Friday, September 30, 2011

Big Missouri reds duel to a draw

A couple who are longtime friends invited us for dinner. Each couple brought a Norton to the table to pair with a Korean-inspired beef dish that was mildly spicy (tangy, not hot). They offered a bottle of 2008 Norton from Cooper's Oak in Boonville, Mo. Ours actually was a Cynthiana, a 2006 from the esteemed Heinrich Grohe of Heinrichshaus Winery near St. James, Mo. We were hoping for a great paring, and we got it.

The two guys started with a blind tasting. I thought it would be easy because of the differences in the wine's ages and Cooper Oak's emphasis on oak aging. However, both of us failed to identify the wines. Once the identities were revealed, we kept tasting in hope of understanding the differences. I thought I detected a little more spice in the Heinrichshaus, a little more smoke in the Cooper Oak. Later in the meal, I got a refill but did not from which bottle. So, I had another chance to identify the wine.

"It's Heinrich's," I said.

"No, it's the Cooper's Oak," my friend said.

That provoked another round of comparative sipping, which yielded no further knowledge. We agreed that we had two fine representatives from the state's Norton/Cynthiana complex, and that was that.

Out of this confusion, one thing is clear: the Cooper's Oak held its own with one of the most revered winemakers in the state. During our recent visit to Boonville, I heard one or two critical voices asserting that Cooper's Oak is all about the oak, not about the wine. I have always thought that this winery used oak carefully, and the dinner of dueling wines confirms my belief.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Notes on the Springfield Jazz Festival

The quantity and quality of local musicians impressed me. By carrying the music into the community on Friday evening and Sunday afternoon, these players built out the festival beyond the typical concert venue, which was one of the goals for the second year of the event. I am still learning new names of people who play jazz, and looking for the names of others I’ve heard but not met.

Who were the people playing at Canvas Art Gallery on Friday evening? They played many different styles of jazz with a distinctive trombone-tenor front line.

Who was the impeccably stylish trumpet player who jammed outside Trolley’s and later outdoors at 319 W. Walnut St.? Speaking of 319, who was pouring complimentary beer there? Thanks to both.

Two people whose names I know really stood out, Austin Farnam (saxes) and Chris Vanderpool (trombone). They made the most of the weekend, playing at three venues each, and maybe more. Definitely among my local favorites.

John Strickler’s trio engaged in lively interplay as if they were the reincarnation of the Bill Evans trio but with the pianist swapped out in favor of the guitarist.

MSU Jazz Symposium — loved the shifts of time and rhythm.

Saturday night’s concert:
  • I knew about Conrad Herwig, but I did not know a trombone can generate a continuous slur entirely consisting of music between the notes.
  • The MOJO Band was superb in its articulation of rhythmic chatter behind Herwig on “Lonnie’s Lament.”
  • I saw Dick Oatts as a member of the saxophone section of the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra at the Village Vanguard in 1998. Until Saturday night, I did not know he is capable of going absolutely berserk.
  • Randy Brecker played for a shorter period of time than Oatts and Herwig but managed to convey as much or more.
  • I agree with the choices for winners in the trumpet competition, by I also really enjoyed the Harmon-muted performance by Christopher Lawrence of his piece, “Mr. Weirdo.”
Check out photos from the festival in previous posts:

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Springfield Jazz Festival: Quantum Groove

This is the first of five posts from the Saturday afternoon (9/24) outdoor venue. I've posted photos and some IDs. I'll write more later and fill in the names as I acquire them. 

The second annual jazz festival is the first of its kind in Springfield, an event with numerous venues over two days, relying mostly on local artists with worthy skills and creativity.

Scenes from the performance by Quantum Groove:

Cole Gurley, Chris Vanderpool, Ryan Boone, Sam Clanton, Jeremy Miller.

Cole Gurley
Dennis Groves speaking to Grady Butler
Paul Rose
Ryan Boone

Springfield Jazz Festival: Missouri State University Jazz Symposium

Springfield Jazz festival: Linda Sala and the Jazz Project

From left: Joe Sala, Rick Salvador,  Linda Sala, Larry Pittman, Mark Brueggemann 
Linda Sala
Mark Brueggemann

Springfield Jazz Festival: New Hope Intl. Ministries Jazz Ensemble

Friday, September 16, 2011

Dirt-cheap white wines

In a recent post, I reminded everyone that summer was not over yet, and the days were still hot even though the temperature was being expressed in just two digits. Therefore, I wrote, we should still consider Missouri white wines as an enjoyable pairing with the weather.

This week, temps have tanked, and it’s looking more like pre-autumn. This is the stage when I am making the transition from whites to reds, but I’m not all the way there yet. If you feel the same way, you still may be in the market for white wine just to tide you over into the cooler months when red wine rules. If so, you may want to hedge your temporary investment in whites. To that end, I have put together some notes for the cheapest whites available that remain borderline palatable.

I will set the floor for dirt-cheap quality above the boxed Franzia and Vendange offerings, which have more to do with chemical engineering than with grapes. I will set the ceiling at $3 a bottle.

Within these parameters, I see a simple grouping of borderline palatable wines: the Charles Shaw selections at Trader Joe’s and Walmart’s portfolio of Oak Leaf wines. Most supermarket chains have their own dirt-cheap lines, but why complicate matters?

Oak Leaf

Pinot grigio: Does not suggest the variety printed on its label. It’s nondescript in classic jug fashion. However, it has a strongly fruit/floral nondescription that makes it borderline palatable. People who like pinot grigio appreciate its typically understated floral and gently acidic notes that make a balanced, sophisticated light wine. If you go for the Oak Leaf, spit out all thoughts of those nuances.

Sauvignon blanc: Clearly recognizable as a sauvignon blanc, but the tasting notes are purely grapefruit juice. This citrus-only effect — no minerals, no grass — may disappoint those who appreciate this variety, but what can you expect for $2.77?

Chardonnay: Austere, bone dry, and possibly recognizable as a chard. Without revealing the label, we shared this wine with an old friend who has high standards for wine. Weirdly, she did not reject it out of hand — far from it. Her response was, “There’s something there,” but she couldn’t say what it was. She kept drinking it, though.

Charles Shaw

Sauvignon blanc: Like the Oak Leaf, this one registers definitely as a sauvignon blanc. It delivers zesty citrus but in a more balanced manner, which is what you’d expect from a California version of this variety. If you slapped a trendily silly label on the bottle (Zappa Napa, Piney Winey?), you could charge $22, and people would love it. Instead, it’s a dirt-cheap bargain of substantial quality.

Other Charles Shaw whites: Sorry, I have not tried any others. The sauvignon blanc was a gift from a friend who frequently travels to a city with a Trader Joe’s outlet. Even so, I recommend the all the Shaws. Everything from Trader Joe’s is good, right?

Monday, September 12, 2011

A great weekend to be in Boonville

In a fortuitous coincidence, we planned a visit to Boonville, Mo., on the same weekend (Sept. 10-11) as the Second Annual Katy Bridge Wine Walk.

The event was sponsored by the Save the Katy Bridge Coalition. Plans for the bridge are to convert it to pedestrian use as part of the Katy Trail, the trans-Missouri pathway for recreation and tourism.

The event was a smart integration of commerce, tourism, arts, wine and a good cause that promised to raise awareness of all involved.

Wine notes

Baltimore Bend: Owner Sarah Schmidt set up on two deep-freeze units at Imhoff’s Hometown Appliance. The 2006 Cynthiana stood out for its rich, smooth character derived from 18 months of aging in toasted oak barrels and an additional 18 months to two years in the bottle. Schmidt described a specific approach to oak aging: “We try to balance the wine with the barrel,” she said. It’s a matter of being aware of each barrel’s charring and testing the wine frequently, she said.

Traver Home Winery: Samplers mobbed owners Jim and Bobbi Traver of Willow Springs as they poured their wines at a table in the back of A. Baker Floral. Their Eleven Point White — 70 percent Vidal, 30 percent Vignoles — had citrus notes with a little extra body from the Vignoles influence.

Cooper’s Oak Winery: The hometown winery, whose name indicates its approach to wine, has first-rate Chambourcin, Merlot, Zinfandel, Norton and various red blends that benefit from oak aging. Some of the white wines that spent time in barrels did not respond as well. Most satisfying were the Norton and the Cab-Merlot blend named Toasted Oak.

Adam Puchta: Try the Traminette.

Wenwood Farm Winery: Country Estate White is dry, clean and crisp.

Peaceful Bend: A spicy Norton grabbed my attention.

Les Bourgeois Winery: Solay, a blend that’s apparently a trade secret, is a refreshing white.

Wine news

Watch for the imminent opening of Bushwhacker Bend Winery in Glasgow, Mo. Owners were on hand at Family Shoe Store to spread the word.

Participating local businesses

Hotel Frederick

Imhoff's Hometown Appliance

A. Baker Floral

Zuzak Wonder Store

Citizens Bank & Trust

Gordon Jewelers

Family Shoe Store