All posts by Doug Frost

Doug Frost is a Kansas City author who is one of only four people in the world to have achieved the remarkable distinctions of Master Sommelier and Master of Wine. He has written three books: Uncorking Wine (1996), On Wine (2001), and the Far From Ordinary Spanish Wine Buying Guide in its third edition (2011); is the global wine and spirits consultant for United Airlines; and writes about wine and spirits for many publications, including the Oxford Companion to Spirits and Cocktails (due in 2020). Frost is the director of the Jefferson Cup Invitational Wine Competition, the Mid-American Wine Competition, the host of the Emmy Award winning PBS-TV show FermentNation, and is a founding partner of Beverage Alcohol Resource, an educational and consulting company whose other partners include Dale DeGroff, Steve Olson, Paul Pacult and David Wondrich.

The Lesson of the Mekons

The concert heaves into gear when the band climbs onto the stage and kicks into “Heaven and Back”. It’s a slightly stolid version, without the lurch of the original. The drummer seems primed to play stadium rock; the band isn’t always quite organized, though the violinist is on the money. It’s not the Mekons, it turns out, but a tribute band called the Wekons. Looking little more than a decade shy of the age of their idols, they know the songs well enough to play them with some abandon, if not quite to equal effect. But, hey, they’re up there banging out the hits and we’re not. We’re cheering them on because we too love and idolize the Mekons in all their glorious, chaotic, rabble rousing.

When the real band hits the stage, they perform some of the same songs as the earlier tribute band. Doing so doesn’t seem rude, it seems evocative of the connection between the two. Of course, Memphis, Egypt rocks us to our core; the earlier version was a more cerebral and less visceral joy, like a family singing familiar Christmas carols.

The band, as usual, is all over the stage. Jon Langford jumps like an older, heavier man who really doesn’t care that he is older and heavier. God bless him. Sally Timms hangs onto the mic stand like she’s blind drunk, though she is, as she does, plotting her next move, her next snarky comment. How can someone sing as though it’s a snarl, and yet the sound is so pretty, seductive and even plaintive. How can you be sarcastic and utterly honest at the same time? Her sound is tremulous and earthy; how is that possible? The human voice is complex, of course, but it’s more that we are such sensate creatures that we can hear these things in all voices, if we listen. Still, some voices say more than others.

I’m hanging close to the stage side with Rico Bell – his accordion is so tuned into Susie Honeyman’s violin that they are making the glorious chords together. Lu Edmonds’ saz does the same at times as well, though oftentimes he’s the counterpoint to Jon or Tom’s guitar wailing. Steve Goulding drums like a machine with a heart; Dave Trumfio is as steadfast. Tom Greenhalgh always seems such a crucial but separate piece, something apart from Jon’s rock thrashing. His fragile, lost voice so different from Sally’s lusty countrified plaints and Jon’s gritty growls.

The songs end; the band turns to leave, the encore ended. Jon blocks Sally’s way, saying, no, no, we’re not done. Sally looks at him with well-practiced annoyance. “Get off, Jon, go!”, she shouts. Jon leans into the microphone and says, “no, Sally, we’re not going yet, not till I hear my friend Tom Greenhalgh sing The Prince of Darkness.” The crowd cheers and Sally relents though not without one more glance of irritation at her occasional antagonist.

Tom sings that great (for us long-time fans) old chestnut. He’s amazing. No crooner; more a warbler, so it’s all the more wonderful that he sings so well. It has the feel of a struggle. These eight musicians so often seeming to be at odds, going different directions, wanting to do songs the other doesn’t, arguing about tempos, or so it has seemed throughout their long forty-year careers.

But you watch the stage and at all times one or two of the musicians are looking to another, in perfect sync. Partnering and then coupling with some other. The band’s dynamic swings back and forth, a crest of energy, honesty and richness, like you’ve just been at the greatest reunion. I imagined that singalongs or jams would be like this, but they rarely were. Only occasionally can I remember such a moment – one late night songfest at Adelsheim Winery, happily drunk, a campfire and a bunch of guitars, with some of us just banging out the rhythm. That was something. But this was a professional band at the height of their powers, still playing like kids playing like they can at least remember what it was like to be kids.




Pieces About Resting

We were supposed to have lunch again next week. Another rerun of gyros and tea and idle talk, but that won’t be happening. What necessitates my entries is all too often the same impetus – somebody dies and I feel the need to respond. In some cases, it’s a famous name and I want to add my plaudits (or occasional corrective). The news that’s Paul Bocuse has passed elicited a slim smile; he was a showman who happened to be a great chef. His accomplishments have been enumerated enough; I can only add my view of his restaurants as a place of grand food and dining with a shmear of Las Vegas to it (sorry, Vegas). At my first visit, Le Grand Chef signed our menus (perhaps there was a small stipend on the bill for that), but I was pleased enough to hang it in my office.

Subsequent visits saw much the same menu and experience, though one meal sticks to the mind. Upon leaving, we nearly knocked over Don King who was pontificating into a TV camera in the parking lot. While I didn’t again spot the boxing impresario, there was sometimes a bit of a Don King feel to some of what happened in that palace. But there was also a homey feel, in its way. I thought about this on that Saturday morning a couple of weeks ago, reading about his passing. I had on a dark suit I hadn’t worn for years; I was headed to the funeral of a cousin. Something was bunching up my suit pocket and I reached in to pull out a couple of notes and a cardboard napkin ring from Restaurant Bocuse, along with wine notes written on the back of it. Clearly it had been a while since I had worn that suit, but it seemed a bizarre coincidence.

I flew back to KC for a couple of days and then flew back to San Francisco again. Upon landing I received a text from the stepdaughter of an old friend of mine. She had called me to the hospital the night before; during the time I was in the air he had passed away. It was all very unexpected but then even a long illness with a grim prognosis rarely prepares us for the reality and finality of death. My friend Randy and I hadn’t been active in years, but we still both lived in KC and had split some gyros just a week before. It sucks. It sucks for his stepdaughter, his friends and, well, you know. But there is only one direction to life, I suppose. Randy had done plenty, and he was perhaps proudest of his relationship with his stepdaughter.

It’s a sense of loss that pervades each and every sentient being, on any waking day. Last week, Bruno Giacosa. A few days later, Mark E. Smith. Again, the coincidence that I was reading a biography of Smith when I got the news; he smoked like a BBQ joint and drank like a man in a hurry. He was a paragon of sheer punky orneriness, though some of his ex-band mates used far stronger language to describe his mercurial behavior. I don’t suppose my musician friends know that Giacosa was one of the inventors of modern Barolo. And I doubt if any but a few wine people cared about Mark E. Smith’s passing. I never got to see him perform; that rankles since only a few years ago, long after I had amassed a collection of Fall CD’s and records that fills an entire shelf, he played in Kansas City. I was, as usual, out of town. My friends tell me that it was a great show, and (or but) Mark E. quite openly picked his nose throughout the concert. My friend Shawn tells me that he was actually quite congenial and that they drank whisky late into the night, cigarette after cigarette.

I can’t praise them all enough. Others have done so in other places. But I haven’t seen or read enough about Mark E. Smith; reading Renegade (not quite his autobiography, more a series of rantings and ravings straight from the man’s slurring mouth), I came away with a stronger respect for his steadfast hold on his own vision. He fired people constantly because he wanted to shake it up and was always changing the sound. He hated that most musicians found a niche and then just sat there. No one could accuse him of that.

But they would charge him with being a bastard; that wasn’t unusual. If he didn’t like what you were playing he’d tell you that in front of everyone. He fired one guy on his wedding day. “Congratulations,” he said over the phone, “by the way, you’re sacked”, and hung up. It’s a story that had some legs to it; Smith seemed to almost relish the notoriety. The full story is that he was calling the guy to fire him but the guy had kept the wedding quiet; he didn’t want Smith to know. Friends invited only; Smith famously saw no need to be friends with his bandmates. It was a business to him, an endeavor for which he wanted to constantly challenge himself and everyone else. If you were getting too comfortable, and you wanted to do the same thing again, you were in the way.

His book is a bit of a hoot, but I know all five hundred or so of his songs. He bitches about the business, needless to say, but it’s insightful. God, I’m glad I was never in the music business; I thought the wholesale business was mean and hateful. It’s a monastery by comparison. “I always thought the pure essence of rock and roll was a completely non-musical form of music. I hate it when people say, ‘Oh, but the production’s so bad on it and I can’t hear the lyrics properly.’ If they all want that they should listen to classical music…Writers like that are too serious and precious about their ‘craft’ as they call it. There’s no fire or danger there, because they’ve thought it all out. I’m not a big music buff, but every song I hear reminds me of some other f**ker, and give or take a few tracks here and there you can’t say that about The Fall. Something that is original does stand out to me, always has.”

He was dismissive of emo and the rest of it. “Indulging in depression, like it’s a lifestyle choice, I hated that. I’ve always wanted The Fall to be the group that represents people who are sick being dicked around; that have a bit of fight in them.” You gotta keep that fight in you, though I hope I haven’t been a drunk bastard to my friends and co-workers. But you gotta keep that fight in you until it’s done. Randy used to keep after me about that. I don’t know if he kept fighting (that’s pretty much what I told him before I walked out of the hospital room, keep fighting), but he doesn’t have to worry about that anymore.

from Vineyard & Winery Management (some months back)

Toto, I’ve a Feeling We’re Not from Kansas Anymore

It’s a reasonable enough solution; you’re trying to start a winery and you need grapes. And let’s say you live in the Midwest. You could choose some unfamiliar hybrid grapes from a local farmer you just met or…go shopping in California. Or Washington. Or Pennsylvania. Or any place that has proven grapes with familiar names like Chardonnay or Cabernet.

Maybe it would be better, if you were an intrepid Midwest winemaker to, say, learn about Valvin Muscat, how it’s flavorful but has a name that sounds part grape, part machinery. Wait, the TTB now lets you label Valvin Muscat as just plain Muscat?? Okay, bad example. Say it’s Traminette or Ravat 34. Who the hell wants to sell a wine called Ravat 34? If you have the option of buying some Zinfandel, why would you go to the trouble of learning about Ravat 34, finding a grower that knows the first thing about growing it, talking to ten different neighboring wineries in the vain hope of finding someone who will share with you their yet unreported success with Ravat 34 and then coming up with a name for your wine other than Ravat 34?

It’s not an unusual choice. But decisions have to be made if you are to run a business. Perhaps the name of your wine should be “Hobson’s Choice”, perhaps not. Perhaps you should take the easy road and buy some grapes or even some wine from someone else and name your wine “Cabernet Sauvignon”.

So you see why wineries have so frequently chosen the latter course. Today the bulk trade is growing aggressively, not only in the U.S., but throughout the world. According to The Drinks Business, the bulk wine category accounts for 38.6% of global wine exports, while bottled wine represents 54.3% of global exports and sparkling wine is at 7.1% (even as fizz continues to sparkle in sales growth). There’s no duplicity in shopping for wine or grapes to supplement your own production; if nothing else, it’s a natural development of a burgeoning global marketplace for wine. As that market grows and the number of players increases, there are efficiencies to be achieved when differing players find and hone their particular strengths, each bolstering others in the chain.

But wine is not a chain or a widget; everyone knows that. The history of American wine sales is replete with examples of large beverage companies that assumed making and selling wine was little different from, say, selling Pepsi. For Pepsi (or Coke or such others), it was a hard-earned lesson and they quietly retired the field.

When we buy a bottle of wine, we like to believe that we are buying something real, something authentic. The very basis of the Denomination of Origin system is to provide a buyer a sense of authenticity; that the wine is truly from a place. The DO concept (or AOC or AOP or AVA or GI or what you like) exists throughout the world in versions that may be draconian or that may be little more than window dressing, it is true. But the message inferred is the same to a consumer: by printing a place name on the label you are telling me that this comes from a special place, and the wine should carry specific characteristics as a result.

Which requires us to venture rather farther out on the limb, where things get wobblier. Roquefort cheese is a particular thing from a particular place and, according to French law, it must embody those particulars in its production, its origins, its smells and tastes. When we say that a Zinfandel comes from Paso Robles, we are making the self-same claim. It’s generally warmer there than in many other coastal California sites, but it is near the coast nonetheless. So its character should reflect those climatic influences in ways that make that Zinfandel special in specific ways, and different from a Zinfandel grown a hundred-fifty miles to the northeast in Modesto.

But climate is as mercurial as the latest election poll; and the wine industry bases its hierarchical pricing upon the notion that certain places tend to make good wine year in and year out not only because of their climatic situation but because of their soils too. We will merely snake along that slippery slope for today (to mix our metaphors) by saying that reasonable people disagree on the issue of soil influence. I’d like to kick a couple of boulders down the slope by pondering how centuries of experience, offering us specific soil characteristics in wine can be summed up as mere winemaking tricks. How is it that Chablis’ remarkable oyster shell aromas are due to sulfur usage, as some narrow-minded pendants are wont to insist, but who am I to say?

Let’s just agree to pretend for a moment that certain places on the planet give us certain kinds of wine. If mere winemaking trickery were enough to create hundred-dollar wines, well, surprise, everybody would do that. It is not so. Certain places are special for a myriad of reasons.

And the last fifty years have seen new wine from new lands around the world offering proof that we have not yet exhausted the possible combinations of vineyards and grapes. Only a few miles from Rome, outside the little town of Montefiascone, is a plot of Merlot that makes delicious, remarkable wine. It was planted about twenty-five years ago by one of the geniuses of Italian wine, Ricardo Cotarella, so winemaking has something to do with it. But the land that is modern Italy has been dedicated to wine for three millennia or so, and they’re just now finding a spot that makes great Merlot? I would state it thusly: if Rome still hasn’t figured out where its best prospects lie for certain highly regarded grapes, why are we so critical of early efforts with, say, Geneva Red or Brianna, two of the Midwest’s potential winners? Give it time; give it time.

But my circuitous argument lands here: unless you plant grapes of your own, in your own place, how will you ever know if there is such potential? How will you ever discover something great? Those wineries which rely upon purchased grapes from elsewhere cheat themselves, their neighbors and their children of a future all their own. And should California fall into the sea, as predicted by Hollywood, where will they turn for their source material? Having starved their own state’s farmers of the grape business, those farmers will have moved on to more lucrative crops, and the opportunity to conjoin a particular farmland to a particular grape, hopefully conserved and watched over by succeeding generations, each learning from their predecessors, this too will be lost.

It’s not an idle or trivial matter. Midwestern winemakers often find themselves short of grapes, at least good grapes from varieties that have a consumer market, and that are grown with these winemakers’ stylistic goals in mind. Why? Because not enough wineries are shopping for those grapes consistently. Farmers aren’t stupid. They grow what people want to buy. When Midwest wineries buy their grapes from the West Coast, the farmers there start planting more grapes for bulk purchase (with the attendant qualitative implications of that statement) while farmers nearby move on to soybeans or kale.

Many of the wineries that I speak to about this issue are evasive; few want to admit that a bit of purchased juice can coax more out of their own state’s grapes. Federal law allows 25% non-Missouri wine in a wine labeled as Missouri; in certain difficult years, they are allowed even more leeway. And Kansas wineries, particularly those who utilize purchased grapes, managed to gut the Kansas Farm Winery law; before 2014, if you had a Farm Winery license, at least 60% of your grapes had to be Kansas grown. Today, that number is 30%. How does that help Kansas growers and farmers? It doesn’t. It helps those who seek a short-term fix to a long-term problem. And wine production will always best be answered by long-term solutions.

Growing grapes to make fine wine is a problem that can only be answered by time. If your business model is to be a wedding chapel and event space, then it is likely that your goal is to make serviceable wine. My decades in the industry have convinced me that those who seek to make fine wine set aside all other goals in an effort to reach that pinnacle. Fine wine may or may not happen, but fine wine does not happen by accident. It is a remarkable confluence of luck, tremendous work and thought.

Serviceable wine has a thirsty market; make no mistake. But serviceable wine is a commodity; the ocean of Australian wine with cute animals on the labels languishing in close-out bins over the last five or more years is proof of that. Historically speaking, the cheapest wine wins. Over the last five years, Aussie Shiraz has been supplanted by Argentines making tasty, cheap Malbec. Soon it will be the Chinese, planting hundreds of thousands of acres of vines intended to provide the world with more serviceable wine. If I were writing a business plan today, I would not want it based upon serviceable wine, but upon something special. Something unique to who I am and where I live. In that way, people who live around me would value what it brought to my community and to my region. Others far away might want to taste my wine because it is unique to my place, and perhaps I would grow a market for what I made, a market the Chinese (not to pick on them, but you get the point) would not be able to imitate and supplant at lower and lower prices.
Today there is some dissembling about all this. It seems unfair to pick on a winery in these pages, so let’s consider the travails of one distillery, Templeton in Iowa. For years, they insisted that they were making their own amazing rye whiskey, and it’s inarguable that their rye whiskey was damned delicious. But the truth comes out in our social media era; it turns out that Templeton was buying rye whiskey from MGP in Indiana, like most smart rye whiskey producers. Some have not forgiven them for this lack of candor.

There should be truth in labeling. We often look to our government to protect those names, as other governments often do. But there are many who would rather keep government’s nose out of their business. The TTB is currently promising to take a closer look at veracity in wine labeling; wines sold only within their state’s borders have been labeled in ways that would never pass muster if submitted for COLA approval. Some companies might prefer the government to go sniffing someplace else. And with the TTB still reeling from the “sequester” cuts of 2014, they haven’t the manpower to police these matters adequately.

So it falls to the wineries to do what is right. And while everyone winery has the right to conduct business in its own best interests, its long-term prospects are ruled by one imperative: what is your unique proposition? Instead of being just another winery, shopping from the same California broker, why not reflect your own place and your own community. Instead of pretending to be from Kansas and selling them California, why not just be from Kansas? I live in that state, so I know it can be embarrassing at times to admit you’re a Kansan, but how else will we create change?

A wine label is a marketing tool. The most powerful marketing message that your label can employ is to tell people who you are and where you come from. We are in an era in which transparency is rewarded and any semblance of duplicity is likely to be ripped apart by the pack of angry vultures collectively known as social media. How much are you willing to offer them your red meat?

Just Back from Buenos Aires and…


Special to The Star

AUGUST 21, 2017 12:30 PM



Christmas music is playing in the hotel lobby. Outside, people are wrapped in heavy coats and scarves, though the temperature lingers above 50 degrees. It’s August, which is late winter here in South America.

Why are they playing Christmas music? You might ask as well why the bathroom in my hotel has clearly been prepared for wallpapering and yet remains bare, or why the wine stores charge 20 times the cost for European wines. This is a country in transition, still sorting things out, sometimes amusingly, and still protective of its wine industry.

As for the heavy coats, Buenos Aires has all the weather diversity of San Diego; it’s always nice here. Fifty degrees is a strong chill; 40 degrees is a disaster. Up in Mendoza, in the Andes Mountains, where the wines are grown, there is snow today, so Argentina is not all like Buenos Aires.

And the vines up in the foothills of the Andes are growing not just Malbec, though it remains the country’s most popular and valued grape. It is Malbec that has fueled Argentina’s meteoric rise in the world market, and certainly in the American market.

You can be sure that Australian winemakers have noticed; Malbec sales increases have mirrored Aussie Shiraz sales decreases over the last five years.

Malbec enjoys Shiraz’s powerful fruitiness, and Argentina’s wineries opted for more elegant labels, evincing an image of seriousness and authenticity, with somewhat higher pricing.

But as with Australia’s once single-minded reliance on Shiraz, Argentine Malbec threatens to become a one-trick pony. Australia’s gravest error with Shiraz was to become associated with blends from a massive region called Southeastern Australia, a “highly delimited” area roughly half the size of the continental U.S. Not a recipe for region-specific flavors; instead it was a recipe for cheaper and cheaper prices.

Argentina is desperate to avoid the same fate. It has been keen to not rely on massive blends but instead to boast of specific regions, each of which can express slightly differing styles of Malbec.

Lujan de Cujo can be just as tangy as it is rich; Altamira often shows an alluring floral, rose petal element. Where once growers planted in the warmer spots of Mendoza, the large and best-known region, producers have steadily moved into the Uco Valley, often higher in elevation and cooler, increasing that tangy, even slightly tart character.

For many of us, that means wines with better balance and an ability to age in the cellar, unlike the fat beasts that we tasted when Malbec first showed up here.

Even more importantly, Argentina is showing off its other grapes. Bonarda was once the country’s favorite grape; it’s generally a quaffer, not a wine to think about. But blend it with Syrah, a grape quickly increasing in planting, and the two marry and offer offspring of considerable tastiness.

Torrontes is the country’s traditional white grape; its wild floral character betrays its lineage with the Muscat grape, which has become one of America’s top three consumed white grapes. Torrontes hasn’t enjoyed that same fame, so growers are focused upon Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and even Riesling, with some success.

The true unknown star here is Cabernet Franc; there are utterly delicious examples from most of the well-known names such as Luigi Bosca, Catena Zapata (one of Argentina’s finest), Gascon, Lamadrid and Rutini and lesser-known names such as Achaval-Ferrer, Aleanna, Durigutti, Fabre-Montmayou, Keo, Pulenta, Salentein, Tinto Negro and Zorzal.

Cabernet Franc blends with Malbec delightfully, too: Santa Julia makes one it calls Mountain Blend. Catena Zapata has a great value called Nicasia, but they’re not bringing it to the U.S. yet. I think the company should, but no one in Argentina is yet sure whether to bolster Malbec or to diversify with other grapes. It’s still sorting things out, as appears to be the case with my hotel.


Read more here:

Jefferson Cup 2016

The Jefferson Cup Invitational Wine Competition has concluded and there’s some press popping up around it.


But you can see the complete results at…

The Jefferson Cup Invitational has celebrated its seventeenth year as the only competition that honors the best of the best among wineries from all of America’s wine regions. Each year we select great wines from across America; the 2016 competition included wines from twenty-seven states. At the end of the second day of this year’s tasting, November 18, 2016 wines from NINE different states had captured top honors. Just as the event’s namesake would have it, democracy reigned at this year’s Jefferson Cup Wine Competition.

The two-day competition culminated with the awarding of twenty-four Jefferson Cup Trophies. Jefferson Cups were awarded to wines made from both vinifera vines (the European species responsible for more famous wines such as Chardonnay and Cabernet) and non-vinifera vines, which flourish in the more extreme climates in the U.S.

These twenty-four prestigious Jefferson Cups, the Sweepstakes Awards for our competition, were awarded to two sparkling wines, ten white wines, nine red wines, one fruit wine and two dessert wines. “While many competitions insist upon selecting a pre-ordained number of sweepstakes winners, our judges are allowed to find the top wines, whether there are only one, two or three, or even NO winners in some categories, as has happened in previous years,” says Jefferson Cup Invitational founder Doug Frost. “This year for the first time ever, we had a fruit wine and a muscadine based wine as winners, and there were once again great examples of wine, both from vinifera and non-vinifera grapes.” Together with thirty-one other Jefferson Cup nominated wines, these twenty-four wines represent some of the most compelling wines made in America.

Although many expect California to dominate the awards, Jefferson Cups were won by eight other states as well: Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, New York and Washington State. California didn’t dominate, winning fewer Cups (five) to Michigan’s six Cups. The Jefferson Cup nominees, all Double Gold recipients, included wines from fifteen different states. And while there is no quota for non-vinifera wines in the Jefferson Cup finals, with both red wines and white wines, the number of vinifera and non-vinifera wines among the nominees was virtually identical.

Many people have begun to call the Jefferson Cup Invitational, the “Olympics” of wine competitions. This competition is not open to every winery willing to submit an entrance fee. Rather we select the best of the best, culled from tastings and competitions in America throughout 2016. The Jefferson Cup Invitational was founded in 1999 in honor of Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson fathered our constitution, helped champion the international concept of human rights and was a seminal figure in America’s cultural, culinary (including wine) and agricultural history.

About the Jefferson Cup Invitational

The Seventeenth Annual Jefferson Cup Invitational took place on November 17 and 18, 2016 in Kansas City, Missouri. The Jefferson Cup is a different sort of wine competition, in that it is an invitational in which over seven hundred wines are pre-selected which exemplify top viticulture and winemaking throughout America.

While in years past, the Jefferson Cup has utilized unique nomenclature for its awards, this year the competition has adopted Bronze, Silver, Gold and Double Gold medals as its standards, responding to requests of many participating wineries. Out of seven hundred twenty participating wines, the judges selected just one-hundred-ninety wines to receive the Bronze Medals, honoring wines exemplary of their regions and varieties, Three-hundred-forty-five wines received Silver Medals, and the judges found sixty-six wines to be worthy of Gold Medals and thirty-one being granted Double Gold Medals. These are truly great wines, reflecting our goal of finding and praising wines of true American excellence.

Those fifty-five Double Gold wines (and Jefferson Cup nominees) were tasted by the entire group of twenty judges. Out of those honored wines, the judges collectively picked twenty-four wines to be awarded the Jefferson Cup. And by selecting both vinifera and non-vinifera wines for the Jefferson Cup each year, the goal is to respect the diversity of American viticulture and Jefferson’s own acceptance of native varieties and hybrids. Jefferson fathered our constitution, helped champion the international concept of human rights and was a seminal figure in America’s cultural, culinary (including wine) and agricultural history.

“In most other competitions there is ‘open’ seating,” says Frost, ”and California represents 90% of the entries. As a result it usually captures 90% of the honors,” he said. “What we are doing is following Mr. Jefferson’s example and allowing every quality wine-producing region in America a place at our table. Each year we select great wines from across America; the 2016 competition included wines from twenty-seven states.”

Following the Jefferson Cup competition, the remaining wines are donated for an annual event that benefits children and adults in need. This year the Jefferson Cup raised more than $100,000 for Angel Flight Central ( We hope that these events reflect well upon the great heritage of Thomas Jefferson.

The 2016 JEFFERSON CUP winners are:

For Sparkling Wine:

L. Mawby Vineyards Sandpainting nv Leelenau Peninsula

St. Julian Winery Sweet Nancie nv Lake Michigan Shore


For White Non-Vinifera Wine:

Adam Puchta Winery Dry Vignoles nv Missouri

Fireside Winery Glow nv Iowa

Holy-Field Vineyard & Winery Vignoles nv Kansas

Lakeridge Winery & Vineyards Southern White nv Florida

White Pine Winery Traminette 2015 Lake Michigan Shore


For White Vinifera Wine:

Barefoot Cellars Sauvignon Blanc nv California

Dry Creek Vineyards Estate Block 10 Chardonnay 2014 Russian River Valley

Fox Run Vineyards Riesling Lot 11 Lake Dana Vineyard 2014 Seneca Lake

Chateau LaFayette Reneau Riesling Semi-Dry 2015 Finger Lakes

Fox Run Vineyards Riesling Lot 11 Hanging Delta Vineyard 2014 Seneca Lake


For Fruit Wine:

Easley Winery Cranberry Jubilee nv American (Indiana)


For Red Vinifera Wine:

Brian Carter Cellars Solesce 2012 Columbia Valley

Carol Shelton Wild Thing Old Vine Zinfandel 2014 Mendocino County

Reininger Winery Helix Syrah 2012 Columbia Valley

Walla Walla Vintners Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 Walla Walla Valley

Goldschmidt Vineyard Forefathers Cabernet Sauvignon Lone Tree Vineyard 2014 Alexander Valley


For Red Non-Vinifera Wine:

Aubrey Vineyards Trail Rider Red nv American (Kansas)

Missouri State University Norton 2015 Missouri

Noboleis Vineyards Norton 2015 Missouri


For Dessert Wine:

12 Corners Vineyards Vidal Ice Wine 2016 Lake Michigan Shore

St. Julian Winery Solera Cream Sherry nv Michigan

Flavor Bridge to Nowhere

Special to The Kansas City Star, October 12, 2016

Sitting in my usual dim sum restaurant, I noticed Christmas decorations overhead. I was so horrified I almost stopped chewing on my chicken feet. Is it really that time?

Not quite, but the media are pivoting to the holidays, and entertainment guides have started popping up in newspapers, magazines and social media. They all promise to simplify your life. But not this columnist: I promise to complicate things.

Most of these guides offer sage notions of matching food and wine. After providing listicles of their Top 10s, they conclude by telling you to stop worrying about any of this (at least the good ones do) and drink whatever you like. Me, I’ll start out with that premise. I’ve been shouting it my whole career because I have a problem with authority. Also, because we all like different things, and that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

The prevailing notion of these erstwhile guides is that you should select a wine to go with a dish based on each sharing the same flavors. One insists that cranberries go well with California Zinfandel. Yes, Zinfandel has the flavor of cranberries, among many other flavors.

But cranberries are tart and Zin is not. In fact, it’s usually rather warm, ripe, even slightly sweet and figgy at times. When you put tart food with a wine that is slightly sweet (or vice versa), it can make both of them seem out of balance, as if you had a brownie and decided to suck on a lemon at the same time.

Or here’s another fraught match: apple and Chenin Blanc. Yes, Chenin Blanc has apple flavors, but like apples, Chenin Blancs vary from dry-as-dust to sweet-as-pie. If you serve a dry Chenin Blanc with a sweet apple dish, neither will shine.

Many chefs have been trained to suggest wines based on a concept known as “flavor bridging” — a dominant flavor in the dish is the “key” to the wine you should choose. I’ve had chefs tell me they’ll marry this fish dish with the Chardonnay by adding peaches to the dish.

Why peaches?

Many Chardonnays have a peach flavor. But why would I want to drink a liquid version of the dish in front of me? Chefs don’t drop everything on the plate into a blender and expect it to taste as good as all those individual elements.

Chefs know better. Look at how plates are composed: a traditional chef will offer a protein matched with a starch, a vegetable, an appropriate sauce or seasoning, a bitter green leaf and citrus slice to finish. The goal is for each element to highlight the others in a constellation of differing flavors.

I’ve seen this bridge building ad nauseam. Lamb with mint sauce is a classic. So someone matches the dish with a “minty” Australian Shiraz (some Aussie reds are genuinely minty in flavor); makes sense, right? Except mint sauce is usually sweet, and such wines are often very tannic, astringent and even bitter.

You don’t see them serving spaghetti squash with two other squashes (but don’t they share the same flavors?) and maybe some spaghetti on the side. They know better. Still, certain famous chefs continue to promulgate this notion of flavor bridging, and cooperative writers have complied, selecting their wines by finding flavors in common with the foods.

But if nothing else, flavor bridging is boring. So what’s a person to do, now that I’ve complained about all these misguided guides?

Well, first off, let’s return to the first principle: drink what you like. Stop worrying about things going together or not going together.

Most of us like things to be fair and balanced (and get angry when certain media usurp the term for something that’s anything but). The safest guide (as rules don’t really exist) is to ask that the wine doesn’t overwhelm the food, and the food doesn’t overpower the wine.

That’s it. Nothing too complicated.

It’s the same with my Chinese restaurant. I asked about the Christmas decorations and the waitress said, no, they hadn’t put them up this week or last week. They just keep them up year around. It’s easier and simpler.

Doug Frost is a Kansas City-based wine and spirits writer and consultant. He is one of only three people in the world to have earned the titles of master sommelier and master of wine. He contributes a monthly wine column for The Star’s Food section and the Chow Town blo

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Pet Nat Sounds

I open a bottle of Texas (yep, howdy, boy, Texsus is wut ahm talkin’ bout) Pet Nat wine and it’s a fisssssss not a Pop! All is well and good. Pet Nat wines, you see, are not always fully sparkling. Usually they’re a bit light on the heady alcohol, but this being the Great State of Texas, this stuff is 13.2%. By Pet Nat standards that is freaking close to Port. But then the Pet Nat world is not your normal wine world – its name was birthed in the Loire Valley but its roots reach back to antiquity. Any wine bottled before fermentation was completed was likely to be naturally petillant, or pet nat. Yeast, you see, also produce CO2 while they are converting sugar to alcohol.

A few Loire producers decided to cute up this old thing by giving it the darling moniker of Pet Nat. It’s worked. Lots of people are doing it the Pet Nat way. Even in Tejas.

So visiting some of the central Texas wineries that interest me, and Williams-Chris is definitely once of those, and amongst all the reliable wines they sell is a genuine Petillant Natural (cuz it says so on the label) Rose 2015. I buy one and chill it to chill out on my Austin evening. Dried strawberry, touch of cranberry and red currant. Kinda cool. Clean. True and tasty.

Wine Vision 2015

I’ll be at Wine Vision this year from December 9th through the 11th. If you’ll be in the area, I hope you’ll join us. Below is a little more info. Hope to see you all there!

Wine Vision 2015 to challenge ‘old thinking’ with its focus on innovation, new routes to market and sustainability with commercial rewards

Finishing touches are being applied to the Wine Vision 2015 programme. It promises to challenge traditional thinking in the wine industry by showcasing high-growth new market entrants and by exploring innovative approaches to producing wine, selling it, creating powerful brands and extending consumer markets. “We’re urging the wine industry to move increasingly quickly to keep up with shifting global markets and changing customer tastes,” says Andrew Reed, Managing Director of the Drinks Division at William Reed Business Media. “In established markets wine is under challenge from alternative drinks categories, while in emerging markets brands are racing to win ground in a gold rush. We’re bringing together some of the most progressive individuals in the global industry to investigate sources of future growth.”

Wine Vision’s 2015 highlights will include:

  • A re-definition of the ‘luxury’ for the wine market of the future by Giovanni Geddes da Filicaja, CEO of Tentua Dell’Ornellaia; the estate that produces two of the world’s most coveted wines.
  • An account of how Invivo Wines made it to the Deloitte TOP 50 within seven years of launch and has broken records for crowd funding to fuel its next stage of growth, from its Co-Founder, Tim Lightbourne.
  • An introduction to the new rules of wine marketing from an acknowledged trend setter. Mike Ratcliffe has made rules and broken them as MD of South Africa’s Warwick Estate and the South African-American joint venture, Vilafonté.
  • A close look at power shifts in the Chinese market and the democratisation of wine with China insider Lenz M. Moser, chief wine maker of Chateau Changyu MOSER XV
  • An exploration of ‘fusion wines’ and their appeal to consumers thirsty for a new experience, by Dominic Rivard, fruit wine expert, sommelier, winemaker, distributor, exporter and author.
  • An account of progress at Sonoma County – on track to become America’s first 100% sustainable wine region by 2019 – by Karissa Kruse, President of Sonoma County Winegrowers.
  • A call for collaborative innovation between competitors to raise the game of the whole industry, from Adrian Bridge, Managing Director of Taylor’s Port.
  • An exploration of alternative investment and growth strategies from Charles Banks, Founder of Terroir Selections and recognised for the stellar success of the Jonata and Screaming Eagle brands.

With this year’s Wine Vision taking place in Bilbao, the capital of Spain’s Basque region, it makes sense that the programme will investigate the enduring link between food and wine. Laura Price, Content Editor of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants, will lead a panel of wine producers, sommeliers and chefs to discuss how wine and food in combination can stimulate a region’s economic regeneration. Javier Ruiz de Galarreta, President and CEO of Araex Rioja Alavesa & Spanish Fine Wines, will give an account of a unique regional business model that has established the Basque Country’s wine as a global luxury product.

Wine Vision attendees will have every opportunity to sample the fruits of the Basque Country’s success. On the first evening, three top chefs will prepare examples of Basque Country cuisine paired with regional wines at a welcome reception held in the iconic Guggenheim Museum. Their restaurants, Nerua, Azurmendi and Mugaritz have six Michelin Stars between them. On the evening of the second day, the Wine Vision Reception and Dinner will be held in the three Michelin Star Azurmendi restaurant itself. “We took the decision in 2015 that, every year, Wine Vision will travel to a different wine region,” says Reed. “This allows attendees to learn about the sources of success in each region, while continuing to investigate global developments and issues within our programme. On Friday and Saturday after Wine Vision closes, attendees will have the option to investigate the region further, with wine tours to estates including Rioja Alvesa Estate and Basque Culinary Centre.

Wine Vision’s Chairman for 2015, Doug Frost, author, wine consultant, Master of Wine and Master Sommelier, welcomes the investigatory nature of Wine Vision, “This programme gives wine industry leaders around the world the chance to listen to innovative case studies, discuss the global issues that are uppermost in their minds and, for the first time, get close to the success strategies of a progressive wine region. We all learn in different ways – and Wine Vision’s got them all covered!”

Wine Vision 2015 will be held between 9 and 11 December across two venues in the City of Bilbao; the world famous Guggenheim Museum and the Alhondiga, formerly the Basque Country’s wine exchange and now, transformed by architect Philippe Starck, Bilbao’s cultural meeting point. Its sponsors include Araex Rioja Alavesa & Spanish Fine Wines and, returning for the third year running, Taylor’s Port and the world’s largest cork stopper producer, Amorim.

“We’re delighted to welcome Wine Vision to our home country and look forward to meeting our peers from across the global wine industry,” says Javier Ruiz de Galarreta, President & CEO, ARAEX Rioja Alavesa & Spanish Fine Wines. “And to introducing them to a bottle or two of our favourite wines, of course!” .

About Wine Vision

Wine Vision is a leading industry event created by the international publishing and events business, William Reed Business Media. Wine Vision was founded in 2013, takes place annually and complements a portfolio of wine publications and events, which include Harpers Wine & Spirit, and the globally renowned International Wine Challenge. It is part of a series of industry specific Vision events focused on wine, nutrition, food and drink.


Bob Lindquist proves me wrong. My second article for LE PAN Magazine.

Check out my second article for LE PAN Magazine.

Bob Lindquist is a Rhone variety pioneer, not just in California, but anywhere outside the Rhone Valley. As such, he’s one of my heroes. I love the wines he’s made at Qupe Winery over the last few decades, and he’s not so bad either. Perhaps surprisingly, I don’t mind expressing my ignorance around him; it’s a rather easy way to get schooled. I’m in the wine business to get schooled. Happens a lot.

So on one of those occasions when I just couldn’t stop myself, I told Bob that I believed Marsanne was a problematic ager. Let’s be honest: what I actually said was that it doesn’t age. Or something that stupid.

Bob laughed and told me he’d send me some wine. So you see my evil plan worked to perfection. A few weeks later I opened a box of Qupe Marsanne of various and sundry ages.

The first one was corked; let’s leave it at that. The next one, 1994 Qupe Marsanne Santa Barbara County, was definitely not corked. It was clean and correct and delicious. It showed citrus, lime, orange, lemon, wet wool (something like Vouvray), roasted nuts (something like Meursault), buttered corn (he didn’t really use American oak, did he?) and roasted green apple (something to do with aging crisp and tart white wines).

This sort of wine is exciting like old Hunter Valley Semillon is exciting; it breaks expectations apart, it makes a taster question notions of New World and Old World characteristics, and cool climates and warm climates. Does time trump all varietal and regional flavors?

I wish I had ten more bottles like this. It has successfully aged, in the sense that it has not only survived, but has improved. As it lingered, I tasted almond slivers with green apple, wet linen and lime and orange notes. The length however was not as I might have hoped. There were few earth aromas and flavors at the end, so I was left with a delightful wine, but not a GREAT wine.

Was it Marsanne’s fault? The region’s fault? The vintage? We don’t know or at least I don’t know. Maybe Marsanne always needs a bit of a boost from Roussanne, as is so common with the top Hermitage Blanc. But who needs great wine all the time? I’d take delicious wine all the time and count myself amongst the luckiest tasters in the world.

Bob’s Marsannes are that. They’re delicious. Even, and maybe especially, when they age.

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