Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Ozark Trail

We had the pleasant opportunity to sample some wine from the wineries that lake goers tend to enjoy the most.  "The Ozark Trail" is a new trail that we put together to experience what the Lake of the Ozarks has to offer the Missouri oenophile.

Our first stop was Shawnee Bluff Winery, which boasts the best view out of all the wineries, atop one of the highest ridges overlooking the lake.  Our tasting experience was very nice.  We were the only ones in the winery and per usual the tasting room was warm with the smells of fresh baked pizza dough and firewood.  (Plus, as an added bonus, the tastings were free!) Jennifer did our tasting. She was a pleasure to chat with and was full of wine knowledge.

Their Pinot Grigio was particularly satisfying with its light, crisp flavors and snappy green apple notes.  We also enjoyed the Muscato Canelli, a semi-sweet California wine was pleasant to the aroma and the pallet.  With essence of fruit which would pair well with fish or pasta.  Our favorite wine of the winery, and possibly the entire trail, was "Call Your Bluff".  Fashioned as a light, sweet, champagne styled wine; the bubbles danced on our tongues.  We even found it at the local micro-brewery Horseshoe Bend Brewery.  Overall we were not fans of their selection of red wines, however, the "Bluff Blush" was noteworthy.  Made from Catawba grapes with light fruit flavor and a sweet finish.

Seven Springs Winery is the place to go to see acres of grape vines and enjoy the seclusion of the quiet countryside.  However, on this particular day the winery was playing host to a chef cook-off/challenge and was far from quiet.  The event was very tempting, boasting meal sampled from top chefs in the area competing to be named the best, but we had an agenda to stick to.  The winery offers 3 tastings for free, or you can pay $8 to sample all of their wine (13 total) and keep you souvenir glass. Even though we have enough winery glasses, we opted for the full taste to get the full range of flavors of their wines. As a side note, this winery also serves beer, many on tap, and has a full bar for cocktails.

Seven Springs Winery get the award for sticking to its roots for being the only winery on the trail to grow all its grape in Missouri. All of the others use California grapes in their wines. The Chardonel had a pleasant, clean aroma with an oaky, peppery finish. The Vignoles had a sweet floral smell with hints of melon and lime. The Spring Fling was our favorite bottle. It was very similar to a Sauvignon Blanc with strong flowery notes and a sweet finish. We ended up enjoying a bottle of this in their tented outdoor patio with some warm french bread with oils and seasonings. Seven Springs' Syrah had the highest alcohol content on the list but gave a pleasant jammy flavor. The Dry Rougeon was an especially light-bodied red which was not oaked. It would make a great table wine with almost any meal. They also use this wine to make their Sangria Rojo!

We had intentions of visiting Casa De Loco, we had driven out to it before we found out it was closed due to the snow and ice.  We heard great things about this winery from the owner himself, with whom we met at Horseshoe Bend Brewery the night before.  We are eager to come back in the Spring to sample their wines and enjoy their views and upbeat atmosphere.

The last winery on our trip was Golden Rock Winery in Camdenton. This winery is more of a restaurant than a traditional winery, but they do have a large wine selection. You are given 3 tastings for free, or you can do a wine flight. Any 3 - 3oz pours for $8 or Any 3 - 6oz. pours for $16. This winery imports all of their grapes and has no actual Missouri wines on their wine list. 

Their Pinot Grigio was extremely light with slight hints of spices. The tartness of the Gerwurtztraminer gave hints of apricots and a sweet rose smell. They featured an Australian wine, Aussie Blanc,  with a strong grapefruit flavor. It was easy to drink and left no after taste. The best-seller was they Cab Syrah Zin, a blend of the 3 grapes. It had a great smooth finish and hints of chocolate. Golden Rock Winery has an impressive variety of fruit wines including Black Merlot, Black Cherry Pinot Noir, Peach Chardonnay, and 7 other fun combinations. Tasting the fruit wines was the highlight of the tasting. It's amazing how fruit can enhance or change the flavor of a traditional wine. 

Overall, The Ozark Trail is an easy one-day wine trail that offers lots of different wine and food options. We are eager to come back in the Spring or Fall to see how the views at the wineries change. We met many delightful people, sip on even more delightful wine, and had a fabulous weekend at the lake! Take a look at the rest of the photos from our trip HERE.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Missouri WineFest 2013

This Saturday we attended the 27th Annual Missouri WineFest at Westport Plaza. This is a charity event to benefit and The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. We have been to this event twice before, once by ourselves and once with a group of friends. It always takes place right around Valentine’s Day, so it’s a nice place to take a date before dinner. General admission (includes wine sampling, a commemorative wine glass and live entertainment) was $20 in advance or $25 at the door, and the event runs from Noon to 5pm.

Wine was sampled and sold by the bottle from Artesian Springs Winery, Chandler Hill Vineyards, Fahrmeier Family Vineyards, Papas Fruit of the Vine, Serenity Valley Winery, St. James Winery, Stone Hill Winery, Vance Vineyards& Winery, Wenwood Farm Winery, Westphalia Vineyards. Food was sold and/or sampled by Paul Mineo’s Trattoria, Drunken Fish, Great Harvest Bread Co. and FamilyNuts. Live music provided by Super Jam Acoustic Duo. As an added bonus, complimentary carriage rides started in the front of the Plaza from 4 - 7pm (first come first serve, no reservations). A silent auction was featured with all proceeds going to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

This was our third year attending, and I don’t think we were alone in thinking that the event had some flaws. First off, we arrived at Noon to a winding, confused line of guests waiting to get checked in. There were no workers helping to corral people or help make the line move faster. It took us nearly 15 minutes just to get checked in while standing in a freezing lobby, crammed full of people. This event has gained much popularity over the years, and the amount of attendee reflects that. However, I personally believe this event was oversold for the size of the venue. I would suggest raising the price next year or finding a larger space that can hold more people. Also, when the high is 35 degrees and parking is a decent walk from the venue, I would expect a coat check. I have no problem paying for it and expect it at such events. Basically, we waited to get into the event, shuffled through the masses waiting to get tastes all while wearing our winter coats. This is a great event for such a great cause, but some of the logistic just fell through the cracks. I’m really hoping they expand the event next year to bigger space and bring in more wineries

(Clayton Cox, owner of Papa's Vineyard.)

Those that were there provided some delicious samples of the variety they carried. Notables included Serenity Valley Winery’s “Spring Blossoms” (A slightly sweet Green Apple Riesling, a light fruity, crisp wine; great for casual sipping especially on a hot day.) and Papa’s Vineyard’s “Family Tree” (A semi-dry white with huge flavor and a touch of citrus.) Both were new and notables for sure for us. Wines were for sale for great prices. Many people brought their picnic baskets, claimed their tables, and enjoyed the bottles they bought on-site. We were envious of these prepare WineFest tailgaters. It will be interesting to see how this event will evolve and grow as the demand for Missouri Wine continues to gain popularity.

(Serenity Valley Winery's Sampling List)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The Midwest Grape & Wine Conference

We made a last minute decision to attend the Midwest Grape & Wine Conference - Tour du Vin on Thursday February 2, 2013.  It was a reception to kick off the conference and to give all the wine industry attendees a chance to mingle.   While there we sampled many Midwestern wines and met a wide variety of grape growers, wine makers, and suppliers. 

We ran into Dale Rowlings, the owner of Yellow Farmhouse Winery; which happens to be apart of one of our most frequented wine trails (the Ultimate Weinstrasse).  This winery has always specialized in making dry wines.  Dale gave us the insight on a dry Rosé that the winery would be releasing in April, becoming one of the staples on their wine list.  It will be called "Sweet Talking Blonde."  In April the winery will be holding barrel tastings for a chance to try out the newest addition to Yellow Farmhouse as well as the classics.  We also met the owners of Röbller Vineyard & Winery and Chandler Hill Vineyards.

In addition to wine makers from Missouri, we also met a variety of wine makers from outside the state.  One of which was Jason Jenkins who is associated with Fox Valley Winery in Oswego, IL.  We compared tasting strategies and notes with him and discussed the joys of home brewing. 
A familiar face was at the conference as well, Dale Deaton of the St. Louis Wine and Beermaking.  Always a pleasure to talk beer with and discuss wine as well.  We were informed later that he and his wife got to meet John Blichmann, President and Founder of Blichmann Engineering.  Needless to say, we were a bit jealous and very excited about the prospects for next year's conference. 

Wines samples from Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Tennessee, Kansas, Iowa, Illinois, and of course Missouri left us wanting more.  We cannot wait to return next year to mingle and to experience what the Midwest Grape & Wine Conference has to offer.

Our "Best New Wine" of the night goes to Sleepy Creek Winery for their "Sour Puss".  An aromatic citrusy semi-sweet white wine made from Vignoles, Traminette, and Cayuga grapes.  A true show stopper and one that kept us sampling over and over again.