Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Missouri Whites

"Romans don't drink red wine in the summer, especially on a 101 degree afternoon," my professor snapped at me after I placed my order for a Tuscan red in a trattoria outside of Tivoli.
"So. I'm not Roman..." I muttered in response, and waited for my wine order to arrive.
At the villa that year, we drank homemade crisp white Trebbiano d'Abruzzo with every meal. The kitchen staff  packed it in our lunches for the field. They served it at breakfast with eggs, post siesta with fresh pears and cheese, at dinner with the customary seemingly thousand course meal, after coffee at night. I don't like cold white wine (I never have); it usually tastes too much like fruit, like pears and apples and apricots, and I don't like cold drinks except my ice water with lemon juice after a run. White wine lovers would probably really love the house wine at the villa, it was clearly a nice little house wine bottled in recycled mineral water bottles. The only white wine I ever drank after Italy was a very inexpensive Trebbiano d'Abruzzo stocked at Robert's, the terrific walk-to grocery store in the Faubourg Marigny. After so much white wine in Europe, I only drank white wine after long August afternoons spent gardening, which was often enough, but I stopped at 1/2 a glass. I'm an inveterate dry red wine person, I always have been (probably due in part to my Episcopalian upbringing). I continue to drink room temperature dry red wine on a 104 degree afternoon.

During my first foray into Missouri wine culture nine years ago, I visited the wineries I could reach within a two hour drive, especially appreciating Buffalo Creek and Grey Bear near Stover. Oh yes, very nice white wine, but I don't drink whites, so I'll taste your dry whites because they're part of the tasting, but I'll spend my extremely hard earned dollars on your Nortons and Chambourcins. During my tenure in Missouri, I have bought two bottles of white wine: a Traminette from River Ridge Winery (Commerce, Mo.) that was reminiscent of bees gorging in a lilac bush, and the bottle I have in my possession today, a 2010 Seyval Blanc from Buffalo Creek (recently reopened under new management--son and daughter-in-law of the original owners), purchased because it was the only wine under their label they were selling that cold February day and I have early Missouri memories of Buffalo Creek. I don't even know if I tasted it before I bought it. Cold wine always tastes cold and fruity, sort of the same regardless of the's a horrible admission to make and hopefully one day I'll manage to appreciate whites better. The sugars- perceived or real- in whites tend to make me a little cranky and belligerent, so it's best I stay away from them for now. 

August 2011: I happily found myself at the tasting bar at St. Innocent, a stellar winery situated in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA of Oregon's premier landscape, the Willamette Valley. Oregon vintners specialize in truly remarkable, nay, gasp-worthy pinot noir, and from what I understand, they also make great pinot gris but I usually don't taste them (most wineries in Oregon charge for wine tastings, so I stick to the pinot noir, of course). Sidled up next to us at the cozy tasting bar at St. Innocent was a viticulture professor from a university in Minnesota. I casually mentioned to him that I live in Missouri, and he immediately stepped back a couple of paces: "Missouri wineries produce the best Voignier-style wine in America, their Vignoles tops every other attempt at Voignier in the country." Yes, well, they're nice, I've tried them, but I don't drink them, so...I can't really compare them to other states, etc., I mumbled. I trusted his judgement, especially noting how many multiple cases of St. Innocent's Reserve 08 Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris he was purchasing on an educator's budget. (Alas, on my salary I could only afford one bottle at St. Innocent, and it's the Estate, not even the Reserve bottling.)

So, while I only drink a tasting's worth of most Missouri white wines, I contend that there are some very nice ones out there, with Traminette being the most highly variable among wineries. Traminette is reminiscent of Gewurtztraminer, complete with a customarily floral nose, some of a buttery finish (sometimes, but not always). I tend to always taste Missouri Traminettes as they tend to be the most interesting of the whites. Chardonels are usually very well made in Missouri, along with Seyval Blanc. Because I haven't had a full glass of a cold white wine since the last time I was in Italy, I really can't offer tasting notes. I can tell from the tastings that most wineries in Missouri produce nice whites, however. 

I placed the '10 Seyval Blanc in my refrigerator a couple of days ago in anticipation of opening it alongside a July 4th dinner of sweet corn from north Missouri and a caprese salad sandwich made with awesome heirloom tomatoes and basil from the yard. I took it out, the bottle all beaded in sweat, and I never opened it. I'll never drink a whole bottle of a white wine, so I'll keep it cool until that rare occasion when I have a houseguest who "cannot possibly" drink a room temperature dry red while in my unairconditioned house. Anyway, Missouri Vignoles is highly regarded, and the other whites produced here have much more character than the plonk coming out of bulk wine producers worldwide. It's summer, the time of year when the Romans drink whites. Try some of Missouri's.


Travis said...

for some reason, i think all traminettes taste like soap.

In the summer, i love mixing dry red wine with anything fizzy and citrusy, toss in some ice cubes to keep the whole thing cold. violates every wine "rule" out there, but it tastes very refreshing and keeps me hydrated!

Allison Vaughn said...

That's how the Japanese tourists in New Orleans would drink French reds in the summer: add 7Up and ice cubes. i've never tried it, but with the average temperature in my house hovering around 90 degrees at night, it may not be a bad idea!