Where has VinoVerve been the last year?

Well, the answer is long. After posting about a road trip to Arkansas last year, we were getting ready to send my daughter, Sophie off to college. Some of you may recognize her as the girl who can sabre a bottle of champagne, make and bottle wine, identify floral elements when she smells a glass and generally has acted as my personal sommelier for a good portion of her 18 years.

Our plan was to get her off to college (University of Oregon) and then I would get back into the swing of writing.

Well, as Robert Burns stated, “The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray”.

And astray would be an understatement.

Just a few weeks from our drive out to the Willamette Valley, we discovered there was a mass on Sophie’s spine. And that mass was cancer. Brain cancer. (the spine is made of the same stuff as the brain… this is how that is possible).

We spent the better part of the last year fighting this cancer. But it won.

My Sophie died.


Me and Sophie

A picture of my Sophie

She had a love/hate relationship with this blog. She was proud of what she knew about wine. More than most adults. But she sometimes hated the time I devoted to it. This is pretty typical for adolescents.

But the last get together that she hosted here at the house, she tapped into my wine collection. She used the good Reidel wine glasses though she needed to use a straw. For her friends she opened a Provençal rosé, a Santa Margarita Pinot Grigio and an Oregon Pinot Noir. I should, I guess be appalled that she was drinking my wine, but really? Why bother.

She packed as much as she could into her 18 years and that included wine.

So, if you please, next time you have a glass, raise a toast to my Sophie. She would appreciate it. And I would as well.


Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Arkansas. Wine.

After years of telling me that they were going to retire to Arkansas, my parents have finally done so.  Kevin and I tried to talk them into moving to Oregon, but they weren’t going for it.

The Arkansas state flag was designed by Willie Kavanaugh Hocker.

The Arkansas state flag was designed by Willie Kavanaugh Hocker.

So, Arkansas it is.  In the middle of the Walmartian capitol.
Luckily, like almost every place in the country, there is wine nearby.  Yup.  wine.  Located in three American Viticultural Areas.  Twenty-four wineries.

California it is not.  But that isn’t a bad thing.  After all, variety is the spice of life.   So what’s the deal with Arkansas wine?
Officially, viticulture began in Arkansas in the 1870s when German and Swiss immigrants settled in Altus, Arkansas.  Unofficially, there was wine in Arkansas before that.  In A Journal of Travels into the Arkansa Territory During the Year 1819 With Occasional Observation on the Manners of the Aborigines by Thomas Nuttall, F.L.S. (I have no idea what F.L.S. means), the author describes the vineyards and wine encountered along the way.  Tales of wine being produced at local taverns like the Hinderliter Grog Shop in Little Rock circa 1827 are likely to be true.  And prior to American settlement? Well, Arkansas was once officially part of France after all.
In addition to the Altus wineries,  Italian immigrants have made their mark in Arkansas’s wine history.  The city of Tontitown was founded by the followers of Father Pietro Bandini in 1898.  The residents, mostly from northern Italy brought their traditions with them including wine making.  Even today, the sign welcoming you to town features grape vines.  Unfortunately, for most American’s the town is more commonly known as the home as the Duggar family.

What kinds of wines are being produced?  Well, a lot of sweet wines.  Muscadine grapes grow naturally in the state and have long been used  to produce.  Muscadine is a type of grape known as Vitis rotundifolia that is native to the United States.  But Muscadine doesn’t have to produce a sweet wine and there are dry options as well.

Map produced by Gretchen Neuman using a USGS basemap.

Map produced by Gretchen Neuman using a USGS basemap.

Other grapes producing wine in Arkansas include Niagara, Concord and Delaware which are park of the Vitis labrusca family.  French-American Hybrids such as Chambourcin and Vidal are common as is Cynthiana, a Norton clone is thought to be created in the Arkansas. There are even folks producing Chardonnay and Merlot… though most of them get that fruit from California.
There are three viticultural areas in the Arkansas.  Altus is located around the German Swiss town of the same  name in the Boston Mountains.  Altus is the only appellation found completely within the state. Altus is also located within the Arkansas Mountain appellation but extends in the area from Fort Smith to Conway (another place my folks thought about moving to… but thought better of as the town is dry).  Ozark Mountain contains the Altus and Arkansas Mountain regions and is crosses into Missouri and Oklahoma as well.
Getting your hands on Arkansas wine is tricky.  The state does not play well with others, i.e. does not allow direct shipping and because of that can’t ship out of state either.  So you kinda have to go there and taste it there.

But since I am about to be spending more time in the Ozarks, I guess I will have time to explore.

Little Wine on the Prairie – Day 1

Little Wine on the Prairie Logo

First day on the road. Whew. This means that I have survived prom 1a, prom 1b and prom 2 and assorted after parties. Also graduation. And making sure Kevin and the girls managed to make their flights to Luxembourg. Oh, and I managed to pry myself away from my sweet puppy.

But finally. I will be on the road and it is all wine and Little House on the Prairie all the time. Well, not the prairie today. Today, it will be the Little House in the Big Woods in Wisconsin. Do you know how many years it took me to realize that Lake Pepin was really the Mississippi River? Or more specifically like a lake with a major river running through it.


The fun part of this voyage is that there is wine along the trail.  Lots of it.    Like nearly 100 wineries in Wisconsin alone.  WISCONSIN.  And there are nearly 20 within a couple of my route.  

So this leaves the Big Woods.  In and a round Pepin, Wisconsin.  There is a replica of Ma and Pa’s cabin at a roadside stop and then Pepin, itself.  I don’t think there is much left of the old town, but I will see soon enough.  Then I cross over into Minnesota where I will skip over to a couple of places never really mentioned in the books.  Laura’s Uncle Peter had a farm in Zumbro Township.  While staying with her Uncle, Laura’s only brother Charles Frederick died at 9 months.  He is buried in a nearby.


Show Me Some Goals….

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

The nice part of goals is missing them sometimes. Yes, it was your editor’s goal to complete podcasts for all four Missouri viticulture areas before leaving for the Show Me State… but that sadly hasn’t happened. Something about teenagers and their crazy schedules screwed that up. Oh, and randomly placed Spring Breaks. Ahhh.  Good times…

So, instead of showing you are about the Ozark Mountain and Ozark Highlands AVAs, I will postpone the publication of these videos so that I can gather some footage of my own…. and instead will talk about where I am planning to go on my Missouri adventures. While I am only going to be in Missouri for a long weekend and most of that time will be spent in St. Louis, I have found that I will be able to visit all four viticultural areas. Yeah!

As you can see, I have gotten lucky that all of these appellations are located at least in part near St. Louis. So naturally, given that I have no obligations to teens and/or volleyball (like last year or next week) I get to explore Missouri.

The conference location is the starting or ending point of the trip. At least from a planning perspective this is the raison d’être for my get away. Kevin is watching the teens, which earns him my pity as it is their spring break. He initially wished to join me along this journey but thought better of it as it is likely teens would have sucked all the joy out of me for this adventure, and I thank him profusely.

Why Ste. Genevieve? Simply, it is the oldest town in the state. Founded by the French along the Mississippi River before even the French and Indian Wars, the town has a collection of Creole-French buildings that were common among French settlers or habitants…  Obscure?  Perhaps.  But I love that kind of stuff.  Plus there are wineries there too which are located within the Ozark Mountain AVA. This AVA is the biggest in Missouri (especially since it extends into Arkansas and even Oklahoma) and the Ozark Highlands and Hermann appellations are located within its boundaries.

My next must see stop is the town of Kaskaskia, Illinois.  Crossing back over the Mississippi, you say?  Hardly.  Kaskaskia, also a French settlement, was located east of the Mississippi but as the river has changed course, so has the location of the town and it is currently located just a couple of miles south of Ste. Genevieve.  Actually, most of the original town has been lost to flooding and hardly anyone lives there anymore (the 2000 census indicated a population of 9).  The appeal of Kaskaskia is twofold.  It is the original capital of the state (or maybe territory) of Illinois.  Also?  It has a bell that was a given to the local parish church by Louis XV (Yes.  Louis XIV is dead, to answer my husband’s snappy response whenever hear hears the name of a monarch with a number attached to his name.. Thanks so much, dudes from Monty Python).

The next goals of the trip are to visit all three appellations that I haven’t been to before.  This means, stopping at wineries in Ozark Mountain (done… with stops in Ste. Genevieve), Ozark Highlands  (done with stops in and around Leasburg or Steelville, MO) and in Hermann.

As if this isn’t a busy enough weekend, I will then be attending the Drinklocalwine.com conference in St. Louis.  Whew.  I am going to be tired come Monday.  But I will have lots to talk about when I get back!

Hope you have as much fun this weekend!




Next stop

My Folks Went to Israel and Egypt and All I Got Was This Bottle of Wine

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

My folks just got back from their fantastic vacation to the Middle East. When they left I asked them to keep an eye out for interesting wine.

I was excited to hear that they managed to snag me a couple of bottles along with some other goodies.

Here they are:

Saffron and Cumin... Where is the Wine?

Where is the wine, you ask? Good question. It was confiscated.

Why? Well obviously it was over 4oz of liquid.

Never mind that it was bought at duty free after my folks cleared security. Which leads to this question: What is the earthly point of liquor in the duty free shop? So you can bring the people that you are visiting something that they can already lay their hands on? To swill cheaply in the airport during a particularly long layover?

I have to admit to being disappointed. One bottle was Israeli, the other, Egyptian. Egyptian wine would have been fascinating. I have read that there is a small number of wineries around Alexandria and would have loved to try some. But I got a other fun gifts as well.

Black cumin (which smells great) and the most saffron I have every personally owned. Dad found them in a suq in Cairo.

I don’t even want to know where they came from. But I have a couple of ideas and need to find something amazing to make with them. Ideas?

Well, This Was Messier

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Well, the bubbling of the fermentation tank finally stopped. So, it is time to move the wine to the carboy for secondary fermentation and aging. Previously, we have accomplished this task in about 5 minutes. That was before we stuff floating in the mix. Now I have stuff to fish out.

Ewww. Seedy.And a question to answer. What do I do with this stuff? Toss it right away? or try to press the remaining juice out of it. And of course, how to accomplish that as I still have not invested in a fruit press.

I went with trying to get the extra juice out. I used a familiar technique. A strainer and wooden spoon, like I use when making raspberry sauce, though I vow to now strain it so ruthlessly. I want juice, not pulp. It took a while and it was messy. I wish I had a compost pile for all the skins and seeds left behind but with my luck, it would attract rats which is a no-no here in the city.Much Messier

Next up I have to let it age a bit longer, because the flavor? kinda bitey. But because I have transferred the liquids into a new clean container (called racking) it is legally now wine, bitey wine, but wine, nevertheless. Now I have to figure out how I am going to clarify this stuff. Decisions, decisions…

For Columbus Day

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Oh, Columbus. We know that you didn’t really discover America. We also know that you tortured and killed the native peoples you encountered. On the plus side, you did bring tomatoes, potatoes, chili peppers, turkeys, chocolate and vanilla back to Europe. Not that this would matter much to the natives that you tortured, killed or transmitted smallpox and other diseases. Though it seems possible that that while you were giving the natives smallpox, they were giving you syphilis, so that might be a more even exchange.

Columbus' departure from Palos, in 1492, by Evaristo DomínguezThe question, that I have for you is this? What did you drink on the voyage? Because, it appears that we have to guess. And why? Apparently you kept really crappy records. Why couldn’t you have been like John Winthrop and keep track down to the last firkin of butter or pipe of Canary.

Instead, we kind of have to guess. Wheat, olives, rice, lentils, garbanzos, pickled and salted meat and fish, cheese and wine. How much? Hard to tell, but given the fact that the people of the region were forced to pay two of the ships for Columbus’ expedition and provision all three to pay off the fine for piracy, I would guess that the amounts were niggardly at best.

We can guess that the wine would have been local. And the Condado de Huelva DO was established to honor these wines. In fact, it is known that the wines from this area were the first exported from Spain to the new world. The wine was shipped to La Española (Hispaniola) in January 1502 and was worth 1,422 maravedíes. Grapes grown in the area include Zalema, Palomino Fino, Listán de Huelva, Garrido Fino, Moscatel de Alejandría and Pedro Ximénez and the wines that they produce are referred to as Wines of the Discovery of America.

So, Columbus? You might have been a jerk, who never even stepped foot in North America, but you brought wine to America. Thank you.

The Wines of Rutherford Hill

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

The tour of Rutherford Hill was wonderful, but it is the wine that was amazing.

Rutherford Hill MerlotRutherford Hill Cabernet SauvignonI am ashamed to say that I can not remember the unique attributes of each of the wines that I sipped on my tour. I was taken with all the sights and sounds going on around me. They were excellent (I hate not having enough hands to do everything that I want to at the same time).

The wines that I drank along the route were the 2005 Merlot and the 2004 Merlot Reserve and the 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon which were wonderful.

When we got back to the tasting room, I got to taste some of the more wonderful wines.

My VinturiThe 2006 Malbec smelled and tasted of blueberries and cherries. The 2006 Petit Verdot smelled of coffee and tasted of black cherries and chocolate. I got a special treat with the winemakers blend getting to taste it both poured regularly and decanted via a Vinturi.  Now in all fairness, the wine smelled and tasted good before I got to taste the version poured through the Vinturi.  But after it was?  WOW!  That is all I can say.  The aroma was fuller and more dramatic.  The taste?  With more body and soul. WOW!  I was so impressed with the Vinturi’s job, I bought one to take home.  It even has the Terlato logo on it.  So I will always remember my trip to Rutherford Hill (as if I could forget).

Angel's PeakCardinal's PeakFrom there we moved on to the to some of the Terlato Family Vineyard wines.  After reading Anthony Terlato’s book, Taste: A Life in Wine (I love my iPhone Kindle reader…  you take your reading with you literally everywhere.)  The Terlato wines are produced at the Rutherford estate vineyard, but in the vineyard within the vineyard.  The idea was to raise the quality of the Rutherford wines which represents the chief goal of the family.  Personally, I believe that the wines achieve this goal in spades!

EpisodePortThe Angels Peak’s is lush with a plum taste and tobacco-y.  The Cardinal’s Peak was more wood and leather with jam overtones.  My favorite of the three was the Devil’s Peak with its smooth and complex flavors.  The “Peak” series are Tony Terlato’s homage to the wines of Bordeaux, France.  These wines are blends of the best of the vineyard and made to express the best elements of the grapes.  The Episode wine, on the other hand, seem to be an expression of place – Napa.  The wine was intense and lingering on the palate.  I brought a bottle home as a thank you to my folks for helping me with my trip.  Dad, naturally is saving it.  I hope he allows us to open it for Christmas!

The last wine that I tasted at Rutherford Hill was the 2004 Zinfandel Port.  I have to admit that I am something of a Port snob in that I rarely find one that I like from America.  This one was made in the style that an authentic Port would be made but used Zinfandel instead of the traditional grapes.  The result is an American expression of Portuguese tradition.

I was sad to be leaving Rutherford Hill but as I lugged my box of wine (I can’t resist buying a few bottles) but was looking forward to the second part of my Terlato family adventure – my trip to Chimney Rock!

My Trip to Rutherford Hill or Why GPS Units Stink Outside Cities

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Have you ever had to drive somewhere and you know EXACTLY where you are going and yet you still can’t manage to find it?

This isn’t one of those stories.

This is the kind of story that you enter the address that you are going to into your GPS system and it spits back an answer that is halfway there. You have an actual, real address and yet you still can’t find the place. Technology has abandoned you or just gotten lazy. You really don’t know which and frankly, you don’t really care.

All you know is that while you are driving down the St. Helena Highway, your GPS system suddenly announces, “Destination” and you start looking around frantically. You see wineries, after all, this IS Napa. But the one that you are looking for? Not so much.

So you keep driving down the road wondering if this is one of those instances where the GPS gods forgot to switch between yards and meters and is off by some weird factor of 3 1/3 inches over the 4,000 miles you have been driving which means that your destination could have been oh, say, 3/4 of a miles back or ahead. So you continue on, panicked looking for some clue. Until you see a sign saying that you are entering Yountville and Now you KNOW that you have missed your destination.

So you pull over into the parking lot of some cute little market (which they all are in Napa. It is a rule, I think.) and you gather your thoughts realizing that your discombobulation is adding to your inability to figure out this problem. You park and double check your directions and realize that the problem is that your GPS took you to the town but not to the street address (An issue you will find occurring more often over the coming days. As it turns out your GPS sucks in the countryside where township-range addresses are ALL too common. Heck, you don’t remember the last time your saw a township-range address… maybe back in the days when you were doing title searches when you worked for the government or when your were in grad school and what the hell, they still beat the dickens out of metes-and-bounds addresses… 10 rods to the west, indeed.)

Of course, in a moment of clarity you realize that there is more than one way to skin a cat (I love cats… it’s just a saying, people) and approach your GPS system from a different angle. You start clicking the buttons on the dashboard looking for “ATTRACTIONS” nearby. and Voilà! You find that you missed the turn off about two miles back and that the location of the address that you plugged into the GPS unit was indeed known by the stupid machine. And now that I have asked it in a manner more pleasing to the satellite gods, it is pleased to provide me the directions to Rutherford Hill. (“Why didn’t I just ask in the first place? Silly human driver!”).

The map below represents my actual trip to the winery. Please note that I continued down the St. Helena Highway before I corrected my course and headed back into and through the town of Rutherford. Sigh.

Trip to Rutherford_Page000

Because I Can’t Stop

Martha's Vineyard AVA

Martha's Vineyard AVA

I figured since I was doing maps of New England viticulture areas, I might as well get the last one in there. Besides it relates to Marguerite’s Southeastern New England AVA. See, the Martha’s Vineyard AVA is contained totally within the Southeastern New England AVA.

This happens alot out west. Like California. (Not Indiana which would be west of New England…) In some cases the AVAs are so subdivided that they may only encompass a couple of properties. In the case of the Martha’s Vineyard AVA, I can see where they feel separate from the rest of New England. They are an island after all….