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 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

Win(e)ding Around Northern Illinois – The Valentino Vineyards & Winery

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Valentino VineyardsWhile wandering my Win(e)ding Roads in northern Illinois a while ago, I drove past what appeared to be a vineyard in the suburbs.  Now there are several wineries in the area, but unless they are further out into the exurban area, there are no vineyards associated with them.  They obtain their fruit either by contracting with vineyards for fruit or must.  It took me a bit to track down the vineyard name and website but eventually, I was ready to visit.

When we arrived at the winery we were greeted by the owner and winemaker, Rudolph Valentino DiTommaso who chatted with us about the winery.  Mr. DiTommaso started as a developer who had been making wine for years.  At one point he was speaking with a friend with more wine making experience and wondered what he needed to do to improve his wine.  The answer?  Improve the grapes that he was using.  Using grapes that were available for sale to home winemakers were not the first quality.  Those went to vineyards with their own wineries or were specifically grown for them.  That is when Mr. DiTommaso decided to grow his own grapes.  The remaining land that he originally thought would be used for single family homes were converted into vineyard.

The next interesting part of the Valentino Vineyards are the grapes that they grow.  Traditionally, northern type vineyards grow hybrid or native varietals that can survive our delightful Illinois winters.  This vineyard is growing a good selection of vinifera grapes.  How?  At the end of the season the vines are buried to protect their root system.  This is a time consuming process but can be done at a small operation such as this.  Yes, hybrids are grown as well, so not all the vines need so much tending.

As a result, there are estate grown Chardonnay’s in Illinois.  Wow.  Additionally, they produce fortified wines that are among the most unique that I have tasted.  Missing is the alcoholic sting of a newer port style wine.

The downside to everything? The winery is only open April to December on weekends only.

With spring around the corner? Stop by and visit!

Valentino Vineyards
5175 Aptakisic Road
Long Grove, IL 60047
April thru December: Monday – Thursday, by appt., Friday, 5pm – 9pm, Saturday, 11am – 5pm, Sunday, 12pm – 4pm

The Sabre

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Arlynn PresserYes, that object from Wednesday was a champagne sabre.  I have seen a bottle opened this way once in the past.  Yet, I felt that I needed to give it a try.  When my friend Arlynn Lieber Presser told me about her blogging project to meet and learn from all her Facebook friends, I knew that this was the time to go ahead.  I purchased the sabre (you can spell it with an -er if you wish.  I am going all Buffalo Sabre-y on you) and waited for it to arrive.

It is magnificent. Has good heft and according to Kevin and the girls, the ability to put someone’s eye out.  Indeed, Champagne Rory indicated a concern that he would be blinded by flying glass.  This was not to be.  Everything went flying along its trajectory at such a rate of speed that I am not sure it is even possible to get glass blowback.  And wine foaming from the bottle removes the possiblity of shards travelling down your throat and lodging in your lung.  I like the looks of this sabre.  Kevin and I bought a Laguiole sabre for a friend a couple of years back and I was disappointed to see that it looked like a machete.  A deadly weapon as well to be sure, but it was missing the elegance of a sabre.

So, I took the sabre to Arlynn’s and I showed her how it worked.  But she was still concerned about trying it herself.  Watch for yourself.  I talked her into it.  You can read her post about our evening here.  I even got my Dad and Sophie to try using the sabre (Though in Sophie’s case, it was more like trying to keep her from it.)

I KNOW that I will never open a bottle of bubbly another way again.  This was way too cool.

A Perfect Combo

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

When push comes to shove, I am as much a foodie as I am a wino. A couple of weeks ago Kevin and I had a perfectly fine dinner out at McCormick & Schmick. It was a really crazy night there and we felt a bit neglected by the staff initially. Eventually we got appetizers and our dinner… Even some wine.

We enjoyed dinner. I thought that the wine list was a bit of a throw away, but we cherry picked it… and ended up with particularly excellent appetizers…

A de-constructed oysters Rockefeller… and the Lomi-Lomi salmon that was put together at our table. The advantage of this? Well, obviously, I get the recipe.

So, after Kevin and I had a disasterous experience cooking fish last weekened? (check my Twitter feed to see how bad it was) We decided that we needed to get back on the horse so to speak. I decided to reproduce (hopefully) the Lomi-Lomi salmon.

Lomi-Lomi SalmonFirst I diced some lovely fresh salmon that I picked up from my favorite fishmonger, Bill Dugan of The Fish Guy. If you live in Chicago and haven’t been there? Shame on you. This salmon was from the Faroe Islands which I will admit that I thought were Scottish, but in reality are Danish (not that I think that the fish care). The fish was beautiful bright color with pronounced layer of fat in the musculature. Beautiful. Of course, I am dicing it, along with a smallish yellow onion, chopped scallions, three of those beautifully ripe vine tomatoes also diced, salt, pepper, the juice of two limes, the zest of one, a tablespoon of soy sauce (I only had a dribble due to my sweet filles love of salty condiments, so I substituted a combination of fish sauce and Worcestershire sauce. Sometimes cooking is about imagination) finely chopped green chiles (I used serrano’s because they have an herbal brightness) and a drizzle of sesame oil. Toss these ingredients together.. let them marinate a couple of minutes and serve on crackers (or just go ahead and eat the stuff from spoons. Why? because it is perfect in this form in every single way). When we ordered this at the restaurant they gave us to small a portion of this. Last night? We might have gone a bit overboard as we indulged in two whole filets.. which means that this is all we ate.

Oh, the flavor was amazing.

But what to drink with it? Well, that evening at McCormick & Schmick we drank the Sokol Blosser Evolution 9. It was an amazingly complex blend of 9 varietals which beautifully matched the spicy asian flavors, though to me were a bit sweet.

This time? Domaine Chandon Brut. The crispness of the sparkling wine was absolutely perfect. In fact even better than the sweet touches from the Sokol Blosser.

This recipe? Well, it will be on high rotation as it was light, simple and ridiculously good. Maybe I will consider drinking something other than sparkling wine with it… but no time soon, that is for certain.

Finally, Dating A Bachelor!

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Ok. Bachelor’s Buttons. Still it seemed the perfect name for a wine that was being “dated”. Denise Isenhower or Isenhower Cellars talks about the wine from her small winery. Oh, and the name? It comes from the flowers growing at their winery.. You probably guessed that because you are clever.

Isenhower Cellars
3471 Pranger Road
Walla Walla, WA 99362-7307
(509) 526-7896

Also, we here at VinoVerve would like to wish our fellow ‘Verver, Kevin Neuman a happy birthday. Feel free to stop by his Facebook page and wish him well!

Juicy Merlot

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Everytime I think of the movie, Sideways, I think of this exchange:

Jack: If they want to drink Merlot, we’re drinking Merlot.
Miles Raymond: No, if anyone orders Merlot, I’m leaving. I am NOT drinking any fucking Merlot!

If Miles had been drinking the Merlot that I had last night, he wouldn’t have complained. It was amazing.

The wine was juicy with balanced, almost understated acidity.  The fruit was jammy but not cloying.  Not at all what I expected from a Merlot.  It tasted like a more mature, blended wine.  The wine was produced by Independent Producers in the Columbia Valley AVA using sustainable agricultural methods.  The wine maker, Christophe Hedges is a scion of the Hedges Family Estate, but has stepped out from the family’s influence to produce this wine.

Independent Producers MerlotHis mission? “To capture terroir in its most raw form and to preserve the integrity of the wine world by rebelling against the 100 point rating system.” Additionally there is no advertising related to the bottle (though I am sure that the distributors take care of this).

Kevin and I were really pleased with this bottle and appreciate trying to get out from under the 100 point systems that designates the palates of a few as superior to rest of us. Drink what you like is our philosophy!

And at $11 it is hard to beat.

I am unable to find a website for the label called Independent Producers.  Their address is:

53511 N. Sunset Road
Benton City, Washington 99320

Firelands Wines

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

So after all that discussion of the Ohio and the Firelands, did I finally get around to tasting any wine? Of course I did!

Firelands Tasting RoomI began with the Pinot Grigio, currently the most popular wine according to the ladies in the tasting room. I could taste green apple and grass. It was a little less crisp than some of the pinot grigios than I have had in the past, but this is a good thing… Sometimes, those wines get too bitey and for some reason that makes the hinge of my jaw hurt. (I never said that logic was my strong suit).

Next up was the Riesling. This was advertised as tasting of apples but I thought it had more of a honeyed flavor that reminded me of pears. This is made in what I consider a more traditional style, in that it was semi-sweet. I love the new modern dry Rieslings as well, but there is something to be said for the full, fruity and floral tones of the traditional method.

I even sampled the Gewurztraminer which I had tasted with Henry Bishop, Rory and Kevin (albeit not the same vintage). It is still an excellent blend of tropical fruits and rose petals. The best of two different worlds.

Home Wine Making at FirelandsAdditionally, I tasted both the Pinot Noir (a wine that I have enjoyed from Great Lakes regions, i.e., Niagara Escarpment) and the Cabernet Franc. The Cabernet was herbal and lightly spicy and nicely dry. The Pinot Noir was smoke with anise and cherry.

Additional offerings under the Firelands label include:

Cabernet Sauvignon
Barrel Select Chardonnay
Rose de St. George
Country Estate Red
Walleye White and
Ice Wine

Additional wines from the other Lonz, Inc. labels were available including the Mantey, Dover, Mon Ami and Lonz (from grapes produced on Middle Bass Island). I picked up a Mantey Cream Sherry for my father. He has always been a fan of Ohio sherries and am looking forward to tasting it with it in the near future (most likely Thanksgiving).

Additionally, the winery is a source for homewine makers and sells juice in the autumn (until it runs out).

Wine and the Y

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

VinoVerve and the YMCA Y as in YMCA, that is. You usually don’t think of the two together. But this weekend, our local YMCA was celebrating their Hall of Fame and raising money for their scholarship fund.

VinoVerve donated wine to the cause and we were delighted to find signs on the tables.

Of course, Kevin is on the board of the YMCA, a Neuman tradition (his father helped build a branch in Eastern Queens YMCA, so for us, it was a natural.
DecorationsKevin the MC

What does the YMCA do?

Children and Youth

  • Nearly 10 million children ages 17 and under engage in a wealth of enriching YMCA activities.
  • Together, YMCAs are the nation’s largest provider of child care, with nearly 10,000 child care sites across the country that provide high-quality, affordable care to more than 500,000 children.


  • YMCAs help families build bonds, connect with community resources and become strong and self-sufficient.
  • For more than eight decades, YMCAs have offered Adventure Guides and similar programs that bring parents and children together.

Health and Well-being

  • YMCAs are collectively the nation’s largest providers of health and well-being programs.
  • YMCAs are working to promote healthy living for millions of Americans through YMCA Activate America®. Learn more about YMCA Activate America.


  • Financial assistance—made possible annually by more than $1.6 billion in public and private support, as well as YMCA members—opens all YMCA programs to those in need.
  • Volunteer founded and volunteer led, YMCAs depend on the generosity and dedication of their 548,926 volunteers across the United States.

Improve Lives

  • America’s 2,686 YMCAs are collectively one of the largest not-for-profit community service organizations in the United States.
  • 64 million households and 32 million children ages 14 and under live within three miles of a YMCA, while 1,518 YMCAs serve communities where the median family income is below the U.S. average.

International Reach

  • The YMCA is one of the largest volunteer organizations in the world, serving more than 45 million people in 124 countries. Learn more about YMCA World Service.

The Dinner was a success!YMCA AwardsAnd as an added bonus, Kevin was the Master of Ceremonies at the celebrations…

Isle St. George

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

Tuesday as it turns out, is a much better day for trying to find an open winery. At least it is in Ohio.

Firelands WineryTuesday morning, bright and early I pulled into the Firelands Winery parking (please note if using GPS to find this location, there is construction in the area and you will be rerouted).

I was excited to visit this winery as I had actually tasted the wine from here before. Back in 2007, when VinoVerve was young, Rory, Kevin and I had dinner at Salpicon in Chicago and drank wine and chatted with Henry Bishop. During that dinner, while eating great Mexican food, we drank wine from all over the world. This included wine from Missouri, Quebec and Ohio. This is one of the reasons that I have become so passionate about local wine. The Ohio wine was the 2005 Firelands Winery Gewurztraminer, Isle St. George, Sandusky, Ohio.

I have to admit that I was curious about the locations listed for the wine. Isle Saint George is on an island (duh) in Lake Erie but is the name of a community, not the name of the island, itself. It is located on North Bass Island and is part of the Put-in-Bay Township in Ottawa County, Ohio. The township consists of 7 of the 31 Lake Erie Islands (some of which are now just reefs) that are shared between the States of Michigan and Ohio and the Province of Ontario. Several of the Lake Erie Islands, including North Bass Island are known for producing wine grapes. In many cases these wineries declined after prohibition but have resurfaced since the 1980s.


Created by NormanEinstein, June 23, 2005. Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike (CC-BY-SA)

In the case of Isle Saint George, the community was designated an AVA in 1982. By law, the AVA must be listed “St.” instead of “Saint” George (government often confuses me to the point of creating a headache). The weather in the area is milder than the surrounding mainlands as the waters of Lake Erie are the warmest of all the Great Lakes. As a result, vitis vinifera grape varietals are able to thrive. The island is famous for producing Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Riesling far more north than usual.

However, the Firelands Winery wines also list Sandusky, Ohio (home to Cedar Point) on their labels. This is because the grapes are grown in Isle St. George but are produced at the winery in Sandusky.

Confused yet? Wait until you hear about the rest of the history of the winery.

I will give you a hint: It has something to do with Marguerite’s VinoVerve posts! The first person to most fully explain the connection (correctly, obviously) will win a Locapour T-shirt. Entries must be received before Thursday, October 22th at midnight CDT (yes, we are on Daylight Time).

Firelands Winery
917 Bardshar Rd.
Sandusky, OH 44870
(419) 625-5474

Philadelphia Freedom with Vino Volo

Kevin Neuman
VinoVerve Contributor

Coasters from VinoVolo

Coasters from VinoVolo

No, I’m not talking about Founding Fathers or any such history. I’m talking about securing freedom from flight delays, boring food, and stale bars at Philadelphia International  (PHL). After wading through airport security (“Hey TSA agent, that’s my butt”), I stumbled upon a neat wine bar called Vino Volo. According to an internet search, these oases within airports have been around a few years and can be found in a handful of airports across the country with plans to expand. I can’t wait until they reach O’Hare.

I think the concept is fairly unique. Well, at least in airports. Vino Volo offers a tidy selection of wines available by the glass or in tasting flights based on themes like “Old World Reds.” I chose wines by the glass as a taste just doesn’t do it for me sometime. The picture accompanying this piece shopws the wines I had served on cool “coasters” describing the wine including varietal, winery and year. each “coaster” was accompanied by tasting notes, which according to the website is descibed thusly:

Our wine flavor comparison tool Vino Chart allows you, the wine lover, to easily understand wines based on their flavor profiles, and it doesn’t require you to spend years of academic wine studies to do it. Whether you’re a wine novice or wine pro, you can use the Vino Chart to think about differences between wines and decide which you prefer, and when.

Fruit and complexity. That’s it!

Vino Chart looks at wines based on how much FRUIT and non-fruit flavors or COMPLEXITY each wine has. That’s it.

Wines with richer, brighter, and more varied fruit flavors are higher up on the chart map, and wines with deeper and more-layered complexity are further to the right side of the chart. This wine chart works with both red and white wines.

Oh, and did I mention that they have a food menu that accompanies the wines quite nicely. I stuck with a plate of marinated olives. A perfect match to the variety of wines I had. I look forward to getting stuck in an airport again – as long as there’s a Vino Volo.