Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Sweet and hot

In my ongoing efforts to visit every Missouri winery (at least once), I've amassed quite a collection of wine. Granted, I usually only taste dry reds and the occasional Chardonel or Vignoles, but not every Missouri winery makes my favored suite, and it is unlikely that I would visit a winery without tasting and buying their wine. During this adventure, I've visited a handful of fruit wine wineries; yes, I realize grapes are also fruit, but there are Missouri wineries experimenting with apple, raspberry, blueberry and other fruit wines.

I tend to avoid sweet wines as a rule, but visiting some of these fruit wine wineries allows for pretty curious tastings. Because I always buy a bottle at each winery I visit, I've expanded my wine rack to include wines other than my favorite Nortons, Chambourcins and Oregon pinot noirs. In fact, sitting behind me now in the handmade rack that holds 60 bottles are two of the more interesting fruit wines I've encountered in the past year. I have two bottles of jalapeno wine, one with an apple base and the other made with raisin wine. If someone had told me upon my move to Missouri that I would spend money on jalapeno wine, I wouldn't have believed it. Alas, that's what I did in 2012. Heading towards Hermann, the land of fine Nortons and exceptional dry reds, I stopped into Endless Summer Winery with the sign out front sporting a cheery sunflower on top of a brilliant blue sky background. The winemakers/owners here are a very kind and earnest husband and wife team making fruit and nut wines, a vast departure from the traditional Hermann offerings. One of the more curious wines they make at Endless Summer is a delightful pecan wine with a buttery finish that seriously complements Christmas cookies. Their sweet fruit wine offerings aren't sticky sweet, and certainly palatable. I really enjoy the experimentation that is taking place in a lot of Missouri wineries these days; rather than sticking to the tried-and-true combination of Chambourcin+Norton, many winemakers throughout the state are testing the waters with St. Vincent blends, Norton+Cabernet Franc, and other permutations of grapes. But the fruit wineries like Oovda Winery around Springfield are taking fruit winemaking to a new level with wines ranging from dry to semi-dry to sweet with a panoply of fruits. (For the record, Oovda's Norton is very nice and ages well for about 4 years.)

But back at Endless Summer Winery, we took our time and went through the whole list which includes a blackberry wine of great freshness and depth. At the end of the tasting, the wife poured me a jalapeno-raisin wine in my little tasting glass. It has all of the great flavor of a well-grown jalapeno, quite a bit of the heat, and a cooling and crisp aftertaste. The jalapeno wine is particularly dry and bright on the nose. I left with two bottles. While it makes a great cooking wine, especially for curry or South American dishes calling for cumin and turmeric, the winery reports that some patrons sit down in the ample seating here and drink it, straight up.

And that's exactly how patrons enjoyed Odessa Country Winery's jalapeno wine, called Tornado Spotter. Located in the Central Dissected Till Plains in Lafayette Co., this charming little winery also specializes in fruit wines. As part of the tour of Lafayette Co. wineries wherein I met some fantastic winemakers and stocked up on some great dry reds, Odessa Country Winery is situated right on the designated wine route, and well worth the visit. The winemaker here is a charming young man who likes to hunt and has created a great hangout for hunters in his winery--deer heads on the wall, camouflage decorations, and so forth. And he makes semi-sweet fruit wines including their award-winning Country Concord, a cherry wine and a traditional elderberry wine. Their Tornado Spotter was made with home grown jalapenos and a crisp green apple. I don't know how long apple wines are to age, but I have a bottle in my refrigerator waiting for a night of burritos and salsa and someone with whom to drink it since it takes me a long time to finish a bottle of white wine, regardless of the fruit (or vegetable).

This has been a fascinating few years of visiting Missouri wineries. I realize this may read like a marketing pamphlet, but with the diversity of grapes, winemaking talent, available Missouri fruit, and experimentation, most wine drinkers of all sorts will find some sort of wine to enjoy on their own travels throughout Missouri.


Elizabeth said...

Those wines sound so interesting! I picked up some Hatch Green Chile wine in Santa Fe thinking it looked very interesting, but have not tasted it yet. Thanks for writing about this!

Allison Vaughn said...

I don't buy wine I won't drink, but sometimes I buy polite bottles that turn out to be doozies. I've cooked with the Endless Summer one but would like to drink the Tornado Spotter, but I have to have someone else around...Bet the green hatch chili wine is good!

Steve Wiegenstein said...

I'd recommend the Norton from Spirit Knob Winery over in Ursa, Illinois. I know it's not Missouri, but it's just across the river! I've had it several times and it definitely improves with age, so getting an older vintage is well worth it.

Allison Vaughn said...

Illinois is doing a great job with Norton. I'll add this one to my list. The Mary Michelle is supposed to be great--in STL you can find Illinois Cellars Norton for an extremely affordable price. Buy it young for 6$ and age it a couple of years. I regret not buying a case at Dierbergs last time I was in town. Indiana is doing a great job with Traminettes, too. Looking forward to my travels to Cincy for a tennis tournament to stock up on some Illinois and Indiana wines.

Elizabeth said...

I've found the Illinois Cellars Norton at Paul's in Lake Ozark...didn't realize Ursa had a winery, will have to check that out next time I'm in Quincy. Thanks!