Friday, September 17, 2021

Baltimore Bend Vineyard

Baltimore Bend Vineyard - Missouri River Wines

Taking the northern overland state highways route across Missouri, we passed through the town of Waverly, Missouri, home to Baltimore Bend Vineyard

Founded in 1997, starting with 1.5 acres, the vineyard has grown to more than 8 acres today comprising 9 different varieties of wine grapes which are blended and bottled under ten red labels and a dozen whites and some fruit wines - from sweet to semi-dry to  dry wines and a fortified wine.

The winery and brand is named after the bend in the Missouri River where legend has it that a boat named Baltimore sank.

Baltimore Bend Vineyard offers a wide variety of award-winning estate wines sourced from their eight acres of vineyards down near the river. 

Located in northeastern Lafayette County, this region of Missouri marks the southern boundary of the glacier fields formed during the Ice Age. As the ice retreated, winds deposited deep, fertile, silt loam soil that is ideally suited for growing grapes. Baltimore Bend has matched the local terroir to the following grape varieties: Cynthiana, Chambourcin, Chardonel, Concord, Norton, Seyval, Vidal, Vignoles and Cabernet France. 

Baltimore Bend Vineyards
Winery-Tasting Room
Baltimore Bend Vineyard is a family owned and operated business, managed by Sarah Smith, part owner and co-founder, along with her parents, Richard and Kathleen Livingston, who both entered the winery and viticulture business after retiring, Kathleen from a career as a nurse, and Richard as a meteorologist. Richard, spent his career first as a forecaster and later as Chief of Scientific Services for the Central Region of the National Weather Service. Upon retirement, he joined with his wife, Kathleen, and daughter Sarah to establish, nurture and grow Baltimore Bend Vineyard.

The winery was started in 2003 and Sarah has been instrumental in all aspects of the vineyard and winery’s growth over the years, including taking on the duties as head winemaker.

Sarah got a Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural Journalism from the University of Missouri and a certificate in enology from Washington State University. She is active in Missouri Wine marketing, promotion and governance, serving as president of the Missouri Wine Marketing & Research Council, sits on the Missouri Wine & Grape Board, is a member of the Missouri Grape Growers Association and the Missouri Wine & Grape Alliance.

They were joined by family member Scott Livingston in 2014, who, like the rest of the owners, plays a vital role in all aspects of the operation from vineyard, to the cellar and tasting room, and to wholesale distribution. 
Baltimore Bend tasting porch
overlooks cornfields
We stopped at their winery and tasting room along Missouri State Highway 24. The vineyards are across the road and down near the Baltimore Bend of the Missouri River adjacent the Baltimore Bend Conservation Area but despite trying we were not able to find them back the winding twisting gravel roads. 

As is customary, Baltimore Bend has a tasting room and offers wines by the bottle, by the glass or as part of a customer selected custom wine flight. 
All Baltimore Bend wines are estate, meaning they are produced from their own grapes grown on the estate in their own vineyards. 

We tasted the following wines from the selection:
Baltimore Bend Vineyard
Norton 2016

Baltimore Bend Vineyard
Norton Reserve 2017

Baltimore Bend Vineyard
'Port of Waverly' Red Wine

Baltimore Bend Norton Estate Red Wine 2016
Baltimore Bend Norton Reserve Estate Red Wine 2017
Baltimore Bend Chardonel 2018
Baltimore Bend Vidal Blanc 2017
Baltimore Bend Arrowhead Red NV
Baltimore Bend 'Port of Waverly' Norton Based Fortified 'Port' Wine NV
It was fun, and interesting to see the branding of their fortified 'Port' wine, labeled as the 'Port of Waverly', a point along the vast Missouri River where is passes the hamlet of Waverly. This was reminiscent of the 'ports' along the Gironde River in Bordeaux and the Port de Beychevelle, Port de Pauillac, and Port de Margaux, and so on, points along the river as it passed the small villages and towns of the Medoc. 
We found the Port tasty, pleasant and a good value and picked up a couple of bottles to take home.  


Becketts Winery Glasgow Missouri

Missouri Wine Experience - Becketts Winery and Restaurant - Glasgow, Missouri

We did an extended weekend getaway to traverse Missouri and get a taste of Missouri wines. Our intent was to experience Missouri wine, visit several Missouri wine producers, tour the estates and vineyards, and see the wine regions to learn and understand their terroir, all things that exemplify Missouri wines. 

What we did not plan or anticipate, but what was one of the highlights of our entire trip, was a visit to, and tour of The Oak Cooperage in Higbee, Missouri. In retrospect, when one thinks of fine wines and the state of Missouri, what comes to mind, or should, is Missouri Oak, and its use in producing some of finest wine barrels for crafting and aging some of the finest wine labels from the world's best wine regions. 

From Higbee, we traveled to Glasgow, Missouri, on the banks of the Muddy MO, the mighty Missouri River, for lunch and tasting of Beckett's Winery wines. 

Beckett's Winery is a unique, local venue situated on the bank of the Missouri River. They offer wine tastings at the Winery establishment, at a wine bar, indoor tables, or on an outside multi-level deck overlooking the river. 

They offer food that is provided from neighboring restaurants next door, and their own Beckett's Restaurant across the street. They also offer a selection of cheeses and charcuterie hand-picked to accompany the wines, along with their tasting flight selections.

Beckett's selection of wines include Reds, Whites and a Blush. Their wines are private label productions from a couple of Missouri producers. The owner Nikki Gouge owns and operates the Winery as well as Beckett's Restaurant across the street. 

Opened in 1994 by Lonnie Beckett, Beckett’s Restaurant was originally established as a sports bar with a selection of signature items that remain as popular favorites to this day.

Lonnie’s daughter-in-law, Nikki, purchased the restaurant in the spring of 2007 after working for Lonnie for four years. After an extensive renovation both inside and out, including much of the menu, the sports bar was transformed into an elegant dinner house! The menu includes appetizers, sandwiches or entree selections of Steaks, chicken dishes, catfish, BBQ Pork, Tenderloin, or Smoked Pork Chop and daily lunch and dinner specials.
The interior is decorated with artwork by Jack Vettriano and Edward Hopper that adorn the walls, a salvaged mantel from a local farm house accents the bar, and there are full tin ceilings throughout. 
Beckett's Winery took over the facility of the closed Bushwhacker Bend Winery.

The wines are branded with local history, geography, and artwork by local artisans, produced by another Missouri Winery and Le Bourgeois Vineyards, which we visited later in our trip . 

The flagship wine is Beckett's Winery All Steel Red Dry Red Missouri Wine, named for the world's first all steel bridge that spans the Missouri River at Glasgow, Missouri that was built in 1878-79, with a label depicting the bridge which can be viewed from the rear deck overlooking the river. 

The bridge and Glasgow are situated at mile marker 226 of the Missouri River, which is the name of another signature wine, Beckett's Winery Mile Marker 226 with a geographic map adorning the label.

Other labels feature the artwork of local artist Rachel Brown.

For our visit, we lunched on the deck, overlooking the river and had the charcuterie cheese board with our flight selection of wines. 

The Winery is tastefully decorated inside and out, with a wine bar and tables inside, and a multi-level deck outside in the rear that overlooks the river, with views of the Steel Bridge in the near distance. 

Decorative murals are painted on the walls adjacent to the deck on the rear of the building. 

Beckett's offers a portfolio of seven wines available by the bottle, by the glass, or a wine flight selection of five wines. 

Our wine flight consisted of:

Beckett's Winery All Steel Red Dry Missouri Wine

Beckett's Winery 226 Crisp Dry White Missouri Wine 

Beckett's Winery Flamingo Blush Sweet Rose Missouri Wine 

Beckett's Winery White Signature Semi-sweet Missouri Wine 

Beckett's Winery White Signature Semi-sweet Missouri Wine

We had the cheese and charcuterie board with our wine flight that also included fresh berries, olives and local produced fresh pimento cheese.

Beckett's offers a winning combination of a range of local wines, food, hospitality, and a quaint picturesque scenic setting, a delightful stop for lunch and wine.

We bought to take home the Becketts Red and the All Steel Red, both of which we considered great value wines for every day drinking. 

The historic steel bridge spanning the Missouri River at Mile Marker 226 at Glasgow, Missouri with a view back towards town.



Cooper's Oak Winery and OAK Cooperage

Cooper's Oak Winery and OAK Cooperage, Duncan Family of Silver Oak, Visit and Tour

Heading to Kansas City for a family wedding, we decided to take a couple of extra days to drive and tour the backroads and byways traversing the state of Missouri. Our intent was to experience Missouri wine, visit several Missouri wine producers, tour the estates and vineyards, and see the wine regions to learn and understand their terroir, all things that exemplify Missouri wines. 

What we did not plan or anticipate, but what was one of the highlights of our entire trip, was a visit to, and tour of The Oak Cooperage in Higbee, Missouri. 

In retrospect, when one thinks of fine wines and the state of Missouri, what comes to mind, or should, is Missouri Oak, and its use in producing some of finest wine barrels for crafting and aging some of the finest wine labels from the world's best wine regions. 

We happened upon The Oak Cooperage (formerly known as A&K) passing through Higbee, Missouri. There, we met founder and artisan cooper Dale Kirby, who has produced handcrafted, American oak barrels for the wine, whiskey and bourbon industries since 1972. 

One of their largest and most prestigious customers, the well known Silver Oak, a leading Napa Valley producer of California Cabernet Sauvignon, purchased a 50 percent interest in the cooperage in 2000, after sourcing barrels from them for nearly 30 years. 

Silver Oak eventually acquired full ownership of the business in 2015, ensuring a continuous supply, based upon the philosophy of quality, excellence and continuous improvement in the time-honored craft of artisanal barrelmaking. The business was renamed OAK Cooperage, the confluence of the names, adding 'O' from Silver Oak, to the A and K of the original founders of the business.

Originally established as a keg business, the focus soon shifted to the production of 59-gallon American white oak wine barrels, sourced from the nearby forests of Central and Northern Missouri.

Building on the partnership with Silver Oak, they invested in sustainably forested Missouri timberland to maintain long-term barrel production. 

Silver Oak acquired full ownership, recognizing “an opportunity to maintain exacting barrel-making standards and secure a consistent supply of aged stave wood,” according to Tony LeBlanc, Silver Oak General Manager. “The flavors and textural components of American white oak from Central and Northern Missouri are the perfect balance of spice and vanilla flavors to complement the black fruit character of our wines.”

Silver Oak mural in the shop, handsigned by
Silver Oak founder, patriarch, Ray Duncan

OAK focuses on producing the highest quality classic 59-gallon American oak wine barrels for Silver Oak and other select producers. They also produce a small number of American and French Oak barrels for the whiskey and bourbon industries. Each barrel is handcrafted by a team of highly skilled, hard-working men and women who preserve and advance the time-honored craft of artisanal barrelmaking. The Higbee plant has several of the only fifty skilled coopers in the United States.

Finished barrels, the orderliness and conformity
of the bands an indication of quality


Dale now focuses on his other businesses, producing local sourced wines under the aptly named Cooper's Oak Winery label, Skullsplitter Distillery spirits, local philanthropies, and serving on the board of the regional electric cooperative. 

Dale Kirby's toolshop with extraordinary
extensive collection of handtools.
He was gracious with his time and took us on an extensive tour of the cooperage plant. Before we toured the plant he took us in his toolshop showing an amazing collection of hand tools used to produce barrels for decades (and centuries) before the mechanization with sophisticated automated power equipment. 

We then toured the plant and saw barrel assembly at each stage: a shipment of new oak arriving from a forestry/grower, the oak staves aging for three years outside so the rain can wash away the excess acids from the wood, the staves being cut and formed for barrel assembly, the initial stage assembled barrels being 'toasted' over an open flame for a precise amount of time according to the prescribed toast level (or char level in the case of whiskey/bourbon barrels), then the barrel being assembled and banded, then trimmed, finished and inspected.  

At each step, Dale had endless stories to tell and a joke or quip from a vast repertoire. 

The oak is aged for up to three years, ideally in the open to allow the elements
to wash away the acids in the wood. 
Founder and cooper, Dale Kirby, inspecting
the oak staves.

Partially assembled barrels staged to be 'toasted'. 
Toasting the wine barrels, charring in the case of whiskey
barrels, to exacting specifications, over open flames.
Rick and artisan cooper toasting the barrels.
See the video below of these processes ... 

Banding the barrel.

Trimming the barrel.

Finishing the barrels, testing and inspection.

Linda with Dale Kirby in barrel warehouse
and distribution center.
We then went back to the winery and distillery building and tasted the current offerings of Cooper's Oak wines, and Skullsplitter spirits and fruit drinks.

 Cooper's Oak wines and Skullsplitter spirits are packaged in re-usable Ball canning jars for utility and sustainability. 

What a fascinating and extraordinary opportunity to meet Dale Kirby, and see the Oak Cooperage, and to learn its history and place in putting Missouri Oak on the map, and in the ecco-system of notable fine wines.  

Watch this video ... barrel production in process ....