Sunday, August 24, 2014

Urban vineyard: Be thankful for small favors — and bird netting

Bird netting connected with clothespins encased the vines. For some reason, birds didn't try to penetrate it. 

Inside the canopy
An April frost, a huge limb falling on the vines in a storm, and a bit of black rot diminished the yield of the urban vineyard, but a record-high sugar measurement this year promised better quality wine. 

Two things happened this year for the first time: all eight plants contributed fruit, and the vines fulfilled their function as a tent for the grapes, providing shade and protection from pests. In earlier years, we had patches of leafy expanse and other spots where grapes were dangling more or less exposed.

We tried bird netting for the first time in five years, and it worked. I abandoned bird netting in 2010 because the birds found ways to stick their beaks into the spaces and grab grapes one at a time. Worse, some birds using this technique got caught in the netting and died horrible deaths. Oddly, this year we had smarter birds that mostly left the netting alone. 

The "shroud" was used to protect small areas of clusters.
Netting proved to be much easier to maintain than the row cover we had been using to cloak the row of vines in a “shroud.” We did use a bit of row cover for areas of isolated clusters. 

Like row cover, bird netting encased the entire plant, secured along the ground with garden staples on either side.

I suspect the long dry spell was responsible for this week's remarkable spike in the brix up to 20, which is the highest reading I've ever seen from these plants. The forecast calls for rain later this week, which would dilute the sugar content, so I decided to act now. 

We harvested about 20 pounds of St. Vincent today (right). I’m amazed that we got that much in the face of all the natural obstacles this year brought.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Charlie Haden with Ornette: unforgettable

I had been looking for a place for this memory of hearing Charlie Haden with Ornette Coleman. It didn't seem to fit in my weekly music column, so it's here, adjacent to a reprint of the column.

Haden the agitator

Roughly 40 years ago, some time after I got my driver’s license and before I finished college, I saw the Ornette Coleman quartet at Joe Segal’s Jazz Showcase in Chicago.

Coleman was wearing a full-length, bright blue robe covered with silvery stars and moons. Dewey Redman wore a dashiki. This was the mid-'70s — no coat and tie and starchy white shirts. Haden stood out in his ordinary walkaround pants and shirt.

Coleman played long fluid passages punctuated with jarring blasts and shrieks. Dewey Redman on tenor growled, burbled and ululated. Drummer Ed Blackwell held things together, driving the band in lively swing figures with New Orleans flavors.

Eyes squinted shut, the bass player agitated the others, spewing speedy, intricate walking lines, weaving rugged textures of brief repeating patterns that felt almost like strumming, mixing motifs and toggling back and forth.

I had never heard a bass played that way, and I had never heard a group stirring up so much tension. They were not exactly playing together; they were playing against each other. It was thrilling, a little scary, and widely ear-opening.

Haden’s post-Coleman work, especially with Quartet West, became decidedly gentler, but I think the overarching quality of his work was to bring to the music whatever he thought it needed.

Haden leaves city a jazz legacy with bright moments

Published in the Springfield (Mo.) News-Leader, August 8, 2014
This content cannot be reproduced without permission of the News-Leader.

Charlie Haden, the great bassist who died last month, made an impression in Springfield as part of his family's band back in the 1950's, but his recent contributions to the city's jazz community promise long-lasting rewards.

Randy Hamm, director of the Missouri State University Jazz Studies Program, came to know Haden during the conceptual stages of the MSU program and the first Springfield Jazz Festival, during the end of the last decade. Hamm also had a mind-blowing musical experience playing with Haden at that time.

Planners recruited Haden as guest artist for the inaugural festival and as artist in residence for the first year of the MSU Jazz Studies Program. Haden's presence was crucial to the launch of both efforts, Hamm said.

In Springfield in 2010 for the first festival, Haden said he was impressed with the renovation of the Gillioz Theatre and pleased to have the opportunity to perform there with his band, Quartet West.

In 2009, Haden appeared at an important fundraiser for scholarships and equipment for the new program. MSU jazz ensembles provided entertainment for the event at the Kentwood Ballroom on campus. In addition, Hamm on alto saxophone and faculty member Kyle Aho on piano played as a duo.

Haden wasn't planning on playing. He didn't have his bass, and he was uncomfortable using other people's equipment, Hamm said. However, after a couple of tunes by the duo, Haden stepped forward and joined Hamm and Aho.

"We let him call the tunes he wanted to play," Hamm said. "One of the tunes that he called, which he had recorded several times, was 'Body and Soul.' "

"I tell you, playing with Charlie Haden in that intimate setting, without a drummer — that Steinway in that room, the acoustics — it was one of the most rewarding musical experiences I've ever had."

The three musicians had never played together as a trio. It was a leap of faith. "Just to call a tune, there was immediate, deep trust all around," Hamm said.

He paused for a moment, looking for words:

"Playing with Charlie Haden must be what it feels like to ride on a magic carpet. His time, his intonation, his note choices, his rhythmic feel. It was gorgeous. I didn't want to stop."

The Jazz Studies Program has graduated its first group of musicians. The fifth annual Springfield Jazz Festival is Oct. 3.

Ed Peaco writes about locally grown Ozarks music for the News-Leader. Contact him at 417-413-9029 or

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Giant Amoeba emits semi-obscure CD

This is the jazz CDs section of Amoeba. The store also sells 33s, 45s and 78s.
During a recent visit to Los Angeles, I ventured into Amoeba, one of the last enduring record stores and one of the largest. My mind went back two decades when I spent hours in such places, flipping through the stacks. However, we had many sightseeing priorities in the Hollywood area, so I challenged myself to find a worthy CD in 10 minutes or so.

"Tring-A-Ling" with the Amoeba price sticker.
I wanted a CD that was probably out of print and only available at Amoeba or from collectors online. I didn't achieve that level of obscurity, but I did find, within the self-imposed time constraint, "Tring-A-Ling" by Joanne Brackeen. The 1977 LP was reissued as a CD in 2009.

Michael Brecker appears on four of the seven tracks. While Brackeen and Brecker both are in the early stages of their careers, Brackeen sounds like the full arc of her artistry is already achieved, while Brecker is still in a developmental stage.

Brecker: He's running the tenor at high speed, but he's not negotiating the curves all that well. He's yippy in spots, and, on "Haiti-B," he's bending notes into howls like a mournful beagle. Two and three decades later — as heard on a couple of my favorites, "Tales from the Hudson" and his last album, "Pilgrimage" — he had become the master we all know, infusing emotional intensity where there was once just velocity.

Brackeen: The complex yet playful compositions are already here, as are the sprawling piano solos, roiling in crosscurrents. Many jazz musicians who find their path early and follow it through life usually are not very interesting to hear in their later years. However, Brackeen is an exception. As you go forward in her career, the work is just as absorbing even though the concept hasn't changed.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Anything from Heinrich, and other great finds

Now we're nicely stocked up, but we'll need more next year ...
Seven wineries in two days. I suppose we could have crammed in a few more. 

Personal favorites: 

Wonderful wines from nonstandard grapes: Peaceful Bend's Forché Renault and Traver's
Marechal Foch.

Belmont's Cayuga, the blackberry from Horst, the full-bodied Chardonel from Viandel, Whispering Oaks St. Vincent ...

... and anything from Heinrich.

Review of wineries featured in this year's wine tour:

Sweet sells, but there's more — such as Heinrichshaus

Belmont: Views, food paired with wine

Peaceful (but busy) Bend Winery

Horst Vineyards: Creative, competitive, surprising

Viandel Vineyard: From apples to grapes 

Traver Home Winery: Dog’s Breath, Bear’s Den and actual cats and dogs

Whispering Oaks St. Vincent runs the table at La Galette Berrichonne

Whispering Oaks St. Vincent runs the table at La Galette Berrichonne

Whispering Oaks owner Larry Green pours one of his reds. Photo credit: Jennifer Peaco

Whispering Oaks Vineyard and Winery was the last stop on the 2014 wine tour. However, the biggest revelation came a few weeks later.

Some friendly folks we met at Tyler Ridge Vineyard Winery invited us on an outing to the French restaurant in Fordland, La Galette Berrichonne. The expedition included a stop at Whispering Oaks, where we acquired another bottle of St. Vincent, made in a dry, supple style.

La Galette Berrichonne does not serve wine, but it welcomes diners to bring their own wine, no corking fee assessed.

We took the bottle of St. Vincent into the restaurant, not knowing whether it would be a good pairing for anything on the preset menu.

However, the Whispering Oaks St. Vincent stood up admirably to all seven courses!

  1. Seafood au gratin
  2. Coq au vin croustade (chicken)
  3. Quiche Lorraine with salad
  4. Pork tenderloin with port sauce
  5. Raspberry sorbet
  6. Brie with slices of strawberries
  7. Tarte aux cerises (cherries)
The touches of fruit and the emphasis on lighter meats helped the St. Vincent run the table. A great discovery. The US 60 Corridor is beginning to become a factor for The Good Life in southern Missouri.

By the way, Lisa Stacy, manager at Majestic Limousines, provided professional and congenial chauffeur service that was, for a big group, rather affordable.

Missouri Wine Snob notes

Vignoles: Best of the variety tasted on this tour: Crisp and not too sweet.

Traminette and Vidal (semi-sweet) have citrus notes.

Catawba has progressed through several stages over more than a decade of development at Whispering Oaks. The current Catawba is sweet, bringing out the full fruit flavor but keeping that grape’s unruliness in check.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Traver Home Winery: Dog’s Breath, Bear’s Den and actual cats and dogs

Friendly critters stand ready to spread good will. Photo credit: Jennifer Peaco

Jim Traver makes wine to suit customers' tastes as well as his own. Photo credit: Jennifer Peaco
Smaller projects.
Photo credit: Jennifer Peaco
From a big slate of wines by Jim Traver, one selection was made with advice from customers. With this sweet red, made by committee as his website suggests, he intends to please crowds.
“Curl up on a winter’s night with a glass of Bear’s Den Red,” Traver says with a warm and persuasive tone.His top-selling wine also has an animal-inspired name. Dog’s Breath Red is lighter and sweeter than Bear’s Den Red.

Dogs and cats populate the winery and environs (no actual bears).

However, Traver’s work area, filled with big tanks and smaller projects in bulbous glass containers, produces wines across the spectrum of dry and sweet, often with uncompromising varietal flavors and earthy essence.

Missouri Wine Snob notes
Chardonel: Highly spicy with a touch of oak.

Eleven Point White: This blend of 70 percent Vidal and 30 percent Vignoles is assertively dry and fruity.

Vignoles choices: The semi-dry has some of the boldness of Eleven Point White. With the semi-sweet Vignoles, that edge is smoothed out.

Peach: Not too sweet, with a strong peach nose but lighter peach flavor, with an overall experience that sometimes suggests a semi-sweet grape wine.

UPDATE! Marechal Foch: Somehow I forgot to mention this lighter wine with the deep red color — one of the pleasant surprises of the trip. It's not as light as most St. Vincents, and it has darker fruit notes such as blackberry, while St. Vincent often has cherry. This is another great example of a successful wine made with a nonstandard grape variety. Cheers!
Down a gravel road through thick woods, you will find Traver Home Winery.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Viandel Vineyard: From apples to grapes

This vineyard used to be an apple orchard.
Roses figure widely on the grounds of Viandel.
The story begins with an apple orchard and starts moving along when Jon and Cathy Smith decided to plant six grapevines at the urging of David Horst, who owns a winery nearby in the Mountain View area.

The next year, the Smiths liked the idea of a vineyard so much that they yanked out all their apple trees and planted 200 more grapevines in their place. Their plan was to sell grapes to Horst, but they changed their mind and started their own winery.


Missouri Wine Snob notes

Bottles in the retail area at Viandel.
Norton: This one won a Missouri Wine and Grape Board bronze award. It has a moderate amount of French oak with a lean profile.

Chambourcins: The 2010 vintage is smoother and less spicy than a typical Chambourcin; 20 percent of the vintage was oaked and the rest was aged in stainless steel. All of the 2011 vintage was aged in Missouri oak for the strongest oak treatment of any Chambourcin sampled on the tour. Usually I back off of strongly oaked reds, but this one works for me. The oak somehow converts the spice into something rich and mellow.

Chardonel: Among all the Chardonels on the trip, this one has the fullest body.

Bee Bluff: This blend of 70 percent Chambourcin, 30 percent St. Vincent has a medium body with fruity notes and a touch of oak. Very pleasant and an ideal choice for a summer red.

A deck has space for dining and lounging.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Horst Vineyards: Creative, competitive, surprising

David Horst and his awards for his 2011 Norton and blackberry wine.
In a battle of Nortons, Horst Vineyards won a silver medal in the 2013 Missouri Wine Competition. The bronze medalist was Viandel Vineyard, less than five miles east on US 60. Stone Hill won the gold.

Owner David Horst’s 2011 Norton — leaner and a little more heavily oaked than Viandel’s — also won a silver award at the San Francisco Chronicle competition.

While he clearly has a competitive spirit, when it comes to the actual results of the wine, he says, “We don’t make the fighting kind; we make the loving kind.”

Missouri Wine Snob notes

Chardonel: A little oak and a lot of body.

Chambourcin: More oak, less spice than typical for this vartiety, with a smooth yet hearty body.

Country Road Red: Half Chambourcin, half St. Vincent — a bright, medium-bodied result.

And one of the best surprises of the tour —

Blackberry: This balanced wine with subtle fruit flavors tastes much less sweet than its sugar content would suggest. The experience is more like a grape wine than a fruit wine. For me, that’s a good thing.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Peaceful (but busy) Bend Winery

The entrance to the tasting room is upstairs to the left.
One of the winery dogs.
When we visited Peaceful Bend Winery, the only beings living up to the name of the winery were dogs. While they lolled on the deck in pleasant stupors, people were coming and going, tasting, drinking, eating and strolling.

While we were sampling, owner Clyde Gill offered tastes of some enchiladas he's just made. It was a nice gesture, and it seemed to be just a part of the flow at Peaceful Bend.

Under and around the shade of tall trees, we found a sprawling installation with several segments of distinct architecture. It was fun just to walk around and look at the building.

Missouri Wine Snob notes

Courtois: A Vidal with more citrus than Heinrich’s.

Dry Creek White: A Viognier with a strong mineral element and high alcohol content.

Norton: This Norton, like others on this tour, is smooth, tempering the impetuous aspects of this variety.

Meramec Red:
A blend of Chambourcin and Norton. We have found that this blend always seems to make a good wine. This one has great body and strong oak.

Whittenburg: A blend of Cayuga and Chardonel, similar to a Moscato but not too sweet.

Forché Renault: Another boldly oaked red, made with Noiret grapes. This one is a worthy change of pace; we don’t see Noiret much in Missouri ...

... and it's fun to find a good wine
made of nonstandard grapes!

Down the stairs and around the corner, the building sprawls.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Belmont: Views, food paired with wine

Belmont has great views from comfortable indoor and outdoor settings. Photo credit: Jennifer Peaco
A wood-fired over for pizzas.

The big covered patio overlooks rolling hills of vines and livestock, and the bistro features wood-fired pizzas among other fare. Belmont Vineyards and Winery has a stylish yet casual feel, and the wines are appealing as well.

Missouri Wine Snob notes

Norton: Smooth and tempered, similar to Heinrich’s.

Bella Rosso: A lighter, fruity red with a raspberry finish.

Chardonel: Subtle with flavor that veers more toward Chardonnay.

Rommelman Red: A semi-dry wine that looks almost like a blush, but it’s much bolder than a blush.

Cayuga: Every good winery seems to have a pleasant surprise waiting to be sampled. For Belmont, it’s the Cayuga. This one really stands out for its licorice finish.

Travel hints

When you are getting near the winery, disregard your GPS. Use a paper map or your noggin; its not hard to find.

Restaurants on this leg of the trip that we heard are good: Sybil’s in St. James. In Rolla, Gordoz (we ate there and can give it a thumbs up), Matt’s Steakhouse, Benton’s Square.

Restaurants in Cuba that we saw but lack knowledge of: Missouri Hick BBQ and Shelley’s Café. [Just saying there are places to eat there.]

One winery in the Steeleville area that we missed due to scheduling misfortune: Edg-Clif Winery. Nice setting.

In addition to grapes, livestock also are raised at Belmont.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Sweet sells, but there's more

Wine trip to Rolla area and US 60 corridor

We have followed the wineries of the Missouri River from Rocheport to St. Louis. We have headed northwest and southeast and have explored Mid-Missouri. This year, we explored new and old places in the Rolla-St. James-Steeleville area, then we went south to wineries of along US 60.

Last year among wineries north of Kansas City, we noticed a strong trend toward sweet wines, which prevailed on our route this year. However, we also found winemakers who want to make classic dry wines often with oak, even though they recognize that sweet sells.

In the Ozark Highlands part of this year's trip, we ran into a lot of bold and earthy wines.

Heinrich Grohe's tastings are full of facts, lore and laughs. Photo credit: Jennifer Peaco


We stopped first near St. James at Heinrichshaus, an iconic place helmed by one of the elder statesmen of Missouri wines of the German tradition, Heinrich Grohe.

It was such a pleasure to get back in touch with his great wines. The last time we visited him, we made a video of our tasting with him. Heinrichshaus wines aren’t all made the same way. Results stretch from subtle (Traminette, Vidal) to bold (Chambourcin). 

Missouri Wine Snob notes

Chardonel: A little sweet, but the full body of the grape provides balance.

Chambourcin: Spicy in a zesty way, and dry.

Prairie Rouge: Earthy, lighter than most of his wines, and mysterious. Heinrich declined to disclose the grape varieties. Steve’s guess: Cabernet Franc, Concord and a white wine. To that combination, Heinrich had no comment …

After being spoiled by the robust Nortons of Tyler Ridge Vineyard Winery, I had to adjust my taste standards to appreciate Heinrich’s approach. It was actually delicate, serene, refined in a way that I didn’t expect.

Heinrich entered the debate about Norton/Cynthiana on the side that declares that they’re separate varieties. Cynthiana is an outgrowth of Norton, he said, referencing research at Missouri State University-Mountain Grove.

I’m not all that concerned about the botany. They might as well be the same; its what the winemaker does with the grapes.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

I am a wine snob ...

… but a specific type of wine snob

Jen and I have been doing an annual Missouri wine tour with our longtime friends Steve and Donna Koehler for at least 12 years with just one interruption.

These trips, along with our tippling of wines of the Ozarks, have made me a wine snob. Not the typical coastal or international wine snob who refuses to acknowledge the value of Missouri wines. I am a wine snob who favors only Missouri wines.

My feeling, more or less, is:

If it’s not Missouri wine, why bother?

I’m not saying that wines of the rest of the world do not have value. I just don’t bother with them. The only exception is dining out, because restaurants rarely carry Missouri wines. I can usually find something I like even if it’s not from Missouri — Tempranillo, Shiraz, Cab, an unoaked Chardonnay or a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

There’s another exception: routine wine for routine weekday dinners. I go for beneath-the-bargain-basement swill that helps keep overall costs manageable. That wine comes from California.

My snobbery is not based on received wisdom (how could it be?) or because I hate all other wines and/or like only Missouri wines. It’s just something that has built up over the years.

So, there you have it — my opening post in a series that will document this year’s tour. I thought I needed a strong beginning to get people’s attention and set this series apart from the usual travelogue.

Upcoming posts:
Belmont Vineyards
Peaceful Bend
Horst Vineyards
Viandel Vineyard
Traver Home Winery
Whispering Oaks Vineyard and Winery

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Freeze protection may have worked

In my previous post, I said I would not disclose how I covered my backyard St. Vincent vines. I will say that I used plastic and leave it at that. The temperature at 6 this morning was 30, suggesting that the freeze was not hard enough to do serious damage to the buds. However, when I removed the plastic at 8 a.m., I found mixed results. Some buds that were pressed against the plastic were damaged or killed, and others that did not come into contact with the plastic looked bad but not dead. Still others survived.

I hope that my commercial-vineyard friends, who have so much more at stake than I, are facing conditions no worse, and hopefully much better.

Possible conclusions for the urban vineyard:

  • The plastic covering might have harmed some of the buds.
  • The covering might have saved many buds.
  • It had no effect because the freeze was mild, not hard, causing spotty damage.
Evidence —

Not so good:

Very bad:

In fine shape:

Monday, April 14, 2014

Bad timing for a cold snap

One rule of thumb for the onset of frost damage is four hours at 28 degrees. According to KYTV's weather app, temperatures will be in the 27-28 range from 2 a.m. to 7 a.m. tonight. 

I covered my vines, which I can do because I have just eight vines. I will not disclose how I did the covering because the materials and the process are absurd. The protective measures probably will do as much harm as the hazard (if it happens).

We'll see.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

MOJO returns to Cartoons

On Tuesday, March 18, the
Missouri Jazz Orchestra
performed for the first time
in four months, at the venue
where they began four years
ago. Cartoons proved to be
a great place to hear the
band — rich, deep and loud.
Brent Vaughan contributed
two new transcriptions
and an original composition. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Sweet home: Downstairs from disco

1974 photo of the Happy Medium, 900 Rush St., Chicago.
Retrieved from
I have fond memories of Joe Segal's Jazz Showcase in the mid-1970s when it was located downstairs from the Happy Medium at Delaware and Rush in Chicago. On one of my visits, the Happy Medium was doing a disco night (or, for all I knew, it was a dedicated disco club at the time). In any case, I recall entering on the first floor and looking into the club, where I saw the sparkling glitter ball and dancers all in white, with canned disco tunes of high-hat and breezy backbeat. I was hating all of that, of course, but a wonderful transformation took place as I descended to the basement where jazz had commenced. Halfway down the stairs, the mindless high-hat faded away, overtaken by the driving ride cymbal and the rest of the robust propulsion of the jazz band. I don't remember who was playing, but I clearly recall the feeling of arriving home.