Harvest: A Grape’s First Step

September 08, 2013

Hand harvesting is the most traditional method. Many wineries, especially smaller ones still employ this technique.

Harvest is the first step grapes take in their journey to the bottle of delicious wine you enjoy. It is also the busiest time of year for wineries. Vineyards are bustling, while festivals and events celebrate the tradition and excitement of the annual grape harvest in Missouri wine country.

In most years harvest happens from August to October. As you know, this summer has seen a fair amount of unseasonable weather, pushing harvest a little later than usual. Mother nature postponing the season has only increased the excitement for this year’s bounty.

In general, grapes intended for sparkling wine are harvested first to ensure lower sugar levels. In Missouri, this often means Vidal Blanc grapes. Next on the docket are most of the white wine grape varietals such as Vignoles, Chardonel, and Traminette. After that, the red wine grapes such as Concord, Chambourcin and Norton are harvested, as they tend to take a bit longer to ripen. Lastly, the late-harvest grapes meant for dessert and ice wines make their way to crush.

Harvest season in Missouri is the welcome mat for Fall, beckoning crisper air and cooler temperatures. It is the perfect time to get out to a winery and experience what Missouri wine is all about. Go to a crush festival, a grape-stomp or even help hand-harvest in the vineyard.

Crush: The Next Step

September 05, 2013

If harvest is the first step a grape takes on its life’s journey to your glass, crush is most definitely the second— a big, messy, interesting step that makes a large impact on the character of the wine it will become.

Once the grapes have been harvested, they meet some new friends that help them make the transition to juice. The first helpers we meet in the crush process are rice hulls. They are mixed in with the grapes as a pressing agent to form channels for the juice to work its way out. The second helper is a liquid enzyme that is added as another pressing agent that breaks down the pulp in the grape to let is juice more freely.

After the rice hulls and enzyme are mixed with the grapes, the whole mixture goes into the crusher/de-stem-er which separates the stems from the fruit. The grapes (and friends) then run from the crusher/de-stem-er to the press through a hose. There are two primary types of wine grape presses, a basket press (also called a ratchet press) and a bladder press. A basket press works by squeezing the grapes from the top and bottom, while a bladder press works by squeezing the grapes from the inside outward like a balloon.

Once the grapes are in the press they are allowed to juice on their own, this part of the process is called “free run” and produces premium juice. After the free run is complete, the wine press is turned on to get the rest of the juice. The wine grape press works as a sort of colander, straining the juice.

There is some variance in the process used for red and white wine as the seeds and skins from red grapes are the source of the wine’s color.

If you would like to see this incredibly interesting and at times quite messy process, check out our The Sexy & Sticky Side of Wine video series on the Missouri Wine YouTube channel.

Picnic Perfect with Missouri Wines

August 27, 2013

Enjoy a picnic in beautiful Missouri wine country.

During the summer, “eating out” can take on a whole new meaning. We trade indoor dining for outdoor parks, meals at the dinner table for a spread at the picnic table. And with Labor Day fast approaching, you want to be prepared! Whether your picnic adventures lead you to the Missouri wilderness or into gorgeous Missouri wine country, no one likes soggy sandwiches or wilted salads! Check out some of our suggestions below and you’ll be on your way to a great holiday picnic.

To take in the beauty of the state while picnicking at your favorite Missouri winery, be sure to look ahead and check out the winery’s policies. Some allow you to bring in your own snacks and non-alcoholic beverages, while others have delicious foods onsite for you to enjoy. Either way, you’re sure to enjoy taking in the magnificent views while snacking and sipping on fantastic wine!

If you plan on taking the family to one of the state’s wonderful parks, you’ll want to pack your basket wisely. Try one of these make-ahead salads, or these picnic-friendly sandwiches. And of course you can’t forget the dessert. To make the most our of your outdoor summer dining, be sure to pack a bottle of your favorite award-winning Missouri wine and a few plastic wine glasses. Or look for environmentally friendly wine pouches, which can hold up to six glasses!

For a warm summer day, a fruity Vignoles is a great picnic wine, and it’s food friendly. Also consider picking up a Missouri fruit wine and mixing it with lemonade, your other favorite juice or sparking wine and serving over ice for a refreshing twist on a classic.

No matter how you unpack your picnic basket, enjoy your Labor Day weekend and have fun exploring Missouri wine country!

Missouri Wine Condiments: Food’s Best Friend

August 21, 2013

Rhubarb ketchup, photo courtesy of foodandwine.com.

Condiments exist in this world to enhance our food; to dress up an otherwise simple-flavored meal. Sauces, spices and seasonings on particular foods can really improve the dining experience. It just so happens that Missouri wine is a perfect ingredient in making your own yummy condiments. Try some of the recipes below to kick your next meal up a notch!

Rhubarb Ketchup with Wine: An interesting twist on a classic condiment – this ketchup goes great with steaks, brats, pork or your favorite fried snack like fries or onion rings. Use a Missouri dessert wine or port.  

Red Wine Barbecue Sauce: Use a rich Norton in this recipe, which creates a tangy and smoky sauce. And it can be prepared at least two days in advance.

Porcini Red Wine Butter: Talk about a savory spread! This mushroom and red wine butter will go great as a topping on steak or pasta dishes. The butter will keep for about 2 weeks in the refrigerator or up to 3 months frozen. Use your favorite Missouri red wine.

Red Wine Carrot Sauce: This slightly sweet sauce is a great addition to steak or roasted chicken dishes. Use a Norton or Chambourcin and carrots from your local farmers market.

White Wine Sauce: A delicate, white wine sauce is a perfect companion for chicken and seafood dishes. This recipe is simple and uses only six ingredients. Use a dry white Chardonel.

Red Wine Sauce: This is a classic condiment to have on hand at all times. Add to almost any meat or pasta dish. Use a bold Norton.

Nectarine Red Wine Sauce: Bring desserts to life with this sweet sauce. Try it over vanilla ice cream! Use a Norton or Chambourcin and fresh nectarines.

Have fun experimenting with these recipes at your next summer barbecue or back-to-school get-together. Cheers!

A Summer Favorite: Peaches and Wine

August 13, 2013

Peaches are often called the Queen of Fruit for their beauty, unmistakable flavor and distinct texture. In Missouri, these sweet and juicy fruits are best during June, July and August, which makes them the quintessential fruit of the season. As we ease into late summer, consider pairing this fruit with another Missouri favorite: wine.

By themselves, peaches pair well with Traminette. However, when you consider all the options one has by incorporating peaches into other dishes, the fruit and wine pairing combinations present a world of possibilities.

As always, the best pairing is the one that you like. Look for fresh peaches at your local grocery store of farmers market when sampling the delicious summer recipes below.

Grilled Peaches in Wine: This is perhaps the most straightforward method of combining these two summer delights. Lightly grill the peach slices, let cool and place in a glass of your favorite Missouri wine. Easy as pie.
Pair with a red or white of your choice.

Grilled Peaches With Wine Syrup (two ways): For this recipe, use the wine as a complementary garnish to the peaches. Try using a Catawba for the wine syrup and serve this dish as a standalone dessert or as chutney served alongside pork.
Pair the dessert with a fruit or dessert wine.
Pair the chutney with pork and Traminette.

Chilled Peach Soup with Fresh Goat Cheese: Served cold, this summer soup combines peaches, cucumbers, bell peppers, apricots and more. The goat cheese adds a creamy and savory aspect. A garnish of fresh basil and a drizzle of olive oil catapults this dish into culinary heaven.
Pair with a Sparkling wine.

Vietnamese Peach Relish: Use firm, ripe peaches for this slightly spicy relish. It’s easy to prepare and goes great with seafood, like grilled shrimp or other light, white fish.
Pair with a Vignoles or Vidal.

Grilled Green Beans and Peaches: If you’re looking for a quick, tasty and healthy side dish, try this recipe. The beans will be crisp and tender and the peaches lightly charred.
Pair with a Traminette.

Kaiserschmarrn with Peaches: Kaiserschmarrn is a popular Austrian dessert comprised simply of a light, fried pancake. It can be served as breakfast or as a dessert. This recipe combines lightly browned peaches, warm blackberries and confectioner’s sugar atop the sliced, caramelized kaiserschmarrn.
Pair with a dessert wine or Traminette.

Buttermilk Biscuit Peach Cobbler: Unlike a traditional cobbler, this recipe suggests baking the biscuits separately for the crust, and then adding them toward the end of the baking cycle so they can soak up some juices without getting soggy.
Pair with a fruit wine or Chambourcin.

Poached Peaches with Baked Ricotta: Served as a dessert, this recipe truly showcases this fuzzy fruit. Poached peaches and peach simple syrup is served over squares of baked ricotta to create a sweet and savory summer delight.
Pair with a dessert wine or Concord.

No matter what combination you create, it’s sure to be tasty. Just remember to have fun as you try new pairings and enjoy!

Ready, Set… Upcycle! Garden Edition

August 10, 2013

Spring and summer are when we tend to spend as much time outside as possible.  For many that means lots of time in the garden. So, whether you’re an expert gardener or just testing out your green thumb, there are lots of cool ways to upcycle your wine bottles, corks and glasses to make your garden even better. And for the extra-enthusiastic, wine barrels also offer some fun garden upgrades.

Looking to up your pepper, tomato and melon game in your garden? Consider building a hot bed out of recycled wine bottles. The idea behind this hot bed is fairly simple… sunlight warms up the air inside the glass and expands.   The heated air is pushed through the bottle neck into the soil, warming it and the plants growing in the bed. [Project instruction at Gardenfowl.com.]

If you like an organized garden, there are a couple of fun options you can try. Corks make great plant markers, and are simple to make. [Get a detailed how-to at FabulesslyFrugal.com.] Recycled bottles lined up and buried can create a colorful and unique border for your garden or flower beds. [Find out more about this idea at TheGreenbacksGal.com.]

Wine barrels cut in half make wonderful planters for your garden or mini-garden on a deck or patio. [Get all the details at HitchhikingtoHeaven.com.] Add some extra personality to your planters and garden containers while finding new purpose for broken stemware. Just because it’s broken, doesn’t mean it’s useless. [This great idea comes from CameraGirlontheGo.com.]

If you have a glass cutter or have been looking for reasons to get one, making your own hanging herb garden out of recycled wine bottles and beautiful copper tubing is just the excuse you’ve been waiting for. [Watch this video for the how-to via HomeMade Modern] Or perhaps a customized wind chime out of your empty wine bottles is more up your alley. Either way, these projects will add that something extra to your garden. [Recycled-artist, Cindy Shepard, walks you through this project in a step-by-step video.]

Missouri wine pairs well with upcycling and upgrading your garden!

Ready, Set, Upcycle! Wine Bottle Edition

August 10, 2013

When you finish a bottle of delicious Missouri wine, do you ever think – what a pretty bottle? I wish I could do something with it. Well, there are countless ways to turn those seemingly useless glass bottles into beautiful, useful works of art (I mean countless. Just search “wine bottle crafts” on Pinterest. It’s endless.). The complexity of your art project is entirely up to you, but before you get started, here are a few quick tips to keep in mind:

  1. For most projects that require multiple bottles, a variation in size and shape looks best.
  2. To remove labels, you can use nail polish remover or soak the bottles in a water bath with a small amount of bleach.
  3. Be careful. Wine bottles are fairly durable, but they are glass and can break. Wear safety gear as needed.

Looking for something simple and quick? Try these yarn or twine-wrapped bottles that look great as vases, centerpieces or mantle decorations. Get creative with your color scheme and embellishments. Create chic containers for household items like soap with this simple etched glass technique. Or, if you’re getting into the Halloween spirit early, these bottles painted as jack-o-lanterns are a fun and festive craft.

If you’re wanting a project that requires a little more investment, check out these wine bottle tiki torches. These are an awesome way to light up your deck for these beautiful Fall nights we’re having. Fill them with citronella when you need a two-in-one light and bug repellent. One person’s trash is… a bird’s best friend. Make a unique bird feeder for another outdoor upcycle project.

Are you a crafting whiz or have you been collecting bottles for ages with a grandiose project in mind? There is no shortage of inspiration for those who want to take on a big task such as tumblers, a lamp, or a chandelier. For all of these projects, you’ll need a means of cutting the bottles. You can use a glass cutter from your local craft store. Here are some very thorough instructions for a basic cutter that works well for circular cuts. There are many different types of cutters. Whichever option you prefer, invest in a buffing tool as well to keep the edges of your artwork from sending you or anyone else running for the bandages.

Whatever project you choose, have fun! Missouri wines pair well with upcycling.

Cultural Craving: Thai Food

August 03, 2013

Mild. Medium. Hot. Thai hot. These degrees of spiciness are commonly found printed on the menus of authentic Thai restaurants. The notable distinction: American perception of hot versus Thai expectation of hot. Spicy flavor is embedded into this culture’s cuisine. Known for aromatic dishes with bold flavors, Thai food is a fusion of Southeast Asian cultures. Some elements of classic Thai dishes, like stir-frying and deep-frying, originate from Chinese preparation methods. By the 17th-century, Thailand was influenced by Japanese, Portuguese, Dutch, and French cuisines. But throughout the centuries, Thai food has retained an identity indicative of its four regional entities: the North (Burman flavors), the Northeast (Vietnam and Cambodian influences), the South (Malaysian flavor), and Central Thailand. Ingredients and preparation methods correspond to the region, but most Thai food is defined by who prepares it. Family recipes and traditions have preserved classic dishes and showcased the individualistic elements of the cuisine. Thai flavors exploded on the American culinary landscape during the ‘60s. Today, most Thai restaurants are a “fusion” of both American and Thai influences. Classic soups like tom yam kung nam khon (shrimp soup with coconut milk) and curries (yellow, green) are popular menu items. At home, Thai food is challenging to make. Sometimes dishes require special utensils, like a wok, but most scare away novice cooks with unclear directions. Thai food requires practice and balance. The dishes are complex; a dash of too much curry powder can be detrimental to a meal, but adding limejuice could alleviate the heat. This recipe is a Thai-inspired vegetable stir-fry with classic peanut sauce. It’s beginner-friendly and remarkably easy (and nutritious!) and lets you determine how much spice that dish needs. The peanut sauce recipe makes the meal unique and can be stored for weeks afterward. It pairs beautifully with Seyval Blanc or Vignoles. The semi-dry, crisp flavor of Seyval highlights the freshness of this dish and reinvigorates the palate with every bite. Vignoles’ sweetness can cut down on the heat of a dish. Enjoy!

In the Vineyard: Veraison

July 23, 2013

Véraison is a fancy French word that simply means the grapes are beginning to change color. A more complete definition is that Véraison is the beginning of berry ripening when the berries become soft and take on the colors characteristic of their specific varieties.

What makes Véraison exciting? It means harvest is just around the corner, and the grapes are beginning to take on all of the wonderful characteristics that present themselves in the finished wine we enjoy so much. The aromas and flavors wine-lovers experience in a great glass of wine are starting to show themselves in the grapes.

Véraison is quite obvious in red grape varietals, changing from green to varying shades of purple. There is however, a more subtle change in white grapes from green to a golden hue.

Many Missouri wineries offer vineyard tours. Now is the perfect time to see where your wine comes from. It is a beautiful and exciting time in the vineyards of Missouri Wine Country.

Photographs showcase Norton grapes during veraison, courtesy of James Fashing.

10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Missouri Wines

July 18, 2013

1. Missouri has an official state grape (and it’s a pretty awesome).

The Norton grape was named the official state grape of Missouri in 2003. Norton is a Native American grape, and believed to be one of the oldest varieties still commercially grown. Norton is known for making big, bold, dry red wine and is completely unlike any other varietal.

2. Missouri makes A LOT of wine.

Missouri makes A LOT of wine.

Missouri wineries produce more than 900,000 gallons of wine ever year. If you lined all those wine bottles up next to each other it would almost span the width of the state.

3. Missouri is home to the 1st ever AVA. (Yes, before Napa. Cool, right?)

Missouri is home to the 1st ever AVA. (Yes, before Napa. Cool, right?)

AVA stands for American Viticulture Area, a designated wine grape-growing region, defined by the Alcohol & Tobacco Tax & Trade Bureau (TTB). In 1980, the TTB named Augusta the 1st AVA. The bureau cited the unique soil, climate and wines, as well as Augusta’s long history as one of America’s oldest and foremost grape and wine districts.

4. No matter where you are in the state, you’re only a short drive from the nearest winery.

No matter where you are in the state, you’re only a short drive from the nearest winery.

Wine country is closer than you think. Missouri boasts more than 125 wineries across the state. Some areas have larger concentrations of wineries such as the Hermann, Augusta, Ste. Genevieve and Kansas City areas.

5. Missouri is credited with saving the French wine industry in the 1870s.

Missouri is credited with saving the French wine industry in the 1870s.

Missouri entomologist, C.V. Riley, discovered American rootstock was resistant to a vineyard pest, Phylloxera, which was wreaking havoc on French vineyards. The resistant rootstock was sent overseas and grafted to French vines, helping to rebuild their industry.

6. Mapped out wine adventures await in Missouri wine country.

Mapped out wine adventures await in Missouri wine country.

There are currently 9 wine trails in the state. They are all a little different and offer a unique experience, but there are 9 wine-centered trips already planned and ready to enjoy.

7. Missouri wine regularly wins top awards at national and international competitions.

Missouri wine regularly wins top awards at national and international competitions.

We’ll toot our own horn. Year after year, Missouri wineries bring home gold, double gold, best in class and other high-ranking awards from competitions around the world.

8. The grapes you’ve heard the most about just can’t handle Missouri (for the most part).

The grapes you’ve heard the most about just can’t handle Missouri (for the most part).

It’s because we’re just too cool for them, both literally and figuratively. Missouri’s weather can be a little demanding and the grapes you’re used to hearing about (Merlot, Cabernet, Chardonnay) can’t handle the cold temps during the winter and the hot summers. So, we grow Native American and French-American hybrid grapes. Some delicious varieties popular in Missouri vineyards: Norton (of course), Vignoles, Chambourcin, Chardonel, and Vidal Blanc (to name a few).
*Disclaimer: This is a generalization of the vineyards in Missouri. Some vintners are growing more commonly known grapes (AKA Vinifera), but it’s not the norm.

9. Prohibition was a big bummer for Missouri wines.

Prohibition was a big bummer for Missouri wines.

Before prohibition Missouri was 2nd in the country in wine production, just behind New York. While prohibition put the brakes on Missouri wine for a while, a renaissance is taking place. If you’ve blinked in the past 20 years, you’ve probably missed something.

10. Planning a trip to Missouri wine country is as easy as 123.

Planning a trip to Missouri wine country is as easy as 123.

1. Go to missouriwine.org
2. Plan a trip using the Winery Explorer
3. Enjoy your Missouri wine adventure!

via 10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Missouri Wines 


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