On a bitterly cold Jan. 11, some 20 wine enthusiasts met to share a tasting at Big Cedar Lodge’s Worman Steak House. It was the inaugural meeting of the Ozarks’ newest wine club, and it was the most unique and informative event of this type that I’ve attended in this region.
Many of the wine clubs in the Ozarks host tastings, but these tend to be tied to retailers and can be little more than an avenue to sell wine. That’s not so at Big Cedar’s club, where education and experience are the focus.
The evening began at 5:30 in The Library at Worman, where Director of Restaurants Todd Leonard greeted each guest with a glass of wine and a welcome. A room with a collection of appetizers created an atmosphere that spawned mingled conversation among people who had been strangers just moments before.
The group included guests of the lodge as well as locals, wine connoisseurs and newbies alike. Some had signed on to be members of the fledgling wine club, while others simply came to imbibe.
About 30 minutes in, the event moved across the dining area to the Chef’s Room, where tables were set with the evening’s four featured wines, pre-poured and set out on a place mat indicating each wine’s name and vintage. The theme for the evening was Spanish wines, and certified wine educator Mike Ward of Major Brands orchestrated the tasting.
He expertly guided people at every stage of wine knowledge through the four wines, encouraging them to truly experience not just the taste, but the colors, aromas and nuances of the wines.
“Don’t just taste the wine,” he instructs, “but allow it to stay in your mouth while you move it around your tongue and back into your cheeks. That little sting that you feel is the acidity of the wine.”
Using history, knowledge of the region and interesting anecdotes, Ward moved seamlessly from wine to wine while suggesting food pairings and responding to comments and questions from the group.
“They eat a lot of seafood in the area where this wine is produced, and it goes very well with shellfish,” Ward says of the light-bodied El Hada Verdejo-Viura 2009. “The fact that it uses a screw cap means the exact way the winemaker intended for you to experience the wine is what you get in the bottle.”
Later, Ward shrugs off his expertise: “The wines are the stars of the show, I’m just their voice. It’s not about what I know about the wines, it’s about people enjoying them.”
Big Cedar plans to hold wine club events at least monthly. Future meetings will feature Glazier’s of the Southwest and Stewart Langer of Palate.
Is it worth the drive to Big Cedar – about 10 miles south of Branson in Ridgedale – from Springfield or throughout the region? In a word, yes.
Anyone at any level of wine experience can fit right in with no intimidation factor. As Leonard puts it, “We’re trying to have fun with it. It’s very informal, and we want to keep it that way.”[[In-content Ad]]