each different micro-environment. In the subtle sense, a Viognier wine might taste slightly different from a Viognier wine made by the same maker, from the adjacent row's fruit! This phenomenon is widely known among winemakers, who recognize such differences in selecting their "reserve" wines. But in the strategic sense, a grape can be almost as different as night and day, when planted in widely-varying locations. To use two vinifera examples, just think about a Shiraz grown in the Barossa Valley, in Oz, where the baking heat and unique soil conditions can push it to a tarry, raisiny over-ripeness if it is not picked at the right moment. That same grape in SE France (called Syrah there, of course) might have cool-weather characteristics, such as herbal and pepper qualities. Or, Malbec is a bland blending grape in France, but once it found the high Andes soil and sun, it brought well-deserved fame to Argentina as one of the legitimately greatest grapes on Earth (though I admit it's on a long list). The winemaking practices have similarly dramatic effects on grapes.
Hybrid grapes are no different. They vary just as much, based on site and conditions. Worse, most hybrids do not have centuries of viticulture (grapegrowing) and viniculture (winemaking) experience behind them, as we have with viniferas. Nonetheless, many hybrid wines are "ringing the bell" by winning competitions against vinifera wines. So we must realize that with hybrids, we are deep into an evolutionary learning process, as skilled practitioners continue to advance the art. If we have a Ravat 262 wine that makes us want to throw up, then we need to be careful, perhaps, not to drink that winemaker's Ravat 262 again, but we should also remain open-minded to other Ravat 262 wines. Hey, it's pretty easy to purse your lips and spit a bad wine out!
Thanks to Cliff Ambers, who looked at my compendium of information about various hybrid grapes and commented that, in assessing which grapes to try, I was perhaps putting too much importance upon some comment or other, by some experienced grower or enologist. Whatever they said, four or sixteen states away, might not be true for me. If, during the phylloxer epidemic, the wine lovers in France were drinking so much hybrid wine that it was stealing market share from the major vinifera estates, and the French government finally moved to prohibit hybrid grapes in France, then we can assume that those hybrid wines must have been at least fairly good wines. It would put a drinker on the wrong side of the future, if he or she assumed that there are no good hybrid wines out there.
Here are some grapes in my current trial:
Traminette: This hybrid is half Gewurztraminer, and it retains the glorious Gewurz spiciness and zest, while adding disease resistance (which saves sprays and tractor fuel), earlier ripening, higher yields, and cold-hardiness. Fortunately, I have had AWESOME Traminette wines, and I fervently hope I can duplicate that result here in the Northwest. Bold prediction: You will be hearing a lot about Traminette. I frankly see little reason to grow Gewurz now, except as a heritage grape to preserve the germoplasm.
Cayuga: Also a hardy white hybrid grape which makes awesome wine everywhere, and has already been proved in the Northwest (by me, at least, and perhaps by others). It tends to ripen with acid levels a bit too high, which suggests a light residual sweetness is needed, or it could be blended with a lower-acid grape, or it could be diluted with a small percentage of water. For my trial, that will mean planting some Melody, too, which is not quite as hardy as Cayuga, but it has lower acid and very similar crisp, Riesling-like flavors.
Brianna: A white hybrid grape which yields up pineapple flavors. What's not to like about that? (I have an appointment on Maui with a certain winery which makes award-winning pineapple wine. Please don't laugh ;)
Sandia: A new hybrid resulting from Vitis longii (a wild American grape which grows on sandy creekbanks in Eastern New Mexico) crossed with Cayuga. This one is a red grape which is supposed to taste like watermelon. Again, what's not to like? I may be the only person growing this one for wine, in the US. That's pretty cool. What if it makes a great wine?
Cascade: Another red hybrid that smells and tastes like strawberries. Did you know that grapes are the only fruit that can smell and taste like other fruits? That is likely a major reason so many of us love grapes and grape wines so much. Cascade will hang up to 50 lbs of fruit on one vine, but in some sites it is sensitive to soil-borne viruses. We'll see.
Baco noir: An old red hybrid grape which (like Marechal Foch) has been made into many, many bad wines. But I have heard that if you hit it with 93 degrees during primary fermentation, and give it lots of oak and a long aging period, it tastes like Cab sauv. OK, let's prove it!
Noiret: A new red hybrid (thank you, Cornell U) which one skilled grower in NY's Hudson Valley says is worthless because it "always" has a stewed prune character. But guess what? I am drinking one from NY's Finger Lake region (made by Arbor Hill, in case you want to try one) that is positively delicious. No prune in there, at all. It does have an herbal taste that I haven't yet identified, but also leather, cherries, and earth, as you might expect in a Bordeaux blend (and they have herbal notes, too).
I think you get my point. Grapes and winemaking are so personal to their locations and to the style of the grower and maker . . . Wine is part of an intimate dance, perhaps just as personal as any other activity you can imagine between two partners. The grape and the grower/winemaker have such intimacy. All they need is open-minded consumers, and more time.
Final note: Hybrid grapes are the result of combining the male and female parts from different grapes' flowers, as has been done for centuries. It is NOT gene splicing (genetic engineering) in the modern sense. In fact, all vinifera grapes are the result of natural crosses, or hybridization in the wild.