Odd Fellows in Liberty, MO Some interesting new grape varieties

So we headed to the midwest to visit family and on the way made a stop in Liberty Missouri to first and foremost taste some Norton!  The winery we headed to was Belvoir Winery which is located in the Odd Fellows Home District in Liberty.  For those of you who like me are unfamiliar with the Internation Order of the Odd Fellows, they are a fraternal organization.  The Odd Fellows home was created as a new type of almshouse.  This was a place for their members widows and orphans.  It was looked on as a type of insurance.  Members knew that their families would be taken care of here if they passed.  It is significant in that they included children.  Most other almshouses did not include children, who instead were sent to orphanages.  The Almshouses required any able-bodied resident was expected to work on the property.  As such this was not looked at as charity.  This historic location is being turned into an event facility by Dr. John Bean and his wife Marsha.  In addition to the beautiful tasting room and tastings, they also host weddings and have Public Paranormal Investigations as the building is known to be haunted!

In addition to the International Order of the Odd Fellows history at this location, we also found some grape varieties here that we found to be “odd fellows”.  This was a great part of the appeal of tasting here.  We tasted 6 wines here, 3 whites and 3 reds.

Wines at the Belvoir Winery tasting bar in Liberty, MO

We began with the 2010 Chardonel. Chardonel is a cross between Chardonnay and Seyval.  I smelled pears and peaches and a little oak on the nose and got warm fruit in the mouth.  It was very pleasant.

We then tasted the Plumeria which is a blend of Traminette, Vignoles and Seyval.  This wine smells like fruit cocktail w/coconut.  A little like ambrosia.  It has a medium body has good acid and is very fruit driven.

Now to expound upon the grapes!  Traminette is a cross of Joannes Seyve 23.416 and Gewürztraminer. It produces wines with similar characteristics to Gewürztraminer.  Vignoles is another hybrid made from Seibel 8665 and Pinot de corton  This grapes characteristic flavors of apricot, pineapple and citrus made it similar to a German Riesling and it is often made into sweet dessert wines, while it also can be made in a dryer style.  Finally the Seyval known also as Seyval Blanc it is a cross of Seibel 5656 and Royon d’Or.  It has a citrus element and a minerality that is often compared to white burgundy.

On a side note, all of these grapes contain non-vinifera genes and are outlawed by the EU authorities for quality wine production.

On to the Sorelle Dolci which is a sweet dessert wine made from Symphony and Cayuga grapes.  We fund this to be less syrupy than many dessert wines and lighter than most late harvest.  We were imagining soaking fruit in it!

The Symphony Grape was created by Dr. Harold Olmos at UC Davis in 1948.  It is a cross of Grenache Gris and Muscat of Alexandria and was originally created for the hot growing conditions of the Central Valley in California.

Cayuga is a white grape created from the hybrids Schuyler and Seyval Blanc.  It can be used to make sparkling white and has fruity aromas similar to Riesling.  This grape was created at Cornell University and was designed for the cold-climate regions of New York’s finger lakes.  It was released in 1972.

Okay….so…I’m not sure on this one.  The logic doesn’t line up, but hey, that’s wine.  So we have one grape designed for California heat and another for New York cold, both grown in Missouri.

Now onto the reds and the 2008 Norton.  I have been reading “The Wild Vine” and was fascinated with this grape. When I was in Virginia we were not in the right region for Norton, so I didn’t have an opportunity to taste there.  Norton is the state grape of Missouri. This wine has a deep rich color and I found it to be lighter than expected in my mouth.  The aroma was rich with warm spice and cedar and a little hint of violet.  The tannins were smooth and warm and due to the weight of this wine it seemed like it might be great for pairings.  It reminded me most closely of a mix of Merlot and Cab Franc, but with its own personality.

Next we tasted the Casanova.  This must be a cuvee because it had no year listed.  It is a blend of Chambourcin, St. Vincent and Syrah.  This was our favorite wine and we took a bottle home.  This wine was fruit forward with nice red fruit.  It’s medium weight makes it a great table wine or sipping wine.  For a lighter bodied red it is Very fulfilling with lots of zing!

So the grape varieties here: Chambourcin is a french American hybrid whose parentage probably comes from Siebel and was developed by Joannes Seibel in the Loire Valley.  It often has expressive herbaceous aromas.  The grapes have thick skins so you get great tannins and lots of structure. St. Vincent has a burgundian character and again comes from uncertain parentage.  It is a late ripening grape.  Lastly Syrah…well I do love my syrah.

The final wine we tasted was the Lucky Pierre.  This dessert blend is mostly Concord with ChambourcinMi and Missouri St. Vincent.  The wine itself looks like a rose.  It is sweet and fruity but had a slightly off-putting nose.  Perhaps we just had a bad bottle that was corked or something.

All in all I found most of the wines to be juicy and approachable which I would imagine is very important in this area to appeal to local clientel.  It was fascinating to taste these varieties that I was unfamiliar with.  I look forward to tasting again at different vineyards to find was differences there might be in winemaking styles and vintages with these wines. And who knows maybe we could do a Paranormal investigation there!  I will admit that Ghost Hunters is a guilty pleasure.

I continue to be fascinated by wine and grapes and our country is filled with varieties that I have never tasted.  Michael recently was in Michigan and tasted a wonderful Riesling from there.  Maybe it’s time to plan a wine tasting trip there, or New York, or back to Virginia?  So many options, and those are just the tip of the iceberg.

Show Me the Wine!

Missouri, the Show Me State, not the first place that comes to mind when you think wine country right?  Surprisingly, Missouri has a rather long history of wine making and currently supports over 100 vineyards and wineries.

My recent journey to Virginia for some wine tasting and having picked up the book “The Wild Vine” has given me a little insight into the history of Missouri wines.  Here they grow Norton, but they often call it but the name “Cynthiana”, giving a little distance to the grape that has been belittled.

In the early 1800’s German settlers came to Missouri and settled in Hermann to create a German speaking community.  The land was rugged and covered in tangles of grapevines so they began planting grapes and making wine.  In the 1870’s phylloxera hit France.  George Husmann had begun his studies in crossing wild and cultivated grapes to create hybrids and sent 17 carloads of phylloxera resistant root stock to France.  A statue depicting a young woman cradling an old woman in her arms still stands in commemoration in Montpellier France.  A symbol of the New World saving the Old World.

In 1873 Stone Hill Winery won a gold medal in Vienna at the World’s Fair.  All was going well and Stone Hill was the 2nd largest winery in the country at the turn of the century.  Then came prohibition. Vineyards were uprooted  and barrels emptied.  In addition anti-German sentiment from World War 1 put Hermann into the Great Depression years before the rest of the country.

In 1965 Jim & Betty Held began making wine again at Stone Hill and the renaissance of Missouri wine began anew.  That state now supports native grapes such as Norton (Cynthiana), Catawba, Niagara and Concord as well as the French American hybrids Chardonel, Seyval, Vidal and Vignoles.

Having missed tasting Norton while in Virginia, I am looking forward to tasting it in Missouri.  Family takes us to this area and we will fit in a couple of tastings also!  If all goes well we hope to visit Pirtle Winery north of Kansas city in Weston MO as well as Belvoir Winery in Liberty MO.  Wines here seem to be affordable with most wines I saw under $20 per bottle and these vineyards often do other fruit wines also.  It is a whole new world for wine exploration in our country.  Visit Missouri Wines for more information and watch for future posts and pictures!