Thursday, May 30, 2013

Pirtle Winery: Why go farther?

When we settled into the leafy confines of Pirtle Winery in Weston, we realized that this was the place we wanted to enjoy, and no other stop would likely be better.

So we tossed the rest of our itinerary and chilled.

I learned about the winery long ago as a maker of mead, but it now has an ambitious menu of grape wine and fruit wine as well as mead. 

Like Terre Beau, Pirtle is housed in a former church. It was a Lutheran Evangelical Church, built in 1867. The tasting room has stained glass windows with floral designs.
This was also the only place I know that specializes in St. Vincent. Pirtle has three versions:

  • Alhambra: This one is a magnificent St. Vincent, getting more out of the grape than I've ever tasted. It's a rich, dry wine that tames the tangy aspect of the grape.
  • Weston Bend Red: A light-bodied wine that somehow also had big mouth feel.
  • Weston Bend Rosé: A luscious rosé.

Other notes:

Norton: Big with a little French oak.

Vignoles: Dry with powerful citrus and fruit. 

Apple wine: Semi-sweet with a citrus effect that reminded me of Sauvignon Blanc.

Honey mead: Like honey on toast.

We found a table under a long, cool canopy that used fabric to block the sun and greenery to complete the enclosure. We had a lunch of assorted nibbles and a bottle of Weston Bend Rose´.

And then we set off for home.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Jowler Creek, a green winery

Jowler Creek Winery in Platte City has alternative sources of energy (solar panels, above) and ecologically-aware vineyard maintenance. In the vineyard, owners Jason and Colleen Gerke use chickens to reduce insects and sheep to control weeds. To keep the sheep in line, they employ dogs (one of which is below).

Their Chambourcin and Norton were made in a lean style, with barely noticeable oak.

Vignoles had the classic sweetness than many wineries have muted in recent years. Jowler Creek apparently is going in the other direction. They said they made this vintage sweeter than previous ones.

Muskrato de Missouri was a fun tasting, an asti-style bubbly that was sweet but balanced with citrus.

Nort: A Norton made in a Port style with an emphasis on berry flavors.



Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Belvoir Winery: grand, historic setting

Upon our approach to Belvoir Winery in Liberty, elegant grounds and stately buildings created a sense of anticipation. The estate (above) is the former Odd Fellows Home District. The architecture is Jacobethan Revival, according to the winery's website. The buildings look like residence halls at a venerable small college.

Chardonel: This is the heavily oaked offering mentioned in the opening post in this series. Chardonel is a cross between Chardonnay and Seyval. Belvoir's Chardonel conveyed a little citrus along with the oak, which made it stand apart from an oaked Chardonnay, which is often buttery.

Plumeria: A semi-dry blend of Traminette, Vignoles and Seyval. For me, the Vignoles was up front, with gentle citrus. Plumeria was one of my top whites from this trip.

Norton: Leaner and softer than the typical Norton. This one resembled a Pinot Noir. 

The estate serves as an event center as well as a winery. To a certain extent, it's a museum, with furniture and decor in the first-floor rooms. 

And there's "George" (below), a skeleton of an Odd Fellows member who donated his body to science. Once the scientists received the donations, they returned George's bones to the lodge.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Terre Beau: just wine, no nonsense

John Tulipana
John Tulipana of Terre Beau Winery and Vineyard in Dover makes and sells wine his way. He learned winemaking from his father, of Sicilian heritage.

"Dad made wine because he liked to drink it," Tulipana said. This practical approach popped up in conversation about the craft: "I don't use oak. I don't have time to babysit it."

One thing he learned from his father was manifested in one of the Norton offerings. Part of the 2009 harvest was processed with the stems, the rest without. I did not expect the Norton with stems to be delicate and smooth, but it was. The Norton without stems had a more vibrant fruit emphasis.

The Chardonel was made sweet, but the floral effects in the nose and on the tongue surprised me and made this Chardonel stand out.

Ask about K.C., an intensely fruity blend of dry reds that was not available except for tasting because it had not yet been bottled.

Tulipana chose unexpected decor in the tasting room: posters of the Rat Pack performers and a vintage American flag.

Terre Beau (below) was the first of two wineries we visited that are housed in former churches. This place was built in 1858 by Presbyterians and acquired in 1904 by the Catholic parish. 

Sunday, May 26, 2013

K.C.-area wine trip: Baltimore Bend

Recently we took a winery trip to the Kansas City area with our good friends, Steve and Donna Koehler. Over the years, we have become familiar with wines from southwest and central Missouri, as well as the Hermann-Augusta area. This trip led us into new territory, with slightly different tastes.

One difference that stood out was the numerous options for sweet wines and the widespread use of the Concord grape. At a couple of stops, we heard that sweet Concord was the best seller.

However, all of the wineries also offered dry wines, and most had long wine lists that covered a spectrum of tastes.

We found considerable variation in treatment of individual varieties. Among Chardonels, Terre Beau's is sweet with a big floral emphasis, Belvoir's is heavily oaked, and Baltimore Bend makes an off-dry varietal called Mo Gold.

Baltimore Bend was the first stop and one of the more satisfying ones. With astute timing, we finished our visit just as a busload of happy people pulled up. A few notes:

Baltimore Bend proprietor
Sarah Schmidt
Norton: There were two choices from the 2010 vintage. The reserve was aged in French oak for a robust effect. The regular release was aged in American oak for a smoother result. As I recall, I was in the minority in favoring the American oak.

C2: A blend of Norton and Chambourcin aged in stainless steel — a rich and lively combination. I usually stay away from red blends because they often smooth over the distinct aspects of all elements. Instead, C2's boldness grabbed my attention. Wow!

Trey Blanc: Tasteful citrus notes from this blend of Chardonel, Seyval and Vignoles — semi-dry with more body than you might expect from an unoaked white wine.

Cirrus: A semi-sweet wine based on Catawba. This grape benefits from a little sugar to manage its strident flavors, so the impression was not that it was sweet, but that it was Catawba. And it had a slightly tangy finish of pure Catawba for balance.

More later on other K.C.-area wineries.

Friday, May 24, 2013

New tune from Brandon Mezzelo's album in progress

"Bootyquakin" is the only tune on the CD that's not straight-ahead, Brandon Mezzelo says. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Bella Donna at Flo Wine Bar: a rare wine-jazz nexus

Bella Donna (from left): Matt Guinn, Liz Carney and Mike Williamson, who usually plays bass.

I experienced a rare wine-jazz nexus at Flo Wine Bar, listening to Bella Donna. It was rare in that I had never set foot in Flo, assuming it was way too upscale for me — but this was happy hour.

The visit demonstrated that not all businesses housed in office centers designed to mimic Downton Abbey are negligible.

I ordered a glass of Vina Zaco Tempranillo (Rioja). The tasting note, smoky oak, got my attention. The wine lived up to that description in the sense that there's probably too much oak, but so what? This smoky oak was similar to the approach to Norton of Tyler Ridge Vineyard Winery, just north of Springfield.

The rest of the tasting notes for the Tempranillo were black fruits and chocolate. I got the fruits but missed the chocolate. In my limited experience with Rioja wines, they're too lean to suggest chocolate. I was thinking of black pepper.

The jazz nexus occurred with Bella Donna's own listening note, gypsy jazz. I heard a little Django on one tune, which turned out to be an original. Most of the songs were jazzy, not gypsy except in the sense that a great deal of rhythmic drive came from the guitar. Then Liz Carney sang two songs in French, including "J'attendrai" (I could be wrong), associated with Rina Ketty, an Italian singer who worked in Paris in the 1930s. Amazing work by Carney, transporting me to some distant, totally lost world.

I worked at trying to hear the gypsy notes in the same way I was working my taste buds for the chocolate notes in the Vina Zaco Tempranillo, but so what? They weren't there, but so much else was.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Next on The Voice: Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday with her dog, Mister.
Photo credit: William P. Gottlieb. Available from Creative Commons
In light of the horrible influence of TV network talent shows, I was thinking about how Billie Holiday would have performed on The Voice.

She had a boxer named Mister (above), but she probably didn't need him, given her famously pugnacious approach to conflict resolution, according to stories and lore.

In a Facebook forum (this link to the forum may not last forever), music folks were reacting to a post by Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters, who asserted that people shouldn't go through talent shows as a road to success. Instead, they should start with no talent and keep playing until they suck less and less, and presumably hope for the best.

I had another thought:

A separate aspect of damage that these shows do is to codify a certain kind of pop singing based on yelling. Of course, there are technical aspects of yelling, and Blake Shelton does mini-lectures on them in every show. You start out yelling softly, then you move up to yelling loudly, accenting a specific syllable and emoting properly. Imagine how Billie Holiday would handle her moment on The Voice. She'd swivel Shelton's chair around and punch his face in.

I have carried the impression of Holiday as a fighter for more than 35 years, dating back to a conversation with English Professor Mike Liberman at Grinnell College. He said Holiday once got into an argument with a sailor in a club, and she suggested they take it outside — where she beat him to the ground. A similar story is told in Farah Jasmine Griffin's 2001 biography, If You Can't Be Free, Be A Mystery: In Search of Billie Holiday.

Of course, people interpret Holiday in terms of their own often extravagant emotional baggage, and my take is just one more. I find it quite satisfying to see her as a fighter.