Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Madame de Beaucaillou Haut-Médoc

Madame de Beaucaillou Haut-Médoc 2018

Local wine merchant Vin Chicago put this label out as a special feature offer and I picked up a case and, oh my, am I glad I did! We're long time fans and collectors of the grand vin Ducru Beaucaillou and were intrigued to try this new label in its inaugural release. 

We visited the famous Château Ducru Beaucaillou during our Bordeaux St Julien wine experience in 2018 and tasted the 2018 release from the barrel. That vintage went on to receive 100 points from Wine Enthusiast and 99 points from just about everyone else. They released this new label for that vintage so we were compelled to pick some up. 

As I have oft written in these pages, in top vintages, 'all boats rise with the tide', meaning great Chateaux will produce great wines even in their second and third labels, such that those labels often provide tremendous QPR - Quality Price Ratios, superb wines at a fraction of the price of the grand vin.

Wine critic Jeb Dunnuck wrote about the 2018 Bordeaux: "In short, 2018 is a thrilling vintage with no shortage of legendary wines and I cannot imagine anyone who purchases these wines will be disappointed...It’s possible to find attractive, well-made, even outstanding, wines that punch well above their price points." 

This is the very first vintage of this new label coming from the cellars of Ducru Beaucaillou. The new wine comes from vineyards located in the Haut-Médoc; plots brought by Madame Eugène-Borie on her marriage and more recently by the acquisition of plots from Madame Fort-Pradère. This wine label was created to pay homage to the woman who chaired the Board from 1998 to today, but also to an attentive and loving mother. Under the Haut Medoc appellation, this wine offers Borie quality at an entry-level price.

In recognition of Ducru's long line of women owners, the chateau released this label noting, “equally inspiring and demanding… all of them had an essential role in the development and renown of Ducru Beaucaillou’s signature style – strength and grace.”

Ducru Beaucaillou is a Bordeaux Second Growth that dates back to 1720 and is named for its terroir – the beautiful stones - ducru beaucaillou ... that are a large part of the composition of the soil of the vineyards adjacent the Gironde River. These stones, and the vineyards planted on them, are part of what gives Ducru Beaucaillou its particular Saint Julien character. Adjacent is a commemorative 'beautiful pebble', engraved with the historic chateau, in a gift box given to guests at to the estate. 

With the 2018 vintage, Ducru Beaucaillou decided to honor it’s 300th birthday and its Chairman [chairwoman] of the Board, Mrs. Eugene Borie, for the past decade by creating a new cuvee from her family’s home vineyards. The cuvee is this one, the Madame de Beaucaillou, released in 2020. 

This is vinified in the cellars by the Ducru-Beaucaillou team, receiving the same care and attention: the technical winemaking process, selective blending, and careful ageing for 12 months in barrel (including 20% new oak). 

In classic Bordeaux style, this is a blend of 39% Merlot, 37% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Cabernet Franc, and 3% Petit Verdot.

Deep garnet-colored, medium bodied, bright expressive vibrant blackberries, blueberries and plum fruits, accented by graphite and a touch of clove, hints of coffee tobacco, cigar and cedar with a savoury round finish with firm structured backbone and sturdy, fine-grain cloying tongue coating tannins that are not for the feint of heart but will impress big Bordeaux enthusiasts.

This was delicious already and I can only imagine how this will be with three to five or more years of additional integration and aging. 

RM 91 points. This was also awarded 91 points by James Suckling

Upon tasting this, I quickly got on line and ordered the current release of this label, available through En primeur (futures purchase). Stay tuned as I'll dutifully report on that wine as I soon as obtain some and have the opportunity to try it. 





Sunday, September 26, 2021

Chateau Montelena Napa Cabernet - Long Shadows Feather

Chateau Montelena Napa Cabernet - Long Shadows Feather Columbia Valley Cabernet

Fellow  'Pour Boy' Bill and Beth C came in for the weekend for our  'Pour Boys' Winers and Diners Cityscape Deck Dinner. 

We dined together the following evening and Linda prepared grilled BBQ ribs with baked potatoes, baked sweet potatoes, baked beans, asparagus and haricot verts following a caprese salad. 

Bill brought from his cellar a Chateau Montelena Napa Cabernet and I pulled a Long Shadows "Feather" Columbia Valley Cabernet

Chateau Montelena Napa Valley Calistoga Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2004

This is the classic flagship label from this legendary producer.  This 2004 release was the first year that "Calistoga" appeared on the front label, along with Napa Valley. Montelena proprietor Bo Barrett initially proposed AVA status for Calistoga to the US, but it wasn't officially granted until 2009.

We visited the historic Chateau up in the north end of Napa Valley back in the early nineties, before I was blogging and writing about such activities. 

This label was awarded 95 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate and Vinous

This was delicious, likely at the peak of its drinking window at seventeen years, and likely to drink well for another decade or more. The fill level, foil, label and most notably, the cork, were in perfect condition.

Robert Parker summed it up well in his review in 2014, "A classic, old style Napa Cabernet Sauvignon, Montelena’s 2004 reveals beautiful purity along with lots of creme de cassis fruit, a full-bodied mouthfeel, and a long finish. By Montelena standards, it is a bit more powerful than usual (14.1% alcohol). These wines have an uncanny ability to age for 2-3 decades, and while the 2004 is slightly more forward and evolved than other vintages have been (2001 and 2002), it should last for 20-25 years."

Vinous referred to it's "Knockout nose", and said, "But this beauty is just embarking on what should be a multi-decade plane of peak drinkability. Uncommon flavor intensity here--and still just 30% new oak."

This was one of the most memorable and appealing Napa cabs I recall ever having, dark inky purple colored with incredible floral aromas and fruit flavors bursting from the glass, elegant and polished, bordering on exotic, bright expressive, concentrated but superbly integrated, seductive smooth silky ripe blackberry and black raspberry fruits with notes anise and tobacco leaf, hints of cinnamon and clove spices, mocha and eucalyptus continuing on and on with a lingering finish. 

This was so tasty, it would've been pleasurable drinking by all by itself, or paired with about any grilled meat or stew or just bread and any moderate cheese, but it stood up nicely to the tangy BBQ as well.

RM 95 points. 

Bill posted his CT tasting note on this wine too.

9/26/2021 - favorite Likes this wine: 94 Points

"A spectacular treat. As highly rated as 2004 Napa Cabernet was, almost every bottle I drink exceeds expectations. We drank this with friends Linda and Rick M, the night following a gala wine dinner. Linda prepared ribs which did cause us to rethink the order of wines as the Montelena would have been overwhelmed by the delicious, spicy barbecue."

"After dinner and almost 2 hours after opening, we finally got to the Montelena. Inky purple still. Full of dark cherry, black raspberry, chocolate and hints of sweet vanilla and eucalyptus on the palate. Maybe a bit of tobacco on the back palate rounded out this elegant, classic, historic cabernet. Tannins had diminished as expected after 17 years but were still evident. This had a long, lingering, 35 second finish. After some discussion we agreed that this was best enjoyed without food to appreciate the nuanced layers. A little chocolate or some cheese would be fine but this wine calls for no distractions. Glad I have another bottle."

REMc note ... He shouldn't have mentioned he has another bottle! :>)


Long Shadows "Feather" Columbia Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2006

Bill had never had this Randy Dunn special selection from this collaborative project with this northwest, Columbia Valley producer. 

Knowing I am a club member and have several vintages which I thought would go back five or six vintages, we planned to opt for the oldest vintage. 

Surpisingly, I had this dating back as old as 2006, which was a nice comparison, almost a horizontal comparison, to the seventeen year old 2004 Montelena. 

We discovered this wine and Long Shadows Collectors Series during a visit to the Long Shadows Wine Cellars tasting room in Woodinville, Washington during our Seattle Culinary and Washington Wine Tour back in 2018. 

With Randy Dunn at Dunn estate high atop Howell Mountain.
We've been fans of Randy Dunn and collectors of Dunn Vineyards Cabernets for decades. We have a vertical collection of his labels dating back to 1980. We visited Randy Dunn and the Dunn Vineyards estate high atop Napa Valley Howell Mountain during our Napa Valley Howell Mountain Wine Experience back in 2008. This unique collaboration with Allan Shoup as part of the Long Shadows Collectors series showcases Randy's winemaking handiwork featuring the best of Washington State Columbia Valley fruit.

This release is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from the finest vineyards in the Columbia Valley and was aged 22 months in new French Oak. It was rated 93 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate and 91 points by Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar.

Garnet colored, medium bodied, dark blackberry, black currant and black cherry fruits with earthy leather, black tea, spices and toasted oak on a moderate tannin laced finish. 

RM 91 points.


Saturday, September 25, 2021

Winers and Diners Cityscape Deck Wine Dinner '21

 Winers and Diners, Pour Boy's Cityscape Deck Wine Dinner '21

The 'Pour Boys' gathered for the annual Winers and Diners Cityscape Deck Dinner hosted by Lyle and Terry F in their west loop dual condo. Since they first moved to the neighborhood it has undergone an incredible renaissance transformation with the Oprah Harpo studios being demolished and replaced by the McDonalds World HQ complex, Google and numerous other hi-tech firms moving into the new developments in the area. 

Lyle and Terry merged their condo with an adjacent unit and transformed the second kitchen into a purpose built custom designed wine cellar. They also completely renovated and expanded their existing kitchen and transformed the adjacent space into a dining area. 

Of course one of the most distinguished highlight features of their residence is the extraordinary adjoining deck with views of the skyscrapers of the nearby loop. 

The evening was perfect with ideal weather conditions of a pleasant early autumn evening.

Pour Boys on the cityscape deck.

Lyle and Terry prepared grilled filets of beef, scalloped potatoes, brussel sprouts from Duck Inn Chicago, where we ate as a group recently, ceasar salad, green beans and carrots.Prior to the main course they served grilled scallops, and a selection of artisan cheeses, olives, and deviled eggs.

Pour Boys Winers and Diners Dinner -
photo by Linda M

For the wine flight planning, I suggested Bordeaux Blends to accompany the beefsteaks. 

I had an aged vintage Joseph Phelps Insignia from 1989, one of Bill and Beth's sons' birthyear.
That, coupled with Dan's deep vertical of, and collection of this label as a long time club member and collector, I suggested we bring Insignia's from our cellars, for those of us that had such. 

We visited the magnificent Joseph Phelps Winery and Vineyards in Napa Valley together during our Napa Wine Experience in 2017, one of the highlights of that trip. 

So, our wine flight was anchored by the vertical of Phelp's Insignia consisting of:

Joseph Phelps Insignia Napa Valley Red Blend 1989, 2000, 2007 and 2008


Note the three generations of wine labels during this period. 

The red wine Phelps Insignia vertical flight was augmented by the following additional wines:

Domaine Jean Grivot Bossieres Vosne Romanee Burgundy 2002
Peter Michael Les Pavots Red Wine 2005
Beaulieu Vineyards Georges de Latour Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
Rubissow Napa Valley Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
Newton "Puzzle" Napa Valley Spring Mountain District Red Blend 2016
Cos d' Estournel St Estephe Bordeaux 2009

Prior to the red flight we had a selection of white wines including French Champagne and California Methode Champonais Sparkling Wine. 

Salon Le Mesnil Blanc de Blanc Brut Champagne 2006
Sea Smoke 'Sea Spray' Santa Rita Hills Sparkling Wine 2015
Sea Smoke 'Gratis' Santa Rita Hills Chardonnay 2012

John brought the Salon Les Mesnil from his cellar, which has become somewhat of a tradition, and Dan brought the duo of Sea Smoke labels, Gratis Chardonnay and Sea Spray, from Santa Rita Hills.  


Salon Blanc de Blancs Brut Champagne 2006 

John brought this classic cellar selection that he has brought in earlier years.

This 2006 release was awarded 100 points, a 'Cellar Selection' by Wine Enthusiast, 97 points by James Suckling and Vinous, 96 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, and 95 points by Decanter.

This release from a great vintage for Chardonnay in Champagne was considered perfect by Wine Enthusiast.

The 2006 Salon Blanc de Blancs Le Mesnil Brut is silver-golden color, pure and fresh mouthfilling, round and elegant, well balanced, creamy and elegant. Beautifully fresh acidity, rich creamy lemon and white peaches with tongue-gripping minerality.

RM 95 points.


 The wine flight was concluded with bottles of Chateau Suduiraut dessert wine. Ernie brought the 2013 and I brought the 2002.

Chateau Suduiraut Sauterne Bordeaux 2002 and 2013

As has become custom and tradition of our Lyle and Terry hosted wine dinners, Terry prepared her delectable, decadent Orange Cake and her cheesecake with chocolate sauce and fresh berries. 

Steve S brought this Burgundy Pinot Noir for opening the red flight as we transitioned from the white wines to the reds.

Domaine Jean Grivot Vosne-Romanee 1er Cru "Bossieres" 2002

A different profile and character than the bigger bolder Bordeaux varietals, this Burgundy is based on the native Burgundy varietal Pinot Noir. It was a nice transition wine from the flight of whites to the reds. It was a nice accompaniment to the deviled eggs, olives and selection of cheeses.

Ruby colored, light-medium bodied, cherry and red current fruits with notes of spice, dusty forest floor, earth, mushrooms and hints of vanilla.

RM 90 points.

Some wine tasting observations from the evening:

The Insignia vertical flight was fun and interesting, as to be expected, as such comparison tastings of multiple vintages of the same label usually are. 

Joseph Phelps Insignia Napa Valley Red Blend 1989

We tasted this same vintage release of this bottle at Dr Dan's at OTBN in 2020. Tonight was consistent with that tasting experience when I wrote the following: "Drank adjacent a 2006 Insignia.' 

"Garnet colored, slightly opaque, this was medium bodied, lighter than I expected, with dark berry fruits, notes of anise, spice, plums and currants. A mere shadow of the bigger, more concentrated and fruit filled 2006, not due to age, but likely indicative of a lesser vintage and perhaps lesser selection of the fruits."

Tonight, the 1989 vintage Insignia, at 32 years, was in remarkably good condition, showing impressive aging steadfastness in a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Indicating excellent provenance cellar and aging conditions, the label, and foil were in excellent condition, the fill level was ideal, appropriate, customary at low neck above the shoulder.  The cork was slightly saturated but generally in excellent condition. 

This wine was past its prime but still within an acceptable drinking window, the color was good, dark garnet colored, the structure was medium bodied, holding together nicely, the fruit was still in-tact showing only slight but expected levels of diminution from aging, the black berry and plum notes giving way to tones of spice, earthy leather, tobacco leaf and tea. 

RM 88 points.  

Joseph Phelps Insignia Napa Valley Red Blend 2000

This bottle was one of the surprises of the evening, for the wrong reasons, it was a bit disappointing showing less than we expected and hoped. 

Dark garnet colored, medium bodied, black berry and plum fruits with moderate structure and backbone, this too was past its prime, and still within its acceptable drinking window, but more akin to the 30 year old than the dozen year old vintage releases in comparison. The fruits giving way to earth, leather and notes of tea. 

RM 88 points.

Joseph Phelps Insignia Napa Valley Red Blend 2007 

This was one of the standouts of the evening, likely at the apex of its drinking window, dark blackish garnet colored, medium-full bodied, big, forward, complex, concentrated, vibrant bright fruits with dusty, firm tannins, notes of anise, tobacco, cigar box and black tea. 

RM 94

Joseph Phelps Insignia Napa Valley Red Blend 2008

Another surprise of the evening, this was the Insignia profile of the flight, but a bit closed and tight with slightly subdued black fruits, it took a while to open indicating it needs a couple more years to integrate and open to reveal its true character and full flavor profile - still, concentrated, big, impressive and elegant.

RM 93

Chateau Cos d' Estournel 2009

This was another standout of the evening, showing well with big bold complexity and concentrated fruits - also likely at the apex of its drinking window, but likely too to age beautifully for a couple more decades. 

We saw the legendary St Estephe estate during our trip to Bordeaux in 2018. We hold several vintages of this classic label dating back to the early 80's. This too would make for a marvelous vertical wine flight with its extensive longevity with drinking windows that would span several decades.

Dark garnet colored, medium-full bodied, complex, elegant, polished and nicely integrated full forward bright vibrant black berry and currant fruits with earthy tobacco, notes of anise, spice, herbs and black tea with oaky, silky tannins on a long lingering finish. 

RM 95 points.


Peter Michael Les Pavots Sonoma County Knights Valley Red Wine 

Ernie brought this ultra-premium label from his cellar. Records show he brought this vintage of this label to an earlier Pour-Boys dinner back in 2014. 

Les Pavots is an estate bottled Bordeaux blend from the slopes of Mt Helena above the eastern Knights Valley in Sonoma County. This release is a Bordeaux Blend of 63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Cabernet Franc, 12% Merlot & 2% Petit Verdot.

This release got huge reviews and scores - 95 points from Robert Parker's Wine Advocate and Wine Spectator and 93 points Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar

Pour Boys Dr Dan, Bill and I attended our special wine dinner back in June of this year down in Florida when we had this label.  Ernie was not with us that night. but we toasted him noting he collects this label as a member of their club. At that time, I researched and wrote in this blog that Ernie served this same label to us at our OTBN wine gathering tasting in 2014.

This was awarded 95 points by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, 93 points Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar, and 92 points by Wine Spectator.

Parker likened this wine more to a Right Bank Merlot based blend, "a sensational wine, with a style that suggests a hypothetical blend of a great St.-Emilion and Pomerol". 

This was not like my earlier tasting six years ago, when I wrote this was "Dark ruby colored, elegant and polished, full bodied with full complex concentrated layers of blackberry, black raspberry and blackcurrant with tones of black tea, cigar box and hint of dark mocha and cedar on a silky smooth finish," and at that time gave this 95 points. 

This was more subdued and modest with the fruit being more restrained and less concentrated and less complex than earlier. Perhaps this was due to the comparison with the bigger more forward wines compared against it tonight. 

Tonight I would give this 92 points.


Beaulieu Vineyard "Georges de Latour Private Reserve" Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

Lyle pulled this ultra premium Napa Bordeaux Blend from his cellar. This received from 94 points Vinous, 93 points from Wine Spectator, 92 points Robert Parker's Wine Advocateand  Stephen Tanzer's International Wine Cellar.  

This is a blend of Bordeaux varietals, 93% Cabernet Sauvignon, 4% Malbec and 3% Petit Verdot and was aged in new French oak for 22 months.

Coming across like the Les Pavot, this was more elegant and polished, coming across more subdued and subtle than some of the bigger, bolder more concentrated forward wines. 

Deep garnet-purple colored, notes of plum and dark berry fruits accented by spice, touches of tobacco, mocha, hints of mint, licorice and graphite with a lingering finish. 

RM 92 points.

Newton "Puzzle" Napa Valley Spring Mountain Red Wine 2016

I came across this ultra-premium label recently and picked up several bottles to share and compare, commemorating the wine from this producer that we served at our son's wedding welcome reception a couple weeks ago. 

I served that wine from our son Alec's birthyear 1990 vintage from a six liter Imperial large format bottle. Hence I wanted to try a recent release of that wine that has recently appeared in the marketplace. 

This is a Bordeaux Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Malbec. It was rated 94 by James Suckling. 

This was dark garnet colored, medium full bodied, complex and flavorful black berry and black raspberry fruits with accents of spice, tangy acidity, hints of dark cocao, vanilla and black tea. Yet this was less concentrated and forward than some of the other wines tasted tonight. I put this near the middle of the spectrum.

RM 92 points.

Rubissow Napa Valley Mt Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

Bill brought this from his cellar from Charleston. We visited this producer estate vineyards high atop Mt Veeder during our Mt Veeder Napa Valley Wine Experience back in 2011. At that time we met with the founder, George Rubissow and tasted and acquired earlier releases of this label. Bill subsequently acquired this later release as well.

In their peak production, Rubissow produced about 5000 cases per year. In 2016, with their vintage release, they announced 'that after 37 years, the property would be taken over by new ownership'. With their 2016 release, they wrote at the time, "When Tim made this wine, he and we didn’t yet know that it would be our final Rubissow Reserve, but just as well."

This bottle was another one of the surprises of the evening, showing bright vibrant expressive fruits and tangy spices. 

Dark garnet colored, medium full bodied, black berry and black raspberry fruits with note of tangy clove and cinnamon spices, hints of cigar box and black tea on a lingering finish. 

RM 91 points.

Missouri Wine Experience

Missouri Wine Experience 

Last week, we took an extended getaway weekend to travel to neighboring Missouri to explore Missouri Wine. From Illinois, we traveled across the northern tier of the state from Hannibal to Kansas City, then back across the middle of the state with the focal point being the Missouri River. Our intent was to experience Missouri wine, learn the terroir that is distinctive to the Missouri wine producing areas, learn what grapes make up Missouri wine, and other factors about our neighbor and their industry.

Rather than an immersion in one appellation (AVA), which is our approach to visiting Napa or Bordeaux, after dozens of trips there, as an initial learning and discovery, we did a broad brush tour to get a high level understanding of the Missouri wine trade and its products. 

Our visits during our getaway weekend to Missouri were:

We learned the following about Missouri and wine:

Missouri producers craft all types of wines, red, white, blush, rose, sparkling, dessert, and fortified. 

We discovered and tasted wines from Missouri producers' vineyards sourced from the Missouri state grape Norton, and the Missouri St. Vincent grape. Other than those, they are not known for any specific varietal or suited to producing one specific variety of grapes such as Burgundy with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, and Bordeaux with its select varietals. Furthermore, there are no appellation specified or directed grapes that need to be included in the bottle or the blend as in France, and sometimes in Italy. 

Le Bourgeois Richeport
Reserve offered
at $98 per bottle
Indeed, we tasted wines produced from a wide range of varietals: Chardonel, Cayuga, Chambourcin, Concord, Catawba, Muscat, Norton, Seyval, Syrah, Traminette, Valvin, Vidal, Vignoles, St. Vincent, Vivant, and traditional French varietals Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. One producer Le Bourgeois produces an Aromella grape wine, from a hybrid white varietal, developed at Cornell University.

Lastly, we tasted wines that are 'estate', sourced from grapes grown on the property, 'Missouri' designated, crafted from others', or multiple growers across the state, and 'American', sourced from grapes outside the state of Missouri. 

We also tasted wines produced by Missouri producers, sourced from California grapes while at Le Bourgeois Winery. They produce an American Red Blend from traditionally Spanish varieties – Alvarelhão, Tinto Cao, and Souzao – all grown in Lodi, California, and a Syrah that they produce, also from fruit imported from Lodi.

We had Missouri wine aged twenty years, and wine with fruit from old aged vines as old as forty years, and Stone Hill Winery produces a limited release label with fruit from vines dating back to the Civil War. 

Missouri takes its wine and wine industry very seriously. They have formed the Missouri Vintners Association made up of winery owners throughout the state. MVA works with professional lobbyists in the state capital, Jefferson City to stay abreast of and address legislative issues facing commercial Missouri wineries. MVA communicates the needs of commercial Missouri wineries to the Missouri Wine and Grape Board, and is a state association member of Wine America. MVA keeps close ties with the Missouri Grape Growers Association and the Missouri Wine Technical Group to continually improve Missouri produced wines.

Missouri has more than 130 wineries spread across the state in eleven different regions, and is recognized by the government with four official AVAs - American Viticultural Areas. 

Many of the Missouri producers have grouped together in their areas to form 11 unique wine trails. 

Missouri has a long history of viticulture and winemaking dating back almost two centuries with some of the oldest wineries in the US, and some of the historic largest wineries and highest producing wine areas in the US. As early as 1850, there were nearly sixty wineries in the Hermann area producing more than 10,000 gallons of wine per year.

By 1904, there were more than 100 Missouri wineries, the Hermann area alone produced 3 million gallons of wine, mostly by small wine grower/producers.When France’s vineyards were plagued by the phylloxera louse that threatened their entire wine industry, it was Missouri that came to the rescue. When nearly all France's grape vines were destroyed, Missouri’s state entomologist, C.V. Riley, was among the first to discover that Native American grapes were resistant to the pest. Missouri winemakers shipped millions of phylloxera-resistant rootstocks across the Atlantic, ultimately saving the French wine industry.

Missouri is home to the first designated AVA, American Viticulture Area in the US. An American Viticultural Area (AVA) is a designated wine grape-growing region in the United States distinguishable by geographic features, with boundaries defined by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB).

The Augusta AVA was the first AVA in the United States, accorded to Augusta, Missouri in 1980. While seven California districts and one in Oregon had filed applications with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; the honor went to the 15 square mile area surrounding Augusta. 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. In the mid-1800s German immigrants found the Missouri River area just west of St. Louis to be well suited for growing grapes. Napa Valley was granted the second AVA designation named after Augusta in February, 1981.

The other Missouri AVAs are 

  • The Ozark Mountain AVA, established in 1986, covering a vast 3,500,000 acres in southern Missouri, extending into northwest Arkansas and northeast Oklahoma. The Ozark Mountain AVA is so large, several smaller AVA’s lay within its borders, including Augusta, Hermann and Ozark Highlands. It is the sixth largest AVA in the United States.
  • The Hermann AVA, recognized in1987 and consists of 51,200 acres in the Hermann area between St. Louis and Jefferson City, Missouri. German immigrants settled the Missouri River Valley area in the 1830s and began planting vineyards in what is today one of the most historic wine regions.
  • The Ozark Highlands AVA, designated in 1987; although the grape growing tradition goes back to the 1870s. The fourth accorded AVA in Missouri encompasses 1,280,000 acres in south-central Missouri, covering portions of eleven Missouri counties including the town of St. James, Missouri.
  • The Loess Hills District AVA, established in 2016, encompassing 12,897 square miles of loess-based hills comprising a long, narrow region along the western banks of the Missouri and Big Sioux Rivers in western Iowa and northwestern Missouri. The topography is characterized by rolling to steep hills. The deep loess enables grape vine roots to reach deeply into the soil and allows water to drain quickly.

The eleven Missouri wine regions that have established wine trails for marketing promotion and travel assistance (with compliments and sourced from

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Stone Hill Winery, Hermann, Missouri

Historic Stone Hill Winery, Hermann, Missouri 

During our visit to the Missouri Wine region around Hermann, Missouri, along the Missouri River, we stopped at Stone Hill Winery, another historic long time producer in the region dating back to 1847, like the Hermannhof Winery that we visited earlier in the day that dates back to 1852.

In its early days, Stone Hill had much early success as the second largest winery in the United States. Stone Hill wines were world renowned, winning gold medals in eight world’s fairs, including Vienna in 1873 and Philadelphia in 1876. By the 1870’s, the winery was shipping 1,250,000 gallons of wine per year, before the catastrophic downturn forced by Prohibition. It evolved as a mushroom-growing facility to the resurgence of Missouri’s wine industry, where it has returned to its historic eminence as a world-class winery.

The property was taken over in 1965 by local farmers Jim and Betty Held with their four young children. They bought and moved into the remnants of the original winery and spent the next several decades restoring the dis-repaired old-world buildings and vaulted underground cellars. 

Today the business is run by the next generation, managed by son Jon Held and his wife, Karen. Jon graduated from California State, Fresno with a degree in Enology – the science of winemaking. In 1994 Jon’s expertise at vineyard management was recognized at the Wineries Unlimited Symposium where he was named Winegrower of the Year.

Jon has served multiple terms on the Missouri Grape and Wine Advisory Board as well as the Midwestern representative on the Eastern Viticulture Consortium Regional Guidance Committee, which administers USDA funding for viticultural research.

Stone Hill is Missouri’s oldest and most awarded winery with yearly production of nearly 300,000 gallons of wine, using state-of-the-art equipment and the latest technology.  Stone Hill’s winemaking team produces wines that are again receiving international recognition, winning more than 4,000 awards since 1988, Stone Hill Winery has continuously ranked among the nation’s top award winners.

Stone Hill Winery owns seven vineyards totaling 190 acres, six of which are located within the Hermann Viticultural Appellation. The vineyards are grow the following varieties: Norton, Vignoles, Vidal, Chardonel, Cayuga, Vincent, Chambourcin, Vivant, Concord, Catawba, Valvin Muscat and Traminette. Stone Hill also purchases Catawba, Concord, Norton, Traminette, Chardonel, Vidal, Seyval and St. Vincent grapes from several independent grape growers located throughout the state of Missouri. 

For forty years, the master winemaker at Stone Hill was Dave Johnson who graduated from Michigan State University in 1970 with a degree in Biology, and a master’s in the Grape and Wine Program in 75. After several years in viticulture research, he became winemaker for Stone Hill Winery. During his tenure, he was the most awarded American winemaker outside of California, named Winemaker of the Year in 1994. Stone Hill Winery was routinely ranked among the top awarded wineries in the nation and has earned several Missouri Governor’s Cup awards.

Today, Stone Hill's head winemaker is Shaun Turnbull who hails from Cape Town, South Africa. He studied winemaking and earned a degree in Cellar Technology, then taught winemaking at South African Elsenburg College, known for being the best practical school of winemaking in the country. Before joining Stone Hill, Shaun worked at WineCorp in Stellenbosch, South Africa, Jefferson Cellars in Charlottesville, Virginia, and Heitz Cellars in Napa, California.

Stone Hill produce a broad portfolio of Missouri wines, a dozen reds, whites, roses, sparkling whites, and a limited distribution old vine aged 'port' dessert wine. 

Stone Hill Winery 2015 Port

Stone Hill Winery
Old Vine Norton
Reserve 2015

The Stone Hill flagship wine is based on the Norton grape, Missouri’s official state grape – a big, full-bodied red.  The 2011 Norton and 2012 Cross J Norton both won a trifecta of awards including the coveted Missouri Governor’s Cup adding to 8 other Stone Hill Winery Governor Cup awards. They were offering in the wineshop numerous vintages of the Stone Hill Norton including several aged vintage library wines dating back to 2002, 2004 and 2006.

Stone Hill Winery Norton
Library Vintages

Stone Hill Winery Estate Norton 2017

Stone Hill also uses French-American hybrid grapes such as Vidal, Chardonel and Vignoles.

The Stone Hill site is sits dramatically on a hill with scenic views overlooking the quaint historic German town of Hermann and a hillside vineyard. The winery is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Missouri Wine Country welcoming thousands of visitors each year. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places,

They offer guided tours of the winery’s historic arched underground cellars and wine tastings in three historic tasting rooms.

Adjacent the Stone Hill visitor and hospitality center is the Vintage 1847 Restaurant, where they serve German specialties along with steaks and other American dishes. Once the winery’s original stable and carriage house, the building has been restored into a dining room for lunch or dinner, and a private dining room for groups and special occasions.

Throughout the year, they host several well-known events including Wurstfest, Maifest, Oktoberfest and numerous Hermann Wine Trail activities.