I’m on a junket to the Drink Local Wine 2001 conference in St. Louis and I’ve got to tell you: It’s like a minefield here. You’ve got to watch your step. The long, narrow back room at Annie Gunn’s restaurant in St. Louis is packed with locavore bloggers, Missouri winemakers, newspaper writers, and representatives of the Missouri Wine & Grape Board, whose job it is to promote Missouri wine.
Missouri wine is almost all made from non-vinifera grapes — including native American species that ambitious winemakers dating back to Thomas Jefferson have failed to turn into drinkable wine. Since no one in Annie Gunn’s has a name tag, it’s hard tell if the person you’re talking to is going to find it amusing or take huge offense when when you involuntarily gag on the wine that is being so proudly presented.
So, needless to say, I’m approaching my first glass with a certain steely determination to keep whatever reaction I have to myself. Which is good, because as the night wears on I realize I’m sitting at a table with the Chairwoman of the Missouri Wine & Grape Board, the Missouri Wine & Grape Board staffer who was the primary organizer of the Annie Gunn’s dinner, two Missouri winemakers, an apparently highly educated and certified sommelier who nonetheless is a true believer in Missouri wines, and three people whose name I didn’t catch but who must be significant because people keep coming up to them to genuflect.
So I kept my opinions to myself on everything except the Annie Gunn’s lamb sausage, which was spectacular.
For the record, all the wines were pretty good.
Anyway, my notes are below the fold. More will follow after today’s marathon tasting.
Adam Puchta Vidal Blanc 2009 — Clear as water, with a delightfully crisp peach/orange nose. In the mouth it’s whispy light, lemony with a little lingering viscosity. And then, in the finish, there’s the curse of native American grapes, a hard little knob of minerality that lingers after all the other wonderful flavors have faded. This is clearly a well-made wine that can’t quite overcome its genetic origins.
Chaumette Chardonel Reserve 2009 — Light gold with a citrus nose overlayed with a light touch of oak. I could sniff this wine all day with a smile on my face. Not a lot happening on the palate, and then that unpleasant whack.
Augusta Chambourcin 2008 — Solid, dark garnet to the rim, with color that clings to the side of the glass. Deep, smoky raspberry, very nice. Sharp acidity wrapped in vivid mid-palate flavors. Light body reminiscent of Pinot Noir. Sleak, pleasant, but slightly odd.
Stone Hill Norton 2007 — Dark ruby, almost black. Dark, musky aromatics way down into the bass clef. A touch of cherry cough syrup with a very deep core that seems like it could use 45 minutes in a decanter. The acidity is probably a little too sharp and the Norton grape suffers from a lack of tannic backbone. A solid wine, but not one I’d buy.
Cross J Norton 2007 — Nice strawberry and blackberry nose. Sleek, clean, balanced — a very professional wine without much to recommend it.
St. James Norton 2007 — Light brick color. A very fresh berry nose, on the palate well balanced and complete. I’d buy this. It’s $13 a bottle and has a lot in common with a good Cotes du Rhone, but (again) with very light tannins. This is the only wine of the night I had a full glass of — and I enjoyed it all the way down to the bottom.