The DrinkLocalWine.com conference on Saturday was a ton of fun, providing bloggers and writers from across the country a weekend immersion in Missouri wine. We had some thought-provoking panel discussions, in which we explored the wide array of non-vinifera grape varieties grown in the Show Me State and revisited the locavore/locapour conundrum. There was also an insightful seminar on how wineries can exploit social media such as Twitter and Facebook to reach consumers on their own terms instead of courting the major wine publications that are preoccupied with more famous regions.
And, of course, there was the annual Twitter Tasteoff, which has become the highlight of the DrinkLocalWine.com conferences since we held the first one two years ago in Dallas. Last year’s conference in Leesburg featured wines from Virginia and Maryland. The conferences grew out of the Web site created by “Wine Curmudgeon” Jeff Siegel and myself to spotlight online writing about local wines across the continent.
I’ll discuss the intellectual side of the conference next week; for now, let’s stick to the wines.
The Twitter Tasteoff featured 21 wineries, each pouring two wines. Missouri’s larger wineries produce the vast majority of the state’s output, and they showed well at the conference.
I had trouble deciding my favorite white wine among three vignoles from Augusta Winery, Les Bourgeois Vineyards, and Stone Hill, the latter a winery known for its stellar Nortons. Vignoles is a grape grown in the East, but often not successfully — it tends to taste flabby and oxidized. These were vibrant and electric, featuring ripe peach and quince flavors nicely balanced with acidity. The Augusta, probably my favorite by a smidgen, was the sweeter of these three, while the others had more acidity and structure. And how about the value of local wine? The Augusta sells for $12, the Les Bourgeois for $9 (wow!) and the Stone Hill for $13. These three wines had me wishing my mother-in-law was there with a platter of her sweet-and-sour chicken. And they were not the only vignoles in contention for crowd favorite: I heard several raves for those from Indian Creek Winery ($15) and St. James Winery ($10).
I could also have voted for the Montelle Winery Seyval Blanc, which at $8 is a terrific knock-off of a New Zealand sauvignon blanc — aggressively grassy with great acidity and tropical flavors. Or the wine that eventually won two decanter prizes (for best white and media choice): the Chaumette Vineyards and Winery chardonel reserve ($20). Chardonel is a cross of chardonnay and seyval blanc, and this wine featured the richness of chardonnay with the dry finish and finesse of seyval. The wine was excellent, though I suspect it was the crowd favorite, in part, because the chardonnay heritage made it familiar.
Familiarity was not an issue with the reds, however, because Norton is unlike any other grape. The crowd favorites and decanter winners as best red and people’s choice were the Adam Puchta Winery 2005 Estate Norton ($30) and Signature Port ($35), both of which showed class and complexity. I also enjoyed the Stone Hill 2007 Norton ($19), which I tasted three times during the conference.
There were not many other red wine varieties poured during the tasting, but two chambourcins, from Augusta and St. James, were delicious and good values, each selling for less than $10.
You won’t find these wines in Washington D.C., but if life or business takes you to St. Louis or anywhere else in Missouri, seize the opportunity to try a wine that is unusual but delicious, and explore American wine in all its regional expression.