Do you know your terroir?

April 10, 2013

Terr…what? Terroir (pronounced terr-war) is a French term meaning sense of place, the total natural environment of a viticulture area. There isn’t one word in English that imparts the same meaning. The terroir of an area is more than the soil, the elevation, the average temperatures, the frequency of fog. It is the combination of all of these factors and it is paramount to grape-growing. There isn’t one ideal terroir, but rather there are ideal terroirs for different varieties of grapes.

Have you ever wondered why you don’t see much cabernet sauvignon, merlot and pinot grigio coming out of Missouri wineries? It’s because our state’s terroir isn’t necessarily suited for those grape varieties, often called vinifera grapes. However, that does not deter the vintners of the area from growing great grapes and making delicious wine. Instead, it has created a culture of innovation and experimentation in the Missouri wine industry.

When you drink wines made out of grapes with names like Vidal Blanc, Norton, Vignoles, Chardonel, Chambourcin and Traminette (the list goes on), you are tasting wines made with grapes chosen specifically for the benefits and challenges of the local terroir. They may sound a little odd at first and wineries are happy to help with the ever-challenging issue of pronunciation. Just remember, they are made specifically with you in mind by winemakers and grape-growers who have spent years getting to know the soil, climate, and all the other components that make up the terroir of what is essentially your backyard.

Wine and Cheese? Yes, please!

April 06, 2013

This month, Missouri Wines celebrates one of life’s greatest dairy delights: cheese. June is National Dairy Month, and while there are a variety of nutritious and delicious dairy foods, few result in a blissful culinary marriage like cheese and wine.

The origin of National Dairy Month dates back to the late 1930s. Initially, the designation was to promote the consumption of milk, however it has evolved into a tradition that celebrates the contributions of the dairy industry as a whole.

According to the International Dairy Foods Association, there are currently more than 2,000 varieties of cheese. Additionally, more than one-third of the milk produced each year in the U.S. is used to manufacture cheese. With all those cheesy choices and the vast variety of Missouri wines, you’re sure to find a favorite match.

While there are no hard-and-fast rules when pairing food and wine, there are some helpful guidelines to keep in mind when tasting these two delicious items. Part of the fun is trying your own combinations to see what complements your palate best. Below are various cheese styles, the wines that pair best and a featured recipe to try.

To begin, let’s divide cheese into four general categories:

Hard: stiff, sharp and can be aged
Blue: strong, pungent, often has a blue tint
Bloomy: creamy, often with a soft rind
Fresh: soft, often spreadable and with a mild flavor

Generally, red wines pair well with hard cheeses. This includes sharp, strongly flavored cheeses such as cheddar, Parmesan and Gouda, which stand up nicely to the more tannic wines. Sip Chambourcin with cheddar and Parmesan, and sip Norton with Gouda.

Potato and Cheddar Cheese Soup: This rich and smoky soup is quick and easy to make. Leave out the bacon to make it a vegetarian dish.
Pair with: Chambourcin

Blue cheeses go well with sweeter wines. Try a late harvest wine or a port with Gorgonzola, and a semi-sweet Vignoles with blue cheese. Another traditional pairing is the rich Stilton with a sweet Port.

Celery-and-Blue Cheese Salad with Pecans: This is a great summer dish to enjoy at a barbecue or while relaxing poolside. Keep an eye out for locally grown pecans!
Pair with: Vidal

A crisp, fruity Vidal and a dry, full-bodied Chardonel are great wines to pair with soft, bloomy cheese such as Brie and Camembert. Missouri sparking wine is also a good match because the creamy cheeses tend to coat the mou

Celebrate Spring With Missouri Wines

March 20, 2013

The arrival of spring is near and with it comes fresh beginnings, new growth and much desired warmer temperatures. It’s time to break out of the winter doldrums and revitalize your spirit! And what better way to toast the new season than by exploring the wonderful world of Missouri white wines! From clean and bright to robust and fruity, Missouri’s whites are a perfect complement to the onset of spring!

You might be familiar with Missouri’s Vignoles, the darling of the whites. It’s a favorite for a good reason! Vignoles (pronounced veen-yole) is an extremely versatile hybrid grape that produces wines ranging from dry to sweet, which makes it pleasing to any palate. This wine goes great with spicy foods and rich, creamy desserts like cheesecake.

Traminette is another versatile grape, and can also be made into a sweet, semi-dry or dry white wine. The wine has a natural, light sweetness that is backed by a depth of flavor and floral aromas. Traminette pairs well with Asian-influenced cuisine, rich cheese like Gorgonzola and fresh fruit.

Two varietals that create more semi-dry to dry white wines are Vidal Blanc and Seyval Blanc. Vidal Blanc creates a full-bodied wine with fruity characteristics and clean, citrus notes of lemon and grapefruit. This wine pairs well with white meats, pasta in a white sauce, grilled veggies and light seafood items. Seyval Blanc grapes create a clean, crisp, medium-bodied wine with an herbal, fresh flavor. This wine pairs well with light meats such as pork, chicken and turkey, as well as light, flaky fish.

Chardonel is a cross between two popular grapes: Chardonnay and Seyval. Chardonel creates a dry, full-bodied wine. Depending on the fermentation process, this wine can exude notes of oak, butter or citrus fruits. This wine pairs well with smoked or grilled fish, pork and chicken.

One of the wonderful things about Missouri wines is that they are so diverse! Each wine tells its own story and varies in taste and flavor. One of the best ways to experience these wines and discover your favorites is to visit Missouri wine country. Wineries are happy to let you taste their delicious creations and lead you on your own wine journey. So enjoy the new season by enjoying the white wines of spring!

Cultural Craving: Irish Food

March 13, 2013

St. Patrick’s Day is right around the corner, so this Cultural Craving post is dedicated to all things Irish. With mostly potato and cabbage based recipes, Irish cuisine developed over centuries of social change. The traditional dishes showcased here reflect the agricultural landscape of Ireland and have a wholesome bite that is easy to replicate right from your own home. So this St. Paddy’s Day, forget the stout or whiskey and pair these classic dishes with your favorite Missouri wines. Who knows, it might even bring some luck your way. If you’re the first one digging into the mashed potatoes on Thanksgiving, then colcannon is your St. Patrick’s Day equivalent. This traditional Irish dish has strong mythological ties (it’s said that the fairies and goblins craved it from the evergreen hills). Some households would bury trinkets deep inside the creamy dish to suggest what the receiver has in store for the next year. This could be a ring to signify marriage or money to suggest possible wealth. This recipe is very easy to follow and has the colcannon essentials: cabbage, potatoes and butter. It’s creamy and delicious. But be careful, you might have some fairies or goblins knocking on your door for seconds. Pair it with: Chardonel

Irish Soda Bread

Ireland was much poorer than their European counterparts in the early 1800s. One item many couldn’t afford was yeast, so the Irish made do with baking soda to leaven bread. They combined it with buttermilk, salt, and flour to make soda bread, which was baked in a cast-iron pot. Today, there are many versions of Irish Soda Bread (bakers over the centuries have added butter, dried cranberries, seeds or sugar). This recipe has a sweet bite thanks to raisins (currants can be substituted). Pair it with: Catawba

Dulse and Yellowman

Summertime in Northern Ireland brings the Lammas Fair. At this festivity, the food is the leading star and traditional treats like dulse and yellowman are anticipated. Dulse is a red seaweed chip that has a sugary bite thanks to sweet toffee. This recipe doesn’t use actual seaweed (obvious this can be a little hard ot come by in Missouri). Instead, it uses granola and pairs it with kale chips for a crunchy bite. Pair it with: Vignoles

Cultural Craving: Mexican Food

March 05, 2013

Since the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire, Mexican food has emerged as a complex fusion of European and Mesoamerican cooking styles. The cuisine heavily surrounds cultural traditions, including Day of the Dead and religious holidays.

This Sunday, many will celebrate Cinco de Mayo. The day recognizes May 5, 1862, when the Mexican army unexpectedly defeated the French in the Battle of Puebla. In the state of Puebla, May 5th is an official holiday. However, Mexico does not observe the date as a national holiday. Many Americans confuse Cinco de Mayo with Mexico’s Independence Day, which is celebrated on September 16th.

Cinco de Mayo originated in the U.S. when Mexican-Americans honored the first five years of battles for freedom during the American Civil War. Today, it is an international celebration of Mexican pride. There are many fiestas thrown, highlighting cultural traditions and food.

With soulful and earthy flavors, Mexican cuisine has become a favorite in the American food scene. There are iterations of it throughout the Southwest, most notably in Texas (Tex-Mex), and home-cooks have shared easy spins on Mexican classics. Cinco de Mayo is the perfect time to try out your Mexican favorite, whether it be tamales or enchiladas, there’s always something for everyone!

This modified enchilada recipe is perfect for easy entertaining. It requires few ingredients, and is served like a casserole right out of a skillet. Add your favorite accoutrements like sour cream, cilantro or guacamole and serve. It’s a healthier alternative and pairs wonderfully with a semi-dry white, like Traminette. For the margarita-love, substitute white wine for tequila in this recipe. Pair with a sweeter white like Vignoles to bring out the citrusy flavor.

Stars, Stripes and Sipping

January 07, 2013


As we celebrate America’s birthday, we toast to this great country’s history and achievements. July Fourth is the perfect time to commemorate our nation and the foods and fantastic wines that are grown and produced on native soil.

While you’re celebrating this Independence Day we suggest sticking with a traditional American menu of burgers, steak and chicken, along with all-American wines. Whether you’re barbecuing with family, picnicking with friends or watching the fireworks from your backyard, these time-honored meals and delicious wines below are sure to make your celebration a success!

Fried chicken
Fried chicken is a succulent staple at many picnics. Try it fried on the skillet or in the oven. Serve it up with a Missouri Sparkling wine, as the bubbles cut through the crispy fried skin nicely. A Traminette will also pair well. Traminette and Sparkling wine will also complement many picnic sides, such as classic creamy coleslaw. Check out this story for more spotlight-stealing side dishes.

For these tender, juicy beef burgers, pair with a medium-bodied, rich Chambourcin. Because this is an all-American festivity, be sure to toss Missouri-grown beef patties on the grill. Load them up with fresh (local!) lettuce, tomatoes and onions, and you’re set.

Hot Dogs
There is nothing like a plump all-beef hot dog nicely charred on the grill. You can serve these the traditional way – in a fresh, fluffy bun piled with condiments – or slice them up and serve as an appetizer with various dipping sauces. There are plenty of imaginative ways to top your “dogs” too! Sip on Catawba or Vidal with this barbecue classic.

A bold glass of Norton will go great with local steak. This classic salt-and-pepper rib eye can be grilled with or without the bone. For maximum juiciness, this recipe suggests searing the meat then letting it rest before returning it to the grill. Click here for more tips on grilling steak. 

For a no-meat option, try this grilled eggplant sandwich. Vidal will pair well with the fresh mozzarella and basil while a medium-bodied red such as Chambourcin will complement the slightly smoky, grilled eggplant.

Pie is delicious year round, but there’s something about summer that lends itself to the flaky crust and gooey filling of the freshly baked dessert. Use Missouri nuts in this pecan pie and local berries in this blackberry cobbler. Pair your Fourth of July all-American dessert with a fruit wine or a sweet dessert wine.

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