Saturday, August 24, 2013

Glades in Bloom

2013 is definitely the Year of the Yellow Composites! We've been dealing with keys lately, arguing that what we've been calling Helianthus hirsutus may be H. strumosus, and some plants we're coming across don't fit in the keys at all. While taxonomy is a little frustrating and not very much fun, coming across glades covered in Rudbeckia missouriensis and Liatris cylindracea with the fall Allium mixed in surely makes running into a mess of seed ticks worth it. Late summer wildflower displays are peaking now, so if you have a chance get outside!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Harvest is here!

After a cool spring and wet summer, grape harvest is here. Check the roadsides on I-44 around St. James for stellar Concords for sale. And if you've never picked grapes at a winery before, I attest it's pretty fun and usually filled with camaraderie among other wine lovers. Like many other wineries in Missouri, Rolling Meadows in Warrenton is inviting anyone who wants to join them to help pick their Seyval grapes:
Come on out and enjoy the experience of Seyval Harvest It's time for our annual Harvest of Hope. Get up to your elbows in vines, grape bunches and a great cause. For every lug (30lb. container) that you pick, RMV Winery pledges to donate two dollars to Crisis Nursery in St. Charles. Never harvested before? Not a problem! All you need to bring are a pair of gardening quality gloves (and a pair of garden clippers if you have them or just borrow ours). Come for a few hours or stay for the day, and enjoy the first step in the wine-making process. We'll get started on Saturday morning, August 24 at 8:30 a.m. and work until sunset.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Missouri's Vignoles

A couple of summers ago, while sidled up to a tasting bar in Oregon's Willamette Valley, I met an older gentleman who taught viticulture at a small university in the upper Midwest. Doug and I were talking about the earnestness of some of the Oregon wineries we had visited that week, and vaguely lamenting how commercial the valley had become in recent years. Yes, it was sort of a "we were drinking Oregon pinot noir in the early 90s" conversation along the lines of "I was listening to Big Star in the 70s." Undoubtedly, I started a sentence with "in Missouri....," which made the professor's ears perk up.

"Pardon my interruption," he began, and started a love song to Missouri Vignoles. I don't drink whites, and I don't collect whites. I barely even taste whites, but I can tell from the tastes that have been somewhat forced upon me that Missouri whites are palatable. According to this professor, Missouri is making "fabulous Voignier, what they call Vignoles." All I could offer was a mild recognition that sure, as a white wine, a lot of Missouri Vignoles' are quite nice. The Wine and Grape Board officially declared August as Vignoles Month in Missouri. They've provided these interesting descriptors to entice you! If you're in the Augusta region, check out Nobleis' dry and semi-dry Vignoles for a particularly nice bottle of wine.

Varietal Descriptors Looks like: sunshine Smells like: fresh cut, tropical fruit Tastes like: an assortment of citrus, floral and tropical flavors Feels like: light and soft Pairs well with: fresh fruit and spicy dishes Varietal Facts 261 bearing acres (2011) 13% of the grapes grown in Missouri are Vignoles (2011) French-American Hybrid Grape STYLE: Sweet, Semi, and Dry

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

For RCR: with love

With great and significant sadness I learned that my Greek professor is suffering from Lou Gehrig's disease, a terminal illness for which no cure has been found. My Greek professor is not just my Greek professor, but a very dear, dear friend. We spent not a few nights in Chicago at the Lyric Opera House in the peanut gallery watching the Emerson String Quartet or Cecilia Bartoli, visiting Cafe des Artistes afterwards for coffee, long nights in Wisconsin talking about our cumulative travels, and so forth. He's a scholar of Marmot gear, of Tilley outerwear with its great colorful and flower-laden prints, of the TLS and NYRB. His patience as a professor and an aficionado of native flora served me well, and I would not exist today without his friendship.

During my tumultuous graduate career we made meals together when I lived in an unrestored Craftsman (Wisconsin with no storm windows) with Chinese medical students who brought home entire cow heads and sheep hearts for supper. After a long day in the library, I would be greeted with a dead cormorant on the table. Or a sheep's heart. I couldn't exist in that kitchen, and Dr. Ross realized that. We had lovely salads with beautiful balsamic vinegar, nice protein and delicate wines.

We both cherished editions of the New Yorker back in the day, before it had degraded to what it is today. We read the NYRB, he had a long term subscription of the TLS, and he taught me how to make soft boiled eggs to perfection. [His subscription of the TLS came to his address which was actually on Woodburn Ave, but translated to Would Burn Avenue, which made us both laugh heartily] Dr. Ross exemplified my adulthood, he taught me how to be an adult in a brutal world of academics, and even discouraged me from existing in such a world because he knew it would destroy my spirit. I inherited much of his beautiful spirit, and lots of out of print Greek and Latin books, some terrific Medieval history books including Vergil the Necromancer which is such a bizarre but beautiful book that explains the late Medieval history translations of Vergil. Among my prized possession is Dr. Ross's illustration from the Dutch edition of Ovid's Metamorphoseon, a hand painted illustration with dual text in Latin and Dutch. It hangs above my bed.

I miss Dr. Ross' missives sent on beautiful cotton Crane's paper. He remained my confidante, the one person who has access to everything I think and do and aspire to do and be. I miss my casual hitting partner, my dining partner over the San Francisco dishes with hippopotami (pronounced in Greek, mind you) on them, I miss Bessie Smith sessions and cheap white wine, the drives to the Newberry Library for my paleography classes, and the long nights talking about Pausanius. Dr. Ross is such a stellar classicist, so accomplished in the field of Greek epigraphy and manuscripts having studied under the best in the field at the University of Chicago, the Classical School at Athens and UC-Berkeley. My Greek professor is incredible, and remains the closest friend I've ever had. All my love to you, Dr. Ross. I miss your friendship.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Stone Hill 2011 Norton wins the Governor's Cup

The 2013 Missouri Wine Competition culminated in an exciting triple award of Best of Class Dry Red, C.V. Riley award for Best Norton and the top award for Missouri’s best wine of the year, The Governor’s Cup. Earning all those honors is Stone Hill Winery for their 2011 Estate Bottled Norton. What a wine! During the course of the two-day competition, a panel of nine expert wine judges from around the country and one industry judge determined through blind tasting which wines are good, great and the best. A total of 306 wines were entered this year from 37 different Missouri wineries. The judges named 39 gold medals, 102 silver medals and 103 bronze medals in addition to the top awards of Best of Class, C.V. Riley and the Governor’s Cup. So many delicious Missouri wines to try, so little time! Best of Class Honorees: Sparkling: Noboleis Vineyards, Noblevescent Dry White: Montelle Winery, 2012 Chardonel Semi-Dry White: Adam Puchta Winery, Traminette Sweet White: Blumenhof Vineyards, 2012 Valvin Muscat Dry Red: Stone Hill Winery, 2011 Estate Bottled Norton Semi-Dry Red: Stone Hill Winery, 2012 Steinberg Red

Friday, August 09, 2013

On Chert

Out around Joplin, down in the Osage Plains, rest very rare natural communities in Missouri. Based on chert bedrock, chert glades are among the rarest glades in the state. Field verification remains an integral part of our ongoing glade mapping project which is now, several years after launching, coming to an end. The methodology is a little complex, but I've finally become relatively well versed in it. But the field verification is vital to accuracy.

Among the discoveries we've made during this process, the most exciting is finding hundreds of sandstone glades, some of them vast in scale. Likely one of the most depressing discoveries we made earlier this month. There are very, very few intact chert glades. All of the signatures were there on the infrared, the topography, the leaf off aerial photos, but on the ground, they weren't glades at all but slag heaps, big mounds of cherty sandy substance, the remains of mining. I'm unclear what has been mined all over the chert country, but Galena is a nearby town. It's really quite sad to see so much destruction of chert glades out in the equally destroyed chert prairie country (though I did see a pretty nice little privately owned chert prairie near a big factory of some sort). High quality prairies remain quite rare, and becoming increasingly rare with the onslaught of poor management, but high quality chert glades possibly even more so. There is, however, an effort underway in Missouri to reclassify natural communities, a project that is making natural community classification unnecessarily complex and based not in any real science, but on pronouncement. I was told recently that in the heart of dolomite glade country, around Niangua Basin where historic grazing degraded glades to chert rubble overburden, that these are "chert glades." They are dolomite glades with chert rubble. This new classification system is pretty shaky, frankly, and creates a mess of natural communities that were so aptly described in Nelson's Terrestrial Natural Communities of Missouri, the system accepted by most ecologists worth their salt.

A quick visit to the chert falls allowed me to meet C. asteroides which was actually pretty common on the chert slabs. I wonder what a quality chert glade looked like 200 years ago before the age of extraction began.