Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Missouri Port

Yes, Missouri has a wine region. Just west of St. Louis along the Missouri River lies the unique midwestern wine district of Augusta, MO.

While I'm not a big fan of red or white Missouri table wines, I am an enormous fan of the ports produced by Mt. Pleasant Winery. I recently finished my last bottle of their 1993 Vintage Port, which was truly superb. After aging for almost a decade and a half, the thick red of the 1993 port had begun to give way to a deep and complex brownish hue. The subtlety and complexity of its flavor is not at all what you would expect from a midwestern wine product. The 1993 vintage was the last one sold in a very handy 375 ml size.

Port is made from combining one part high-alcohol brandy with five parts young wine. By 'young wine' I mean that the wine is not allowed to complete the fermentation process, which results in a great deal of residual sugar. Fermentation is arrested by the addition of the extra-high alcohol brandy, which kills the yeast responsible for fermentation. (In the making of dry wines, the yeast simply starve to death when they run out of sugar to feed upon.)

The winemakers at Mt. Pleasant openly acknowledge that the brandy they use in their vintage port is made from the Cabernet Sauvignon grape. They refuse, however, to disclose any information concerning the grape that serves as the basis for the young wine in it. Nonetheless, I am confident that the mystery uva is the Cynthiana grape, which tastes much like a Concord grape. While I can't imagine that Cynthiana could ever make a passable table wine, its purply sweet, Welch's Grape Jelly flavor makes an interesting base for a port.

I was disappointed with a bottle of Mt. Pleasant's 1998 vintage port that I opened recently. I found it to be decidedly inferior to a bottle from their 1997 vintage that I just finished off. I don't know how much difference the extra year of aging made for the 1997 bottle or how much should be chalked up to the quality of the grapes harvested in 1998. In any case, I recommend that the younger vintages be set aside and aged before enjoying.

If you live in the St. Louis area, the next vertical port tasting with winemaker Mark Baehmann will be Sun., Mar. 11th, from 1 to 3pm. I attended one of these events several years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The Port Tasting of a Lifetime
Mount Pleasant Winery is delving into the depths of its cellars for this rare event! Due to the limited number of bottles of these magnificent ports in our library, this could very well be the one and only time to try the wines featured in this port class. Join Winemaker Mark Baehmann and Senior Cellar Master Brandon Dixon for this once in a lifetime opportunity June 7th, 6-9 p.m. in the cellars.

Out of respect to these fine old Ports, we feel that holding a tasting of this caliber should only take place in our 127-year-old limestone cellars. Complete with roaring fireplaces and candlelight as well as a fine selection of cheeses, nuts, breads and the chocolate fountain! Guests will have the opportunity to sample each port, and will receive an information card with the ports listed. The card will state the port’s vintage, the quantity available for sale and the price per bottle. Some of these Ports are so limited, that we only have a handful of bottles to offer for sale.

Tickets are $75. Due to the number of available bottles and space in the cellars, we are limiting this to only 75 people so sign up now!