Gems in My Glass . . . July 2013

Gems in MY Glass . . ., Mid-America, Tasting Notes


Take a stroll down wine trails in Mid-America to unleash some deliciously refreshing and well-made wines from the center of the USA.    I recently judged the Mid-American Wine Competition at the DMACC campus in Des Moines, Iowa, and walked away with a very positive impression of wines being produced here that you really ought to sip for yourself.  Here are some of the top scoring wines I judged at the competition, all Gold Medal Winners at this year’s MAWC:

Amigoni Urban Winery 2011 Estate Cabernet Franc, Kansas City Missouri:  Here is an impressive dry red wine crafted from 100% Cab Franc grown in Amigoni’s vineyard in Centerview Missouri.  Gorgeous expression of fruit is showcased from start to finish.   Berries and underlying green pepper aromas proudly announce Cab Franc in the glass.  Round and lush on the palate with flavors of fresh cherry preserves, vanilla, and wild berries accented with savory spice.  Precisely balanced with smooth tannins enhancing the delicious package.  SRP:  $22

Mountain Grove Cellars 2012 Pink Catawba; Missouri:   This pleasantly sweet Catawba is produced from grapes grown at the Missouri State Fruit Experiment Station at Missouri State University.  Distinctive foxy aromas clearly shout out Catawba (an American hybrid grape variety thought to be a cross of native American Vitis labrusca and another Vitis species).  Floral notes meld expressively with strawberries and watermelon candy and a splash of citrus on the palate.  This wine is beautifully fresh with a lovely balance of fruit and acidity. The finish is bright and clean, a well-crafted, satisfying quaff.    SRP:  ~$16

Oliver Winery 2010 Zinfandel:   The winery, located in Bloomington Indiana, sources the fruit for this succulent Zinfandel predominately from Lodi, California.   A touch of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon are blended in for added dimension.   A brilliant hue and concentrated ripe berry aromas capture the senses.    Sweet jammy fruit broadens on the palate with nutmeg and a dash of cinnamon.  Oh so juicy through the lingering finish; this fruit driven Zin will put a smile on your face.  SRP:  $20

Hinterland Vineyards NV Happy Creek Red, Clara City, Minnesota:  This sassy semi-sweet red wine is crafted of 100% Frontenac grapes from their estate Hinterland Vineyards in Clara City and grapes from Neal Vineyards in Alexandria Minnesota. This fanciful wine offers up a pleasing cherry Kool-Aid aroma that brings me back to my childhood.  Flavors of fresh red cherries and raspberries unfold on the palate with hints of fruity tisane herbal tea highlights.  Lively, fresh and satisfying with sweet fruit nicely offset by lively acidity.  SRP:   $12.95

Stonehaus Farms Winery 2011  Strother Ridge Cynthiana, Lee’s Summit, Missouri:  From grapes grown in Lee’s Summit, Missouri comes this luscious, sweet Cynthiana with gobs of juicy berries captivating the nose and the palate.  The texture is rich and smooth and the striking acidity ensures there is nothing cloying here.  Enticing toasty notes speak to the French oak aging.  Brown spice and vanilla bean accents add depth and linger on the finish, simply delightful.    SRP:  $15

Noboleis Vineyards 2012 Steepleview Hybrid blend; Augusta, Missouri:  From grapes grown in the Augusta AVA in Missouri comes this remarkable wine crafted primarily from the French/American hybrid grape Chambourcin, blended with Vidal Blanc and a bit of Traminette.   A touch of earthiness joins the forest fruits showcased on the nose, drawing you into the glass.  Bursting vividly on the palate are fresh raspberry, plum and wild blueberry flavors and subtle dried herb notes.  This well-structured wine remains bright and expressive through the lifted finish.   SRP:  $12.99

Prairie Moon Winery and Vineyards, NV Bullhead Red; Ames Iowa:  From their thirteen acre vineyard in Ames, Iowa comes this brilliantly hued Catawba.  Opening with  fruity, musky aromas, this well-made Catawba nicely captures the essence of this grape.   Layers of sweet cherries, bubble gum and raspberries unfold delightfully with vibrant acidity, dazzling the palate. The mouth feel is smooth and the finish is equally impressive with good length.  SRP:  $11

Illinois Sparkling Company, NV Bride of Freak of Nature: From their winery in Peru Illinois (their 2nd collaboration with Cleetus Friedman), comes this terrific Sparkling Rose.  It is creatively crafted from Frontenac grapes grown in Illinois with a Freak of Nature Oolong Tea steeped in brandy dosage.  This delicious sparkling wine made in the Methode Champenoise style really rocks.  Inviting aromas command your attention and the incredible balance of cranberry, cherry and raspberry fruit and distinctive Freak of Nature oolong tea buttery notes.   Racy acidity and a touch of residual sugar sends this wine soaring to brilliant heights, wow.  SRP:  $40

Oliver Winery NV Moscato:   Located in Bloomington Indiana, Oliver Winery dates back to the 1960’s. They harvest grapes from their local vineyards and also source fruit from other wine regions.  Fruit for this wine is sourced from California (2012 harvest).    Scents of tropical fruits and fresh flowers lift from the glass with this energetic Moscato.  The entry is slightly effervescent with a nice level of acidity that keeps the sweetness in perfect balance, and the mouth feel is joyful and bright.  Flavors of passion fruit and white peaches continue to unfold through the titillating finish.   SRP:  $10

Cellar 426 NV Uplifting; Ashland Nebraska.  Uplifting is made with 100% Traminette grapes, all grown in Nebraska.  A bouquet of aromatic roses and spice notes fully engage the senses with this beautiful Traminette (you may be more familiar with one of its parents with similar characteristics, Gewurztraminer).  Filling the palate are delicious flavors of fresh cut herbs, tangerines, lemon-lime sorbet and underlying Asian tea spices melding together harmoniously.  This lovely wine remains expressive and refreshing from first to last lingering sip.  SRP:  $16

Augusta Winery 2012 Dry Vignoles, Augusta, Missouri:   Augusta Winery was founded in the 1980’s in the scenic Missouri River Valley.  From their Estate House block comes this impressive dry Vignoles.  Aromatically rich, the inviting tropical fruit and floral notes completely embrace the senses.   It is silky and elegant across the palate with glorious flavors of pineapple, fleshy sweet star fruit and lemon and lime citrus accents.  The precise level of acidity pulls everything together in perfect harmony.  An elegant and refreshing wine with a memorable aftertaste.   SRP:  $16.42

Food and Wine Pairing

One of the unique features of this competition is the wine and food pairing that happens on the first day.  Wines, paired with sweet and savory dishes are judged on how the pairing works together.  This segment of the competition always stirs invigorating discussion.  What more fun can one have than pairing fabulous food (prepared by culinary experts at DMACC) with well-crafted wine that enhances the enjoyment of both the wine and the food?   Here are a few of my favorite pairings:

Beans Creek Winery (Manchester, Tennessee) 2008 Chambourcin Reserve paired with a Grilled Hamburger:  The fruity blackberry, raspberry, and earthy Chambourcin elements paired deliciously with the grilled hamburger.  The fat and savory qualities in the meat harmonized with the concentrated, spicy, dark fruit focused wine.  This well balanced, medium bodied Chambourcin showcased a pretty tartness that offset the richness of the meat.

Covered Bridges Winery (Winterset, Iowa) 2011 Rattlesnake Red paired with Smoked Pork Ribs:  The wafting aromas of the smoked ribs begged for a big red wine, and this powerfully built red, a blend of Marechal Foch, Frontenac, Geneva Red and Seyval really fit the bill.   This combination met an important rule for food and wine pairing; match the intensity of the food flavors to the intensity of the wine.   This delicious and immensely flavorful wine with plenty of body held up perfectly to the full, intense flavors of the smoked ribs.   Smoked meats can sometimes overpower wine, but clearly not the case here, this was a pairing that really excited the palate.

Eagles Landing (Marquette, Iowa) NV Serenity:  A dessert wine brimming with flavors of fresh raspberries, berry jam and chocolate undertones was a bright and lively pairing with the chocolaty, melt in your mouth brownie.  The wine’s focused fruit at the core and notable level of acidity was a perfect accompaniment to the rich, dense brownie.  A chocolate lover’s dream!

Wine regions in Mid-America have made great strides in grape growing, vineyard practices and winemaking over the past several years.  Why not give it a whirl; you’ll surely find a few gems that will wow your palate, too.