Interested in Missouri wine? Would you like to taste some? The Doubletree Hotel at West Port Plaza should be your destination today.
The 2011 Drink Local Wine Conference offers three seminars (tickets include lunch) this morning; a taste-off this afternoon with some two dozen Missouri wineries pouring samples and tasters voting on their favorites, followed by a reception. Tomorrow's fun involves a bus tour to three Missouri wineries along Highway 94 (lunch included). Tickets are $35 for each of today's events, and $30 for the bus ride, with discounts for attending multiple events.
Ann and Joe will be hosts for the bus ride, dispensing stories and wisdom. Joe has been writing about Missouri wine since 1973, and guarantees it's better now than it was then.
Panels include remarks from winemakers, sellers, buyers and drinkers, and there will be an opportunity to ask questions of various experts.
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TALK ABOUT A NEW START: In my early days as a wine writer, I met Hogue Cellars during a trip to Washington and the Columbia River Valley. I visited the Seattle area, where big guys like Chateau Ste. Michelle were producing good wine, and I drove east along the river to Prosser, located in the Horse Heaven Hills. Mike Hogue and his brother, Gary, had grown up as hops farmers, then turned to grapes and made delightful wines in bottles whose labels were a gorgeous shade of blue. The family also made delicious pickled beans and other treats from vegetables they grew.
As the 20th century turned into the 21st, the winery was bought and Mike Hogue went back to growing grapes. Five years later, he entered a partnership with the Mercer family and went back to winemaking as Mercer Estates. Mike's daughter and son-in-law, Barbara and Ron Harle, also are involved. David Forsyth, lean, tanned and bearded, moved from Hogue to Mercer as winemaker, and was in a St. Louis wine shop last week to taste and talk about wine, two of the things that keep me happy as a wine writer.
The Mercer wines come from grapes grown in the Yakima Valley and the Horse Heaven Hills. Forsyth, grinning at the fact that he was tasting his wines on a St. Louis street that bears his name, is a winemaker who believes that it all begins in the vineyard.
"The grapes tell you," he said. "They tell you when they're ready to pick, and when to stop the fermentation process, and even when to bottle the wine. You just have to listen to them."
Forsyth's top reds, at about $23 a bottle, are Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot from 2007. The Cab is rich but slightly hard, still showing tannin from 18 months in French and American oak barrels. It also is blended with 10 percent Cabernet Franc and 7 percent Merlot, compiling a nice complexity in a long, consistent finish. The Merlot benefited from a cool summer and later picking. Like so many merlots, it has a delightful berry aroma, and a hint of chocolate on the tongue.
I was especially impressed with a semi-dry 2009 Riesling, with good citrusT in the nose and a hint of sweetness that would make it a brilliant companion to spicy Asian food, like Indian or Thai curries. Interestingly, a scale on the back label shows just how much sugar remains in a wine Forsyth calls "semi-dry." It's a good idea. An '09 Chardonnay was crisp and pleasant, and a Sauvignon Blanc from the same vintage was delightful, its crisp mineral qualities perfectly balanced by a touch of grapefruit.
Mercer Estates wines are available at many St. Louis wine shops.
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Napa Cellars 2009 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($18): Well-balanced, nicely poised with a proper alcohol-acid balance. Smooth drinking with nice acidity. Excellent with grilled swordfish or halibut.
Zaca Mesa 2009 Santa Ynez Valley Viognier ($20): A delightful example of a Rhone Valley white that may be even better in California than it was in France. Bright and flowery, with peach notes, a superb companion to Thai cooking, with fruit and spice balancing perfectly.
Clos Pegase 2008 Napa Valley Pinot Noir ($35): Grapes from the Carneros region show the blackberry notes that make this an exceptional wine.
Bogle 2008 California Petite Sirah ($11): The Bogle label always means fine value at low cost. This is another, a year in oak, the wine with a firm edge that dissipates in the glass, excellent plum flavor.
Concannon Conservancy 2007 Livermore Valley Petite Sirah ($15): Dark ruby in color, with an aroma that hints at tobacco and chocolate, this is a delicious wine at a good price.Look for blackberries in a wine that is a fine companion to a grilled steak.