Wine Club Missouri Vineyard


Wine Review: Westphalia Vineyards 2012 Norton Reserve
01/10/15 - Mo' Vino Journey

There is only one red wine grape in the Midwest that can be known as the king, and Norton most surely wears that crown. When it comes to reviewing wines, I select something that I have never indulged in so that I can give a clear unbiased response to the particular subject of which we are discussing. The 2012 Norton reserve from Westpahlia called to me from the rack, so it was time to bring it home and experience what it has to offer.

As this wine fills the glass, you will notice that the color is deep and lush. I would say it is similar to a dark garnet. As I spun it in my glass to open it up a bit more after the decanting, I was delighted by the way the light danced along the edges of the flow. The nose is very deep and dark, as you may expect from a Norton. I detected hints of vanilla and a bit of a cocoa like quality that could also be described as coffee like. On the pallet this Norton is full but yet mild. Norton’s can have a harsh quality from the unruly tannins, but in this wine the tannins are smooth and add structure and character to it. In the mouth, it has a soft feel that is nice and soft on the pallet. The finish is long and earthy. It leaves a bit of a woody and leather hint on the tongue for just a bit of time. Overall this is a very pleasing wine.

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FEAST Inspired Food Culture / Saint Louis
Written by Pat Eby

New and Newly Discovered Missouri Wineries

Missouri WineriesWhen Terry and Mary Neuner bought the property in 1991 that is now Westphalia Vineyards and Winery, free-range pigs rooted around the foundation of the old farmhouse. The historic home, built in 1840s, hadn’t been occupied in over a century. The Neuners, who lived in Belgium at the time, bought the property sight unseen. In 1995, they produced their first wines.

Today, the old farmhouse has been renovated as their private residence. Fields which once produced barley, corn and milo [grain sorghum] now produce grapes. In a scant 20-plus years, the Neuner family wrested the farm from decay. They planted vineyards, opened a winery and renovated the Westphalia Inn in town to house their restaurant and the tasting room for their sulfite-free wines.

“We’re unique in that we ferment our wines in wood,” Terry Neuner says. “Ninety-nine-percent of red wines go through the fermentation in stainless steel.” The process, which is labor-intensive, eliminates the need to add sulfites to the wines. Neuner’s master’s degree in biochemistry and his work as an researcher in fermentation brings high-level expertise to the wine-making at Westphalia.

He’s behind the chemistry that produced Westphalia’s true chocolate wine, Naughty But Nice. “Water and cocoa fat don’t mix,” Neuner explains, “but the chemist at Bissinger’s suggested creating an alcohol extract from cocoa beans might be the answer. It’s a unique wine with the essence of chocolate.” Although the wine tastes slightly sweet, there’s no sugar added.

Neuner suggested couples choose several Westphalia wines to take back the the inns. “Our Anna Rose, a blend of Sweet Reisling and Cabernet Franc, is a nice afternoon wine. Choose a good red, either a Norton or our Cabernet Franc, and a Riesling, semi-dry or sweet.”

Mary Neuner’s the culinary wizard at the Westphalia Inn, a 1930s hotel the couple renovated as a gift-shop, tasting room and restaurant. Open just Friday through Sunday, the restaurant features home-style fried chicken, German pot roast and country ham dinners served family style. Single serving plates are available, too. “We pan-fry fresh chickens that have never been frozen in cast iron skillets,” Terry Neuner says. “We have appetizers, sandwiches, pizzas and desserts in the Norton room, which is our tasting room.”

Chocolate, wine, a small town, charming bed and breakfast accomodations – Westphalia has the makings of a romantic weekend. There’s even a little something for baseball and history fans. “Stan Musial, Joe Garagiola, Red Schoendist – they all visited Joe’s Tavern, now Trudy’s bed and breakfast,” Neuner says. “Huber’s Ferry B & B, built in 1881, sits above the Osage River where farmers brought their pigs, chickens and cattle to ferry them to market.” Check out nearby Nostalgia Place bed and breakfast inn, too.

The winery and vineyards aren’t open except by appointment. The farmhouse is the Neuner’s private home, and the single-lane road leading to the vineyards doesn’t lend itself to traffic. If circumstances allow, Terry Neuner schedules visits if you email him ahead of time.

Be sure to read the winemaker’s notes on their site. Here’s how Terry Neuner describes Anna Rose: "If this wine were a human (stay with me here) she would be that young lady everyone knows and likes. She’s not aggressive and she’s not a wallflower; she is comfortable in an intimate tête-à-tête as well as at a large shindig. She is a product of the blissful marriage of Monsieur Cabernet Franc and Mademoiselle Sweet Riesling, and she reflects both parts of her noble upbringing."

The town of Westphalia, population 389, makes a visit to this Osage County winery and town a blue highway moment. The Westphalia Historical Society is open Sundays from 1 to 3pm. St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, built in 1835 of limestone quarried on the Neuner’s property, maintains a parish events calendar. “We’ll probably host a German Fest in the fall,” Neuner says. It’s all very informal, old fashioned and worth the trip.

The Norton Room at the Westphalia Inn (tasting room), 106 East Main St., Westphalia, Mo., 573.455.2000

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Interview with Todd Kliman, author of The Wild Vine


Here’s the video interview with Todd Kilman about his book The Wild Vine and its “untold story of American wine”.  As explained in the previous posting, Todd wanted to be incognito, so that’s why there’s a little too much of me early in the interview.  Also, I didn’t follow-up the first question and clarify what exactly Todd was doing and how he got hooked on the Norton grape.  Todd got hooked on the Norton when he was drinking wine with friends during the fifth consecutive night of a blackout in Washington DC.  Here’s how he tells what happened in The Wild Vine:

“Whether it was the lateness of the  hour, the subtle power of the wine, the sense of being at the mercy of the elements, my drunkenness, or all of these things working on me at once, I can’t say, but it was as if what I was drinking was an embodiment of the moment, the mystery, a correlative to our primal condition.  It was dark, it was earthy; there was something wild, something alive, in the glass.

I had seldom tasted this earthiness in California wines.  I did taste it in European wines…but the Norton was bigger than most of those wines…
The conversation had moved on by this time, to talk of other meals, of movies, of how long we could live without our modern comforts, but I hadn’t moved on.  I was still thinking about the Norton.”

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Lake News OnlineDay Trippin': Travel back in time to an old inn
Sep 18, 2010

Westphalia, Mo. — Tucked just off the beaten path in Westphalia, folks will find a unique dining and wine experience with the Nuener family.

Westphalia is the oldest German Catholic community west of the Mississippi River. Not far from Jefferson City, the small community is a glimpse back in time.

For 79 years, the Westphalia Inn has been a landmark Osage county.  Terry and Mary purchased the Westphalia Inn in August of 2008 as a family venture and to showcase the family’s award-winning wines produced not far from the Inn.

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Missouri's state grape is an American original
By Gail Appleson
Wednesday, August 18, 2010

It was the fifth night in a row that the Washington, D.C., area had been without power. Todd Kliman sat with friends in the candlelight as a bottle of wine was uncorked.

Perhaps it was the darkness and the quiet, Kliman said, but the first sip of wine brought with it a moment of mystery and power.

Kliman, food and wine editor of Washingtonian magazine, knew wine — but not this one.

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Show-Me Eats: Celebrating a good time for Missouri wine
By Scott Rowson
Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Like many students of the University of Missouri, my first exposure to the wines of the Show-Me State came courtesy of Les Bourgeois in Rocheport.

Packed into picnic tables or standing in small groups in the baking sun, we would wolf down glasses of Riverboat Red or Pink Fox, concerning ourselves with neither the merits of the wine nor the prevailing laws regarding underage drinking. The wines were cold and available; nothing else mattered.

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Westphalia Vineyard’s 2007 Cabernet Franc scored an 87 in Wine Enthusiast magazine, receiving the highest rating by any Missouri winery. Please visit their website and search “Missouri wines” for a listing. According to Wine Enthusiast, “This wine has an elegant, refreshing character that offers complexity as well as approachability. The nose is a combination of red berry, spice and pepper, and on the palate, spicy, savory flavors give the wine a meaty complexity. Overall though, it offers good balance and minerality and a long, appealing finish. — S.K. (10/1/2009)”

What Makes Westphalia Vineyards Unique:

      • Westphalia Vineyards adds no sulfites during the production process. We are the only sulfite-free winery in Missouri, and among only three in the entire US.
      • Westphalia Vineyards uses exclusively Missouri white oak barrels, not only for aging but also for barrel fermentation of our red wines. This expensive and time-consuming method helps create fresh and vigorous varietals.

The Easter Freeze of 2007 - Midwest Grape Growers Recover, Prepare, and Learn.

by Tim Pingelton

Dead shoots on a Chardonel vine in Rocheport, MO, a victim of the"Easter massacre." [Photo courtesy of Andy Allen, University of Missouri Extension]
The "lower vineyard" at Westphalia Vineyards, situated in a river valley and planted with row orientation to encourage air drainage. [Photo by Tim Pingelton]
Westphalia Vineyards when the weather is more copasetic.

When Bad Weather Happens to Good Grapegrowers

Grape growers, farmers, and journalists used strong words in describing the freeze damage sustained by vineyards in the Midwest in early April of 2007: Tragedy!, Devastation!, Massacre!. After March ended with the highest temperatures for that time period in over 100 years (according to the University of Missouri’s Institute for Continental Climate Viticulture and Enology department (ICCVE)), April began with the coldest temperatures for that time period in over 100 years. March’s warm temperatures promoted early bud break in grape vines (especially in Arkansas and the lower Midwest), and 5 days of below-freezing temperatures killed those buds and caused some trunk splitting.

Young vineyards sustained the least damage, as immature vines show bud break later and have less woody material which can split when fluids inside the vines freeze, splitting the vine. Those cultivars worst hit were vinifera (which are difficult to grow in the Midwest in good years) and white grapes (although Traminette showed decent hardiness). Norton, the Missouri state grape, showed mixed hardiness but faired better than most other grapes.

Initial estimates of over 90 percent grape crop loss decreased somewhat as secondary budding revealed some vineyard life. Still, the Easter 2007 freeze changed how many area grape growers will farm in the coming years; how they will prepare for the next inevitable killing frost; and how they will situate future planting to avoid crop loss due to surprising drops in temperature.

Some grape growers are turning to farming strategies typically used in colder, more northerly growing regions. One strategy is to maintain “suckers”, or a second trunk, to act as a back-up if the main trunk is killed by frost. These insurance vine growths are close to the ground, however, and grape growers have to watch how they treat the grasses and weeds growing in vineyard rows so that the suckers are not sprayed with injurious herbicides.

Missouri grape grower Frank Gordon, who has about 6 acres planted south-west of Columbia, will have to replace about 10 percent of his vines but hopes some injured vines will be viable. “Before the leaves fell, I flagged every dead vine and also those which are on the verge of death with a lot of crown gall. We may be able to get root suckers from those on the verge.” Freezing promotes crown gall in that freeze damage can provide an entry route for the disease.

Tending those vines which managed to survive the Easter frost requires careful, frequent inspection of vines and exact spraying of just those solutions necessary for vine health. Midwest grape growers also have to carefully balance crop size and canopy structure. In short, they have to treat their vines on virtually a one-on-one basis rather than assuming that vine health is consistent throughout the entire vineyard.

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National Norton Festival

On Saturday September, we were fortunate to attend the First Annual National Norton Festival in St. Louis Missouri. Organized by the Missouri Wine Country The event provided the general public a chance to sample a wide array of Norton wines from 25 wineries from Missouri, Illinois, Georgia, Texas, and Virginia. This event was the culmination of activities that began in August, at the 2007 National Norton Wine Competition.

We made it a point to visit the Gold medal winners first, and after tasting, agreed with the judges decisions; these were excellent wines. Best in Show Sugar Creek Vineyards & Winery's 2006 Cynthiana was smooth and fruity and somewhat similar to Westphalia Vineyards' 2006 Norton Reserve. Mary Michelle Winery's 2006 Norton was fruity with a little more spiciness at the finish. Bethlehem Valley Vineyards' 2004 Norton and Chrysalis Vineyards' 2005 Barrel Select 100% Virginia Norton and 2004 Locksley Reserve Norton where fruity, but possessed a little more character at the finish. Finally, we tasted the best dessert wine this side of Tokaji, Bommarito Estate Almond Tree Winery's 2002 Missouri Red Port. This may have been our favorite wine of the day.

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First Annual Norton Wine Competition Announces “Best Norton of 2007”

ST. LOUIS, MO, August 14, 2007—A panel of eight distinguished judges has selected the “Best Norton of 2007” from 113 wines and 52 wineries from across the country. The widely acclaimed Norton grape was first cultivated by its namesake Dr. Daniel Norborne Norton between 1823 and 1828, and is the state grape of Missouri.

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Raise a glass to Norton
by Joe Bonwich

Last month, a panel of judges from Missouri, California, Kansas, Colorado and Pennsylvania convened at Busch's Grove restaurant to judge the submissions. The panel awarded best of show to Sugar Creek Vineyards in Augusta for its 2006 Cynthiana (another name for the Norton grape, or at least for a grape that's generally thought to be nearly identical genetically) and to Bommarito Estate Almond Tree Winery in New Haven, Mo., for its 2002 Missouri Red Port.

The six gold medals for dry Norton went to Sugar Creek, Bethlehem Valley and Westphalia from Missouri; Chrysalis Vineyards in Virginia (two medals); and Mary Michelle in Carrollton, Ill.

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Westphalia Vineyards gathers in the gold

The fledgling Westphalia Vineyards—Osage County’s only winery—was founded less than two years ago by the Terry Neuner family and did not sell its first bottle of wine until two months ago, but in spite of that the company has just won a gold medal in the fiercely-competitive Norton National Wine Festival in St. Louis.

The Norton grape is the talk of the wine-lover’s world.  It is the official grape of Missouri and is being touted as a world-class grape.  Whoever can use this grape to make a great wine will be a winner in the world of winemaking.

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2007 National Norton Competition Winners

Today, the winners of the 2007 First Annual Norton Competition were announced with Missouri's Sugar Creek Winery & Vineyards winning Best in Show and Best of Class – Dry Norton. Bommarito Estate Almond Tree Winery, also from Missouri, won Best of Class – Port Norton for their 2002 Missouri Red Port. A handful of other wineries were awarded Gold medals. Virginia's Chrysalis Vineyards won two golds, one with their 2005 Barrel Select 100% Virginia Norton and the other for their 2004 Locksley Reserve Norton. Mary Michelle Winery was the other non-Missouri winery to win Gold, this from their 2006 Illinois Norton. The other gold medals were awarded to Missouri's Bethlehem Valley Vineyards, Sugar Creek Vineyards & Winery, and Westphalia Vineyards.

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From Wine Business Monthly, 06/15/2006

2006 Closure Report: Natural cork remains closure of choice and screw caps reaching parity with other alternatives.

Tim Pingelton of Westphalia Winery in Missouri noted that they are committed to using corks. "We are forefronting the 'Old World' image of wine and winemaking. The local area is populated by people with close relatives from Germany, Poland, and other European areas. I had a hard time finding corks that didn't have the bleached, white look of most corks today; I wanted the darker, red oak color of natural cork. I fully appreciate the sanitary considerations of screw tops, but we still like the image of a guy on a grassy hillside pulling out an old laguiole and pulling out a cork for his gal."

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For a Westphalia couple -- Terry and Mary Neuner -- 2005 has already seen the fulfillment of several dreams, but 2006 and 2007 should prove to be even more eventful.

In August 2005, with the formation of Westphalia Winery LLC, the Neuners officially started their winery business, thereby launching the first Osage County commercial winery since the Prohibition era. That was on paper. This spring, on their 400-acre Maries River farm located one mile west of Westphalia, they planted three varieties of grapes, starting what they plan to develop into a large vineyard. This fall they made their first wine with grapes they purchased and are currently aging that wine in barrels in the basement of the beautiful stone farmhouse which they have refurbished and enlarged. Read complete story...