Midwest Wine Press Top Viticulture Stories For 2012

2 Jan

This article was first published in Midwest Wine Press and is written by Mark Ganchiff

Some of the most popular stories in Midwest Wine Press are about growing wine grapes. At Midwest Wine Press, we pride ourselves on being the only publication that consistently covers Midwest viticulture. Other topics we cover – like winemaking, winery marketing and interviews with regional experts – are all important.  But the key driver for growth of the Midwest wine industry is increasing regional grape production.

Vineyard at Black Star Farms in Leelanau Peninsula Michigan

Vineyard at Black Star Farms in Leelanau Peninsula Michigan

Midwest Wine Press Top Viticulture Stories For 2012

1. John Marshall: Forst Protection for the Small Grower

2. Grape Freeze Damage Extensive in OH, NY, MI

3. Brianna Grape is Midwest’s New Tropical Fruit

4. Winemakers Love Southern Illinois Grape Growers

5. Offbeat European Grapes Growing Across Midwest

Norton Adventures: Jowler Creek Harvest

25 Sep

Norton is one of the last grapes to be harvested in the Midwest. Below are pictures from the September 15 Norton grape harvest and crush at Jowler Creek Vineyard, near Platte City in Missouri. Winemaker Jason Gerke said it was a lighter yield than last year – but the fruit looked very good. Up close, the Norton grapes appeared very similar to blueberries and tasted very nice, but full of pips. The hard work coincided with the launch of Jowler’s 2010 Chambourcin vintage which was enjoyed by this Midwest Wine Press reporter and family at picnic tables near the tasting room. Jowler is one of the few vineyards in Missouri that is run according to sustainable practices – including using Babydoll sheep to trim the grass around the vines. Jason’s wife and co-winemaker, Colleen, was recently interviewed on Kansas City Public Television in a program focusing on Midwest wines and why they aren’t on more local restaurant wine lists.

See related story:  KCPT Public TV Airing Missouri Wine Blind Tasting
The morning's harvest: Norton grapes on their way to be crushed

The morning’s harvest: Norton grapes on their way to be crushed

Jowler helpers prepare to pour crates of Norton grapes into the crusher using a tractor.

Jowler Creek winemakers, Jason and Colleen Gerke watch as Norton grapes unload into the crusher.

The Norton grape crush

This article was first published in Midwest Wine Press

Belvoir Winery Talks: Nelson Curator and Decorative Arts at the World’s Fairs

25 Jul

Some wine and culture news!  The curator of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Catherine Futter will be coming to Belvoir Winery in Liberty, Missouri on Thursday at 7pm to talk about their current special exhibit: Decorative Arts at the World’s Fairs.  Admission is $5 and a 630pm wine tasting before the talk  is free. Hope you all can make it out.  For details see: http://www.belvoirwinery.com/index.php?cID=628

This is the first in a series of Thursday evening talks.  Here’s the full list:

July 26th Inventing the Modern World: Decorative Arts at the World’s Fairs

Curator Catherine Futter of The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art will talk about the exciting exhibition that’s on until August 19.

August 9th Preserving Historic Sites in Kansas City

Susan Richards Johnson, architect and historic preservation specialist, will talk about some of Kansas City’s current historic renovation projects, including the Liberty Memorial.

August 16th On Hannibal’s Trail 

Danny Wood, Belvoir bartender and journalist will talk about bicycling 2,300 miles from Spain to Tunisia with his brothers to present the BBC TV documentary about Rome’s worst enemy.

August 30th Ernest Hemingway and The Kansas City Star

Steve Paul, senior writer and arts editor of The Kansas City Star, will talk about legendary author and journalist, Ernest Hemingway, focusing on his time at the KC Star.

Missouri Wines in Kansas City Airport

17 Jul

‘Missouri Vineyards’ wine bar at Terminal B, Kansas City Airport

Yes you read the title correctly! Alongside Burger King and Starbucks, Missouri wines have somehow cornered a section of Terminal B at Kansas City Airport.  A new bar called ‘Missouri Vineyards’ , as if to reverse the norm in local restaurants where its Californian and French stuff, has a wine list that concentrates on Missouri vinos front and center and relegates other stuff to a section called,  ‘Additional Wine Selections’.  As my wife and I stumbled around the terminal with a couple of hours to kill because of the usual flight delay I really thought someone was playing an elaborate hoax.  Missouri wines can’t even make it into Kansas City restaurants, what are they doing here?  I shuffled through a list of people who may be trying to fool me…wine expert Doug Frost?  He’s a big supporter of Midwest wines and he travels a lot, often by plane, he’s a charmer, but how did he manage to pull this off?  Or perhaps my friend Danene Beedle, marketing manager at the Missouri Wine & Grape Board – could she really be putting that twelve cents a gallon tax on wine sales towards a wine bar at the airport? Stranger things have happened.

Okay what’s going on?

The fantasies cleared as the escalator took us up to this swanky wine bar with views out onto the airstrip where some of the more usual elements of airport travel were before us.  Like an elderly lady who was sitting at a table and offering her pizza to a family next to her – only she was also sipping a big glass of Missouri white wine.  And there were a couple of men hunched at the bar over glasses of a deep red wine – could that be Norton?  Several others, not quite hooked on the local vino, were sipping beers instead.  The friendly bar staff supplied a menu and I asked for a few details about this surprising airport drinking hole.  It turns out it’s the work of HMS Host, a large company that’s part of another large company: Autogrill, an Italian based, multinational catering company that’s  the world’s largest provider of food, beverage and retail services for travelers, most of it in airport terminals.  Europe’s in an economic crisis, Italy is next after suffering Spain, frantically trying to clean up its economy – could that explain why they forgot to put prices on the wine list? A minor oversight perhaps – but the old lady mentioned above, after downing her white wine, left the bar suggesting in a loud voice that if there aren’t prices on the menu the wines should be for free. Maybe she should have said it in Italian? But I kind of agreed with her as I paid the rather steep airport price of $10.53 for a smallish glass of Montelle Seyval Blanc.  But the menu does give a really nice history of Missouri wines from the 19th century glory days, to Prohibition, to the current revival and I was just amazed to even be holding a wine list dedicated to Missouri wines in an airport. Great stuff!

‘Missouri Vineyards’ wine-list

The only real hitch seemed to be the strange contraptions used to serve the wine that convert the wine pouring experience into something like pushing the button on a soft-drink dispenser to squirt out your soda.

The bartender struggles with the wine dispensing contraption

The wines are all kept in an acclimatized fridge and the idea is the bartender simply pushes a button and out sloshes the chosen wine through a tube and into a glass.  If it worked.  Our poor bartender had a lot of trouble getting the machine to part with the wine and I couldn’t help but think how much easier it would be if she could’ve just opened the bottle with a corkscrew and just errr, poured it? The same machines are used at Cellar & Loft, a wine bar in downtown Kansas City (where at least one of the wines is an incredible $30 a glass – but we won’t go into that! They do have free wine tastings so I guess that makes up for it)  and funnily enough we had the same experience there where the bartender ended up giving up on the machine and pulling the bottle out to pour it with a human hand. Luckily that delay allowed us time to realize we’d accidentally chosen the $30 a glass option and instead get the $8 a glass option.  But, back at the airport at the Missouri Vineyards bar…it turns out that Lambert-St Louis International Airport has had a ‘Missouri Vineyards’ bar since 2009!  See: http://www.hmshost.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/Lambert-St.-Louis-International.pdf  What does this all mean? Comments very welcome, I know there is one reader out there somewhere.

Bottle Shock: Why aren’t Local Wines in More Restaurants and MO and KS Wines in TV Blind Tasting

24 Jun

Here’s the full Kansas City Public Television (KCPT) half-hour show about regional wines and their absence from Kansas City wine lists, plus the big grape showdown where Missouri and Kansas wines take on the French and Californians in a blind tasting – and win!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kskvjN1Zhno&feature=player_embedded

Bottle Shock Redux: Missouri Wines Triumph in Blind Tasting

22 Jun

In yesterday night’s regional wine special and blind tasting on ‘The Local Show’ on Kansas City Public Television (KCPT), Belvoir Winery’s Plumeria and Stone Hill’s 2008 Norton received the most points in their white and red blind tasting sections.  What a great result! Both sections included competition from well respected Californian – Rodney Strong Vineyards – or awarded French wine makers – Baron Rothschild and Gerard Bertrand.  The ‘wild card’ randomly chosen wine – $3 chuck from Trader Joe’s – was cause for a bit of giggling and the five blind tasters from Belvoir customer Lucinda to former football star Eddie were chatty and articulate about he wines and their scoring.  Show hosts Nick Haines and Randy Mason lucidly knitted the show together and wine expert Doug Frost provided engaging commentary and explanation as to what was going on as the wine tasters responded and scored the various wines.  Emily Ghertner and Eric Mater produced the show with flair and calm (a good combination!)  and the editing job was great.  It was a lot of fun and hopefully helped to squeeze out some of the stigma against local wines and show that Midwest wines can rub shoulders with the best!  Hopefully we can have another round some time.

Here are the full points scores and wine descriptions courtesy of KCPT:

THE WHITES

A Baron Philippe de Rothschild, Bordeaux, France
THE WINE: Mouton Cadet Blanc, 2007 – $12.99 retail

From one of France’s legendary and most well known winemakers, a white blend of Sauvignon Blanc (40%), Semillon (50%) and Muscadelle (10%)

Total Score: 10

B Belvoir Winery, Liberty, Missouri
THE WINE: Plumeria – a blend of Traminette, Vignoles and Seyval – $18 at the winery

The wine is named after the owner, Dr John Bean’s, late wife’s favorite flower. The winery is located in an impressive Jacobethan Revival style building that was a former orphanage for the International Order of Odd Fellows.

Total Score: 21

C Holy-Field Vineyard & Winery, Basehor, Kansas
THE WINE: Seyval, Kansas Table Wine – $12.95 at winery and retail (only available in Kansas)

Holy-Field is a father and daughter team – Les and Michelle Meyer – who pride themselves on their canine ambassadors who feature on some of the wine labels. The dogs are: Vinnie, Bacchus, Corkie and Sinbad

Total Score: 17

D Charles Shaw Winery, Napa and Sonoma, California
THE WINE: Chardonnay, 2010 – $2.99 at Trader Joe’s grocery store

The wine is affectionately known as ‘two buck chuck’

Total Score: 11

E Chateau Ste Michelle, Washington State
THE WINE: Chardonnay, 2010, – $12.99 retail

A respected wine making region of the US. This winemaker is often in grocery stores and on restaurant wine lists in Kansas City.

Total Score: 18

THE REDS

A Rodney Strong Vineyards, Sonoma County
THE WINE: Cabernet Sauvignon, 2006 – $17.99 retail

A California Sonoma red that is often seen in Kansas City grocery stores, liquor stores on on restaurant wine lists.

Total Score: 11

Jowler Creek, Platte County, Missouri
THE WINE: Chambourcin, 2010 – $19 at the winery and retail

Jowler Creek emphasize their sustainable vineyard practices. They use Olde English Babydoll sheep to control grass and weed growth.

Total Score: 4

C Stone Hill Winery, Hermann, Missouri
THE WINE: Norton, 2008 – $18.99 at the winery and retail

Stone Hill is Missouri’s second biggest winemaker producing 260,000 gallons of wine in 2011. They’ve been making Norton for decades. A Stone Hill Norton is thought to have won the prestigious award for best red wine “of all nations” at an international competition in Vienna in 1873.

Total Score: 21.5

D Gerard Bertrand, Languedoc Pic Saint Loup, Narbonne (Languedoc-Roussillon region, on the coast, south of Marseille) France
THE WINE: Grand Terroir, 2005 – $16.99

European Winery of the Year for 2012 in Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s annual Wine Star Awards. Wine Spectator magazine’s ‘Best Value Winery From France’ in 2008.

Total Score: 14

E Charles Shaw Winery, Napa and Sonoma, California
THE WINE: Cabernet Sauvignon, 2011 – $2.99 at Trader Joe’s grocery store

The wine is affectionately known as ‘two buck chuck’

Total Score: 20

Midwest Wines vs The Rest of the World

20 Jun

Tomorrow, Thursday June 21st from 730pm on Kansas City Public Television (KCPT) it’s the battle of the grape.  Two blind tastings, one for reds and another for whites, will determine if wines from Missouri and Kansas can compare with the best wine making regions in the world.   The show also tackles the issue of why most restaurants in Kansas City (and in cities all over MO and KS) are happy to serve local food, but don’t serve local wines.  The blind tastings will help determine if the preference for Californian, French and other international wines is actually fair and based on quality and customer preferences, or just a result of inertia, snobbery, ignorance – or all three.

White paper bags look quite classy don’t you think?

Surely if French and Californian wines are so good and the local wines so poor, the blind tasters will prefer those? The restaurants will be proved right afterall…but if MO and KS wines do well hopefully it will be a small wake-up call to consumers and restaurants alike.

So tune in to KCPT on tomorrow! Or come to Belvoir Winery in Liberty where we’ll be watching the show.

Lucinda, Stretch and Katie Van Luchene rehearse raising their numbers

I tried hard to make this a fair contest.  The five reds and five whites in each tasting cost between $12 and $20 retail, except for a ‘wild card’ that could cost anything.  Two of the wines in each red or white tasting are from MO or KS, one is from California, one from France  and one that ‘wild card’ that could be from anywhere.

The basis of prejudice against MO and KS wines is often based on their tendency to be sweet.  People seem to think that sweet is all the Midwest does well and discount the quality dry stuff that has emerged and is emerging all over the place.  This tasting will be meeting Californian and French wines on their own terms: all the reds competing are dry and all the whites are dry or semi-dry.

I was also conscious of how the order in which the bottles would be tasted could confer an advantage.  It is probably not ideal to be the first wine tasted, or the last.  The order of the tasting was determined by me reaching blindly into a case where I’d place the bottles and pulling the bottles out, lottery style, one by one.

The bottles were placed in white paper bags and each labelled with a letter – A to E.

From left to right: Nick Haines, KCPT host, Stretch, Lucinda, Stephen Molloy, Katie Van Luchene, Eddie Kennison and Doug Frost.

The 5 blind tasters were chosen to be widely representative of wine lovers and to be fun – there’s a mixture of celebrities (Eddie Kennison and Stretch), wine and food experts (Stephen Molloy and Katie Van Luchene) and Lucinda, a young woman and regular customer at Belvoir winery, chosen to represent ‘normal’ people (possibly like you?).  They all like a wide range of wines.  Overseeing them and to offer his analysis, wine brain and expert, Doug Frost.

The blind tasters are not comparing the wines to each other, they’re just making a very simple judgement: how much do they like each wine and why? In other words, how does the wine they’re blind tasting compare to their idea of the perfect white or red?  They mark each one with 1 to 5 points, 1 being ‘not to my taste or ‘I don’t like it’, up to 5, which means ‘excellent ‘ or ‘I love it’.

So tune in! Will this be a humiliation for the Midwest wine industry?  Or will this be a case of Bottle Shock and a humbling experience for  French and California? Find out on Thursday at 730pm…