Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Exploding Blackberry Wine

by: Michael Crowell

We feel compelled to let you know that the wine that we had prepared, tasted, and then racked seemed to be our best work yet. 

The blackberry wine had originally been made in early December with fresh blackberries purchased at a local grocery store.  We bought 20 lbs of blackberries to make about three gallons of wine.  

After the juice was prepared and yeast was added, it sat in primary fermentation for about a month and then was transferred to a secondary fermentation chamber for about another half a month.  We then bottled it about a week ago.  

Little did we know the lurking error of our ways when the room we were storing it in rose just a few degrees in temperature these last few days.  When Davina went to use the dryer this morning it must have pushed the temperature over the limit that yeast preferred and got them going strong because wine is now all over our basement storage room (in places we barely knew existed).

Luckily not all was lost in the two bottle explosion and we have almost a half bottle of delicious, bubbly blackberry wine.

Salud to seeing the positives in this situation.  The other three bottles left have found themselves a new home in the garage.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

The St. Louis Food & Wine Experience

By Davina Horton

We haven’t been to the Food and Wine Experience in 4 years, so we were overjoyed to make it this year. Michael surprised me with VIP tickets for my birthday.

This event happens annually at The Chase Park Plaza and benefits the St. Louis Repertory Theater. It features hundreds of wines and an ample amount of food samples. We made a point to allow some extra time at each Missouri winery we came across.

Once we arrived we headed straight to a familiar wine, Augusta Winery & Montelle which we never knew were owned by the same family. We had the pleasure of sampling from Cindy Kooyumjian, one of the owners. She was a delight, She explained to us that Augusta Winery is more old-world style of wine-making while Montelle is more new-world. We did a side by side taste comparison of each of their Nortons. Montelle wins more Missouri contests, but Augusta wins more International contests.

The second stop was Cave Winery. We were lucky enough to stumble upon this winery last fall while traveling down the Route de Vin Wine Trail in Ste. Genevieve, MO. This winery is best known for having an actual cave on site that you can relax and drink you wine in; however, their wines are spectacular and have a lot to offer. They were sampling 4 wines, one of which they don’t serve at their winery. The Dry Chardonel was new for them, but one of our favorite of the whole day. It had a slight hint of sweet with a dry, clean finish unlike any Chardonel we had had before. The Cave Rock Red and White were both easy drinking wines that would pair well with lots of dishes. We stuck with our New Year’s resolution and tried their Norton which was earthy and pungent. We had a fabulous time chatting with the winemaker and look forward to going back to Cave Winery to enjoy a bottle on a hot summer day in their chilled cave.

While navigating the sea of wineries, we came across another familiar place, Chaumette Winery. There we sampled from Jennifer Johnson, certified Sommelier and were introduced to the owner of the winery himself, Hank Johnson.  We tried his favorite, the Chamburcin.  Luckily we already know we will be back to visit this winery in Septemeber when our friends Michelle and Shane get married, but I’m sure we’ll make it back before then.

One of my personal all-time favorite wineries was one-site, Les Bourgeois. If you ask me to compose a list of my top 10 favorite wines, 2 of theirs would make the list, their Brut and Pink Fox. I sampled their Solay which is always one of my favorites visiting their winery on a hot day while gazing out over the Missouri River.  Michael sampled the Vignoles, more sweet (almost syrupy) than desired when it comes to Vignoles.

St. James brought their wine brigade to be sampled. We tried a couple of their fruit wines, which seems to be their primary focus in the wine business.  Though we have experienced decent Vignoles and Sparkling wines as well from them, they unfortunately did not bring any of these.
We visited Stone Hill more than once because there always seemed to be a wait to try all their variety of reds.  Their “Hermannsberger Brand” was underwhelming, but it was being pushed the hardest.  The Norton was comparable to that of Cave Winery’s.  While we stood there sampling a couple was questioning whether or not they should try something and the wife said she only wanted something sweet.  Needless to say they probably bought a case of the Goldenrhine thanks to us (it’s one of our personal favorites from Stone Hill).

Of course we didn't only try Missouri wines. We tried them ALL and ate some delicious food. We made sure to try the most expensive bottle of wine at the exhibit (2008 Episode: Cabernet Savignon - $836 a case of 12, about $70 a bottle at a discounted price) It was…ok.  The real truth of the whole experience though was that despite being able to try as many different wines as we could want we kept finding our way back to Missouri wines.  Home sweet home or is it simply the realization/truth that Missouri makes damn good wine?

We had a fantastic time. We would like to mention a few noteworthy wines we sampled: 2008 Four Wines: Zinfandel, 2008 Silverado: Cabernet Sauvignon, 2009 Loring Wine Company: Pinot Noir, 2011 Oveja Negra: Cabernet Franc, Carmenère Reserva. 

Friday, January 25, 2013

Mardi Gras Whiskey, Wine, and Beer Taste

by: Michael Crowell & Davina Horton

If you've never been to the Mardi Gras Wine, Whiskey, and Beer Taste, we highly recommend it.  For $35 ($40 at the door) you get unlimited tastes of a plethora of AB In-Bev products, Southern Comfort and Jack Daniels Whiskeys, and all the wine your heart can desire.

We volunteered at this event serving wine and had a fabulous time as usual. Our wines were all from the Hahn distributor including Hahn Cabernet Sauvigon, Hahn Pinot Noir, Hahn Chardonnay, Hahn Pinot Grigio, Gladiator Chardonny, and Galdiator Zinfindel. We had a table full of dry wines and the Cabernet was the hot ticket.

The great thing about this event is that it's really more of a social event than a tasting. You don't have that stuffy, pretentious feeling like at some wine tastes, and it's really nice that it includes beer for people who aren't into wine. The whiskey is a fun option that kind of kicks it up a notch.

The event has a DJ and yes, people dance! (as you can see from the video.) The event's venue is St. Louis City Hall and is really breathe-taking.

Overall this is one of the best Mardi Gras events. They really do a fabulous job providing a great Friday night and entertainment.

For more Mardi Gras fun, check out there website.

Monday, January 21, 2013


by: Davina Horton

Norton, deep and red
Missouri's finest grape
Perfect with cheese and french bread
Blueberries, cherries, black currents

January is the month we honor you
The Norton grape
Your subtle notes of dirt give us a clue
Of all the flavors you have to offer
From vine to wine
You delight our senses
With complex hints that outshine
Most other wines can only dream…..
Of being regal as the Norton grape.

Nortons that we have fallen in love with thus far this year include:


This limited Reserve is a full bodies wine.  Barrel aged in the finest French oak.  Described as "jammy".  Dry at first with a jam finish.  Our first Norton that we actually enjoy drinking. 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

2013 Wine Resolutions

by: Davina Horton

As a new year begins, Michael and I sat down to think about some things we want to accomplish and discover this year with a specific focus on WINE. We have grown together into amateur wine connoisseurs but still have a lot of uncharted wine territory to explore. Here are the resolutions we hope to stick to and accomplish in 2013:

First and foremost, we are diving back, head first into the Missouri Wine Passport program. This year we will reach the top level of 100 Missouri wineries visited. We both are very confident and excited to get started on this goal. I'm eager to see what the Western and Northern wineries have to offer, as well as visit all of my favorites once again. We already have our first winery weekend planned for January 6th to Augusta. Let the games begin.

This goal is somewhat specific to myself. Over this last year, I have somewhat turned my back on Missouri's state grape, the Norton. To me, this deep red wine has always tasted like dirt, literally. I don't even sample them anymore when we do wine tasting because I have the mindset that I won't like it. But this year, I want to give the Norton a second chance. I'm going to really search for its appeal and embrace its natural intense flavors. Hopefully after trying around 100 Missouri Nortons I will at least have a better appreciation for the wine.

This year Michael and I will plan many of our own wine trail adventures. Since Missouri only has 8 official wine trails, we will have to create our own to maximize our time and reach all the wineries off the beaten path. Sometimes planning the trip is half the fun. Along with new wineries, we will hopefully find lots of new campgrounds, restaurants and attractions while navigating Missouri's wine regions.

Michael's lifetime goal is to become a professional vintner. This year he will work on this goal by seeking out console and expertise from well-established wine makers in Missouri. From past experience, we have come to find that most wine makes in Missouri are very friendly and eager to offer advice to up and coming vintners. Michael will try to meet as many wine makers and keep a journal of the advice they give him.

Drink more wine and make more toasts!