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Above, guests sample wine at the 2010 Missouri Wine Festival at Chateau on the Lake. The event, in its second year in Branson, drew 71 booths showcasing regional beer, wine, spirits and fine food.
Above, guests sample wine at the 2010 Missouri Wine Festival at Chateau on the Lake. The event, in its second year in Branson, drew 71 booths showcasing regional beer, wine, spirits and fine food.

After 5: All About Missouri Wines

Posted online
They say the third time’s a charm, but the second go-round of the Missouri Food and Wine Festival was pretty good.

The annual festival came through Branson’s Chateau on the Lake on April 24–25 with 71 booths, a significant upgrade from the 40 in the inaugural edition.

With one- or two-day passes, attendees were granted unlimited tasting of regional wines, beer, spirits and fine food by such establishments as Chateau Grille, Bleu Olive Mediterranean Grill, Florentina’s Italian Ristorante and Cantina Laredo.

Local chefs, professionals and entrepreneurs presented hourly seminars and demonstrations, and the Branson Arts Council held an art contest and live auction.

Event coordinator Bob Nichols already has booked the 2011 event and plans to expand yet again.

“Next year, the Best of Branson Pizza Contest will bring in at least 11 more restaurants,” he said.

The review
Since only Missouri wines are included, you won’t find merlot, shiraz and cabernet being poured. Instead, names like Norton and vignoles take the stage.

Local grapes, a different genus than mainstream wine grapes, may be unfamiliar to many.

These grapes are widely considered inferior, so wineries in the state have to make tough choices. Do they stick with the native grapes, try French hybrids, or attempt to grow the mainstream grapes here in Missouri?

In all fairness, the area wineries have come a long way and are definitely trying to do things right. While there is still a plethora of fruit wines and sweet wines being made, the trend is definitely toward producing quality, estate wines.

Here in the Ozarks, small wineries such as Keltoi, Whispering Oaks, 7C’s, Oovvda and Le Cave are planting their own vines versus purchasing grapes or juice. All offer tastings and tours to visitors (usually free), and because they are family-owned, it may be the owner who personally shows you around.

Oovvda is just a few miles north of Springfield and makes a spicy, exotic Norton. Walnut Grove’s 7C’s – named for the number of family members whose last names begin with “C” – plans to have honey mead available this summer.

Keltoi is an Irish-themed winery in Oronogo that is a favorite spot for weddings and parties. South of Billings, Le Cave Vineyards is a friendly place where visitors are encouraged to bring a picnic and stay as long as they like.

Mount Pleasant Winery in Augusta began in 1859 and now has a tasting room in Branson. It is one of the few Missouri wineries growing vinifera grapes, which are commonly European and the source of traditional table wine. Unfortunately, Mount Pleasant wines are not yet a threat to compete with California blends, and its chardonnay is completely unrecognizable as such.

Even so, Mount Pleasant wines are continuing to improve, and its claret – a chambourcin, Norton, merlot and cabernet sauvignon blend – is a very exciting regional wine. Mount Pleasant Norton is also of above-average quality, smooth and well-balanced.

The heavy hitters in Missouri have long been Stone Hill and St. James wineries, which continue to dominate in quality and availability. Stone Hill, of Hermann, grows 177 acres of grapes and has added a Branson location. St. James Winery – in St. James, off of Interstate 44 – produced 210,000 cases of 37 varieties last year and distributed in 13 states.[[In-content Ad]]

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