Friday, January 9, 2015

The Ultimate Food and Wine Pairing Experience

I consider myself a true Missouri wine oenophile, but I also dabble in being a foodie from time to time. That said, there is a place in Excelsior Springs that is ideal for indulging in Missouri’s plethora of wines, while also enjoying perfectly paired cuisine.

Willow Spring Mercantile claims to have the world’s largest selection of Missouri wines, and I don’t doubt them for a second. With more than 300 varieties, from 25 wineries around the state, I found myself in Missouri wine heaven! You can also find Missouri craft beers and spirits along with coffees, teas, gourmet foods and wine gifts all from local and small businesses in the Midwest. Jim and Daphne Bowman have created a cozy, inviting wine shop that serves lunch, leads wine tours, offers wine tasting and other fun things.
Once a month, Willow Spring Mercantile hosts the Four Course Wine Dinner. Each month, a different winery is invited to pair their wines to a unique menu. Wineries that have participated include, among many others: Baltimore Bend Vineyard; Serenity Valley Winery; Cooper’s Oak Winery; and Blumenhof Winery. I attended the Holiday themed dinner which included wines from Les Bourgeois Vineyard in Rocheport. The Vice President/Owner, Drew Lemberger, joined us that evening to explain the wines and guide guests through the dinner pairings.
The wines of the evening all came from Les Bourgeois’ limited reserve selection. The first course was Salmon Cakes with Watermelon Salsa, paired with the Brut Rose. The St. Vincent grape is what gives the Brut Rose its pink hue and light, fruity taste. This course was a perfect balance of sweet and salty.

The second course was a Thai Salad with Feta Cheese and Mandarin Oranges, paired with a Valvin Muscat. The Valvin Muscat grape is fairly new to the Missouri winery scene. Les Bourgeois creates this wine in the traditional French style, resulting in an off-dry, complex wine. The wine tamed the spice in the dressing and enhanced the sweetness of the oranges more with every bite.
The main course was a generous helping of Smoked Prime Rib with Pan Seared Green Beans and Garlic Mashed Potatoes, paired with the Reserve Norton. This wine is truly unique because it is the best of their 2012 Norton. Les Bourgeois used the best four barrels out of ninety to create this complex, robust wine which brought out the smokiness of the prime rib.
The dinner concluded with a Flourless Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Mousse Cream, paired with a Blackberry Port. The port is composed of 90% Norton and 10% local blackberries. Only two barrels were made, so this was a highly exclusive wine. This velvety wine heightened the coffee flavor in the cake and finished with full blackberry goodness.
The entire evening was delightful and delicious. I would highly suggest attending these wine dinners for an enjoyable night out. The next dinner takes place January 30, featuring the wines of Ladoga Ridge Winery. Reservations are required. If you’re attending from out of town, I recommend staying at the Elm Hotel and Spa – a beautiful and historic hotel located in Excelsior Springs.
Willow Spring Mercantile is at 249 East Broadway, Excelsior Springs, MO 64024; (816) 630-7467. Find more information at and on Facebook.

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