Tag Archives: Ste Genevieve

A wine and dine experience with a view

By Lauren Casey

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Outside dining at the Grapevine Grill at Chaumette Winery in Ste Genevieve. In the early 1750s, the area was the home to the first colonial settlement by the French west of the Mississippi River. Photo by Lauren Casey

St. GENEVIEVE, Mo. – Nestled in the middle of St. Genevieve wine country sits the picturesque Chaumette Vineyards and Winery. Established in 1990 by Hank and Jackie Johnson, the winery boasts beautiful villas, the St. Vincent in the Vineyard Chapel, a tasting room and the Grapevine Grill restaurant. If you stop by for a glass or two of wine, it’s worth it to come hungry for Chef Rob Beasley’s new American concoctions, sprinkled with a hint of Cajun flare.

Beasley, who hails from Louisiana, crafts a unique menu for the grill, sourcing responsibly from the local area. Cajun night, offered every Thursday, offers an insight into the Beasley’s southern heritage. Dishes rotate weekly and range from succulent fried oysters to spicy crawfish etouffee – a traditional Cajun dish that uses a cooking technique favored in the south known as “smothering,” which contributes unique richness to the sauce.

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Hank Johnson, owner of Chaumette Vineyards and Winery, explains the story behind the name Chaumette, documented by the winery mural. Photo by Lauren Casey

Described by Johnson as “the best restaurant between St Louis and Memphis,” the Grapevine Grill’s food makes the scenic drive even more worthwhile. The views parallel the food in quality, with perfectly planted rows of vines visible from the patio and a sunset that rivals some of the best. If you’re not feeling Cajun, there is an eclectic offering of tastes on the traditional dinner menu to try. A local resident recommended the BBQ shrimp appetizer, which comes with four gigantic shrimp and homemade bread to sop up all the spicy remnants of sauce left behind.

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Berkshire pork chop served with roasted potatoes, arugula and Port demi-glace. Photo by Lauren Casey

Main courses include steak, chicken, and salmon options, as well as a bone-in Berkshire pork chop. Berkshire pigs are prized for their meat, which is juicy, perfectly marbled, and tender. The heritage breed lends itself well to high temperature cooking. The chop is served with a beautiful char from the grill, doused in a dark, rich port demi-glace, and served with roasted potatoes and sautéed arugula. Try it with Chaumette’s 2015 Chambourcin Reserve; the French-American hybrid’s supple mouth feel, complex smoky aromatics, and balanced fruit flavors make it a great accompaniment to grilled or smoked dishes.

Hours at the grill are seasonal and reservations are highly recommended. If you are interested in a wine tasting, offered 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday, the cost is $5 for six tastes. To make reservations call 573-747-1000 or check http://chaumette.com.

 

 

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Cave wine anyone?

 

By Thomas Hellauer

Saltpeter Cave

Saltpeter Cave at Cave Vineyard and Winery was utilized by French explorers in the 1700s for its bat guano, essential in making gunpowder. Photo by Thomas Hellauer

STE GENEVIEVE, Mo. — The first sign is a sharp drop in temperature, cooling the crisp air as it flows through budding trees. Then, following a steep asphalt path, Saltpeter Cave becomes visible, stretching over an impressive cliffside, its mouth agape. It drains light out of the landscape, and simultaneously invites closer inspection, particularly when lawn furniture and a speaker system come into view.

The cave is used to hold gatherings at Cave Vineyard and Winery now, but French explorers experienced the same marvelous plunges of temperature and light in the 18th century.

The longest-running residents of the cave remain: bats. Bat guano, when mixed with sulfur and charcoal, was prized by early explorers in this part of the forested Missouri countryside to make gunpowder, ever important in the New World. A fraction of the bat population in remain in the depths of the natural wonder, sometimes surprising guests.

“The first time we rented the cave out at night, we had a bunch of screamers,” said Marty Strussion, the owner of Cave Vineyard and Winery. Strussion purchased the property in 2000, after 35 years of working in hospital administration. Only after he retired, did he begin his journey into winemaking, which he calls, “a hobby that has gotten out of hand.” The venture has become a family affair.

It was Strussion’s grandfather who first exposed him to wine.

“He had six barrels, it just makes me cringe. He didn’t clean them the way we do now, but those old Italian guys loved it,” Strussion said.

Strussion and his oldest daughter handle the responsibilities of winemaking. His wife bakes fresh biscotti to pair with his various wines. His son-in-laws brew three types of beer.

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Marty Stussion pours one of his wines during a tasting at Cave Vineyard and Winery. Stussion purchased the property in 2000, producing his first wine in 2004. Photo by Thomas Hellauer

Like Strussion’s long circle back to winemaking, he believes another return is coming.

During Prohibition, many of the immigrants who had settled in Missouri to make wine simply gave it up, Strussion said. They turned to row crops, while producers in other states survived on growing table grapes or communion wines, allowing for easier resumption of winemaking for general sale after Prohibition. The industry in Missouri, however, was gone and with it, recognition.

Yet, things are changing. While Missouri wines rarely receive a rating in popular wine magazines, since the grape varieties grown in the state are not vitis vinifera, but French American hybrids, the number of wineries has more than tripled in the last 15 years.

“I think [Missouri] Norton will be competing in 50 years. The snobs are all fixed on California, but it will happen,” Strussion said.

The winery is open at Cave Vineyard from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily and features 13 wines.

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Sippin’ soda in the vineyards

By Shane Sanderson

HERMANN, Mo. — Skip the grocery aisle and head out to Missouri wine country to find craft sodas to whet your whistle. Here are my two favorites found in the shadows of grape trellises—

Black cherry Wurst Soda from Hermann Wurst Haus, Hermann

The walls of the Hermann Wurst Haus are lined by awards owner Mike Sloan has won over the years for his bratwurst. Sausage, bacon and numerous flavors of brats pack meat coolers. Make sure you don’t overlook the sodas.

The brat-shop stocks five in-house flavors of soda, all made with cane sugar—black cherry, root beer, orange, cream and grape–no cola on the menu. I went for the black cherry option, which the house advertises as “reminiscent of fresh picked cherries.”

The taste has almost none of the bite I typically associate with a black cherry soda. The mouthfeel is light, moderately carbonated, accentuated by a subdued sweetness. The color is rich, dark ruby.

The flavor doesn’t quite touch the experience of eating cherries by the side of the road in front of an Ontario, Canada, cherry farm, but it comes as close as a soda can.

You can find the full line of sodas at Hermann Wurst Haus on 234 E. First St. in Hermann, or you can order it online.

Country Folk Cream Soda from Crown Valley Winery, Ste Genevieve

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Tiffany Campbell, bartender at Crown Valley Winery in Ste Genevieve, says the in-house cream soda is their most popular soft drink. Photo by Shane Sanderson

Intricate wood carvings on the bar stand in striking contrast to the cutting-edge stainless refrigeration systems poking out over the catwalk from the lower floor of Crown Valley’s massive wine operation. Try sipping cream soda in the midst of the fermented products next visit, not wine.

Crown Valley stocks nine in-house flavors: eight “Country Folk” options—black cherry, root beer, grape, orange, cream, diet root beer, two colas, and Fizzy Izzy root beer. After resisting the temptation to try Kickin’ Cola, I grabbed a cream soda.

The rich amber color of the soda sparkled in the light. After cracking the twist top, I was blown away by the crisp cream flavor. There is no mistaking this cream soda for anything but. On the back of the sip, however, surprisingly nuanced flavors of pear and spice come through the soda’s mellow sweetness. Mild carbonation keeps the drink refreshing, not heavy.

You can find the sodas online, or at Crown Valley’s winery or distillery, both in the hills outside Ste Genevieve.

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