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Wineries = Enjoying Life's Wine Journal Entries

Firehouse Wine Cellars (written Sep 08, 2020)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 4 stars

Favorite Wine: Syrah

Had a glass of their Syrah. Liked it. Also tried a Frontenac Gris. This white was a little on the sweet side. Probably to be expected with a Frontenac. Liked it too. Didn’t have time to try more. Expect crowds at this one. Probably won’t meet a winemaker as this is a downtown tasting room.

Noboleis Vineyards (written Jun 05, 2020)
Wine: 5 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars

Favorite Wine: Norton

Actually we did visit a few more years later back in 2017. Again, I was not overly impressed with the wine. However, let me state there was nothing wrong with it. It just didn't strike me as outstanding. My wine mentor, Boris, was with us and he was very impressed with the Norton here if I recall correctly. I bought a bottle of the 2015 Norton at his urging. Well, let me tell you. I just opened that bottle today, June 5 of 2020. WOW! My wine mentor, as usual was correct. I just love this 2015 Norton. I am sure the cellar aging since has something to do with it but I am just loving this Norton. It is what I think of as a traditional Norton with just a nod into the style that I think of as a jammy Kansas City Norton. Wonder nose. Earthy, leathery, meaty Norton nose and flavor. Tingles on the tongue on the finish. Then my favorite. That last oxidized drop in the glass with the nutty nose and awesome taste. Noboleis, you do Norton up right.

Park Farm Winery & Bistro (written Jul 13, 2019)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 5 stars Ambiance: 5 stars

Favorite Wine: Marquette

As beautiful of a winery as you are going to fine ANYWHERE! The building, the grounds and the surrounding rolling hills of eastern Iowa are all something to take in and enjoy. And then the wine. Their Arrowhead Marquette is the best Marquette I have ever had. Until this wine, I couldn't quite grasp all the enthusiasm for this grape we have encountered from midwest winemakers over the years. Now I most certainly can.

Coruce Vineyards and Winery (written Nov 04, 2018)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 2 stars

Favorite Wine: Viognier

The tasting room is fairly easy to miss in a strip center. We enjoyed every wine that was poured here. Tessa, our tasting room hostess was very knowledgeable. She is studying winemaking. I really liked their Syrahs. They had several viogniers to try and their reserve was just fab. Our son really liked their 2012 Zinfandel.

Reyes Winery (written Nov 04, 2018)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars

Favorite Wine: Robby's Blend

Charming winery grounds with easy access from main highway. They claim to make a lot of different wines here and as such they rotate wines on and off the tasting list each month. On the tasting list during our visit were couple cabernet sauvignons, syrahs, merlots and several blends. A couple Chardonnays also. Didn’t taste a bad wine here but not really any standouts either. The blends were nice. We bought a bottle each of the of the Ryan’s and Robby’s Blends.

Antelope Valley Winery (written Aug 24, 2018)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars

Favorite Wine: Merlot

We really enjoyed the wines here. Several verietals had a nice herbaceous finish. Nothing were overly complex but quite enjoyable. Nice price points to make this a go to winery for everyday consumption if one lived close. Finally, we really enjoyed out tasting room hostess, Candace, who was quite knowledgeable and fun. We enjoyed every one of their estate grown wines: Zinfadel, Merlot and Sangioviese. The Zin was not a typical Zin. Much more tart and herbaceous on the finish and cleaner up to that point. The Cabernet Sauvignon was quite elegant. Really liked all the reds.

Purple Toad Winery (written Nov 13, 2017)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 4 stars

Favorite Wine: Black Peach

Sweet wines were very interesting. Some of the fruit wines were crazy and in a good way if you're wanting sweet wines. The Blackberry Peach Wine would be great over ice cream. Unfortunately for us, we're not that into sweet wines. But if you sweet wines is what you do, then the Toad is for you. The dry reds were very different. To be honest I want to say the dry reds are just plain bad. But perhaps I need to get used to them. They were barely recognizable to me. Something with the terroir, yeast, winemaker preference or something. I don't know. Right from the nose to the finish, there is something very different going on with their reds at least in my range of experiences.

Beachaven Vineyards and Winery (written Nov 13, 2017)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 2 stars

Favorite Wine: Trio

Not the wineries fault really in that we're not really that much into sweeter wines. That being said, we didn't really care for their dryer reds which is out interest. They had a semi-sweet blend called Trio which made a nice blush. It was made with Barbera and Traminette. Actually the more I think about it, the more I liked this wine. Just not as a dry wine. Ambiance wasn't really bad, but it is a challenge to achieve ambiance in an industrial park alongside an interstate.

Stonewall Creek Vineyards (written Nov 13, 2017)
Wine: 5 stars Winery: 5 stars Ambiance: 5 stars

Favorite Wine: Cabernet Franc

What a gem. The owner and winemaker Carl is a true gentleman and a fine, fine winemaker. We thoroughly enjoyed talking to him and tasting his wines. There was not a bad one in the mix. All of his wines showed nice balance and finesse. His Cabernet Franc was one of the best I have tried anywhere. He had a very nice blend called "three eagles" that was comprised of Malbec, Petit Verdot and Tannat. And finally he had a good Norton. The setting was very nice. A great way to spend some time in the beautiful Georgia countryside.

Tiger Mountain Vineyards (written Nov 13, 2017)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars

Favorite Wine: Mouvedre

A nice winery that tries a lot of different grapes. We really liked their Mouvedre. We appreciate that they do a Norton. My wife picked up on the Norton and several of their other reds a little too much alcohol. A little too hot. I tend to agree. The Mouvedre however did not come across this way. Very nice. I also liked the TNT blend. Gentleman behind the tasting bar was very knowledgeable. We gave only at three for everything which means it was an average nice place. Might have been able to give the ambiance a higher rating had we visited on a day the restaurant was open.

Biltmore Estate Winery (written Nov 07, 2017)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars

Favorite Wine: Cabernet Sauvignon

Everything is just bigger (and a bit overwhelming) at the Biltmore. The wines were fine. Just not outstanding. The price points were not bad for the most part. Weekend crowds give it a rushed feel.

Victoria Valley Vineyards (written Nov 07, 2017)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 4 stars Ambiance: 5 stars

Favorite Wine: Merlot

What a charming place in a beautiful setting. Very relaxing. Our lunch was light yet filling. The wines, while not complex, were very refreshing and FUN. We had no trouble enjoying these wines. If we lived in the area we could easily see ourselves being frequent visitors here.

Klinker Brick Winery (written Nov 05, 2017)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 4 stars Ambiance: 3 stars

Favorite Wine: Old Ghost

This from a guy who doesn't normally like Zinfandel. Klinker Brick has some great Zins. Old Ghost was most wonderful. I thought the tasting room was really cool to look at too. They were quite busy so the ambiance was nothing special at least on this busy day in May 2017. The price of success I would guess.

Childress Vineyards (written Nov 05, 2017)
Wine: 5 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 4 stars

Favorite Wine: Cabernet Franc Reserve

One of the most beautiful tasting room/restaurant/gift shop complexes we have ever visited anywhere. (Chateau Morrisette just up in Virginia ranks right up there too.) In the back of my mind as we approached the tasting room was the thought “wow this place is so fancy, I wouldn't be surprised if the wines don't match up. We went on a Saturday so it was indeed very busy and we felt a bit rushed by our wine tasting host. But what can you expect when they're so busy. However, all that said. From their reserve grouping of wines, we we're sort of blown away. There were several very great representations of the varietals Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and especially Cabernet Franc. Their red port, Finish Line, was very elegant and not overbearing. They even had a blend called 3 that was a semi-dry at a great price point for sharing with friends and family when entertaining. Not an intimate experience, at least on weekends, but the reserve wines make up for it. The wine club, when you consider all it includes, is one of the better values out their when comparing wine clubs.

Chateau Morrisette Winery (written Nov 05, 2017)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 5 stars Ambiance: 5 stars

Favorite Wine: Chambourcn

Very, very nice setting on the Blue Ridge Parkway. Incredible tasting room facility. Just gorgeous. Their were several blends that included one of our favorite grapes: Chambourcin. Several nice dry reds. We liked the Archival Blend and we found the semi-dry “Our Black Dog” blend quite a different, yet interesting find. Our favorite by far, though, was the Chambourcn. Definitely one of the best Chambourcin's we have ever had the pleasure to experience.

St. Amant Winery (written Nov 01, 2017)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 2 stars Ambiance: 2 stars

Favorite Wine: Barbera

Upon recommendation, we visited St. Amant this past May. The wines were all very nice here. The one that stood out to us though was their Barbera if for no other reason than Barbera is a newer grape to us. Again we liked all the wines here. The tasting hosts were very nice and approachable. And it is always fun anytime you get to meet the owners. The 2 stars on the Winery and Ambiance are a little unfair. The set up is nice but they are in a industrial warehouse. So the two stars reflect that this is not your average countryside setting.

DuCard Vineyards (written Nov 01, 2017)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 4 stars Ambiance: 5 stars

Favorite Wine: Petit Verdot

Oh my, where to begin. It was all great. On this day, Julian, the winemaker, was our most gracious and passionate host. We could have talked to Julian for hours. Then there is the simple and breathtaking beauty of the site and the journey to get there. Is there any better place for Fall colors? And then the wine. We liked the reds here a lot. The Petit Verdot was excellent. It is a five star for me. The C'est Trop is an excellent port. Every year we share a bottle (or two) of Port with my extended family as a Christmas Holiday Meal tradition. I don't know if I can share this one. Julian has a Triskele blend and also a Norton in the barrels right now. Got to taste these ahead of release. They look very promising as is the future at Ducard.

Castello di Amorosa (written Oct 31, 2017)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 5 stars Ambiance: 5 stars

Favorite Wine: Sorry

The castle is a must see. Very fun. The wines are average though IMO. And as such overpriced for me. The gift shop and tasting rooms have some wine accessories that we had not seen at other wineries. So that is another plus.

Horton Cellars Winery (written Oct 31, 2017)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars

Favorite Wine: Norton

We visited Horton again today seven years after our other visit in 2010. This time the Norton was much better for us. Quite delightful actually. The Petit Verdot was very nice as well. The best Petit Verdot of three we tried this day. By a wide margin too. Ted, who claimed he had only been at Horton for a month was surprisingly knowledgeable. Perhaps he is only new to Horton. In any event his enthusiasm was fun. Overall we liked their reds over their whites. The Pinotage did not disappoint I should add.

Jefferson Vineyards (written Oct 31, 2017)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars

Favorite Wine: Meritage

Nothing wrong here yet the wines didn't really stand out for. Very nice staff however. The Meritage was best on this day. I did like their use of oak with their whites.

Blenheim Vineyards (written Oct 31, 2017)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 4 stars Ambiance: 3 stars

Favorite Wine: Painted Red

On this given day visiting four area wineries, the Blenheim wines were the best IMO. I really liked their Painted Red blend. The Cab Franc was nice as well. Liked their Vidal Blanc and Chardonnay too. Prices are quite reasonable. Our tasting room hostess was quite knowledgeable about the wines, the winery and also the area's wineries in general.

Trump Winery (formerly Kluge Estate Winery) (written Oct 31, 2017)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 4 stars

Favorite Wine: Meritage

Like others have said above, this is a gorgeous property and setting. The food was very nice too. We liked that the wines were not overdone. Not too fruit forward nor overly Oakes. They showed some subtlety and finesse. We liked the Chardonnay and Meritage best. The $12 for a four wine tasting is a bit pricey upon glance. However, I would say it is in line when you consider this price includes a quality Reidel glass that you take with you.

Nissen Wine (written Jul 31, 2016)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars

The winery in a very nice facility. During our visit, our tasting room host put through 12 tastings. We were their first guests of the day and thus their sweet reds and whites came directly out of the refrigerator and were very, very cold. The winery unabashedly specializes in sweet wines. Economics understood but they were just too sweet for us. I also think that given they were so cold, one sweet wine tastes just like the next and last one. There is no food served here but it would be nice if they provided crackers or something to help cleanse your palate between all the 12 wines you can taste for free.

Stone House Vineyard (written Apr 12, 2016)
Wine: 5 stars Winery: 5 stars Ambiance: 5 stars

Favorite Wine: 2014 Claros Reserve Norton

We visited Stone House this past Friday, April 8, 2016 upon the recommendation of The Norton Wine Travelers. Our purpose was to try their Norton wine: Claros. In their review, the Travelers speak very highly of this wine. In other conversations, I judge their opinion of this wine to be higher than their review here. I don’t know if elegant, refined, subtle are typically associated with Norton. Often Norton wines are big, bold, wild. The best are much more subtle and balanced. Stone House has made a wine that starts with the signature Norton nose and initial fruit taste. However, it quickly moves to a very smooth spicy clove taste and then a very nice balanced, calming finish. If one wasn’t careful it would be very easy to drink too much of this in one sitting. Like the Travelers stated I am not sure if it would benefit from aging. Frankly, it is difficult for me to imagine it getting any smoother. What would be interesting is to learn if it would pick up additional and more complex flavors over some time. I rate the Claros Reserve Norton in a four-way tie for the best we have ever experienced. And in some ways, it can be judged to be the best. Not sure how many Nortons we have tasted now. But it would have to be well over 50. The point is this Stone House Norton does stand out. Just a wonderful wine. I would proudly serve it anywhere against any competition. The winery and vineyard itself is very nice and tastefully done. The Norton is all grown from this seven acre planting. The care and meticulous attention to detail is evident from the vineyard all the way to the tasting room. We only had time on this trip to make sure we got to Stone House. But our bucket list now includes the goal of spending a week touring the wineries in the Texas Hill Country west of Austin. Beautiful land. Not sure a week would be enough time though.

Homestead Winery (written Jul 26, 2015)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 4 stars Ambiance: 3 stars

Favorite Wine: Tempranillo

My understanding is that several of the wines here are sourced from Lubbock. And several of the wines here had a signature flavor that I will attribute to the terroir in Lubbock that I am still trying to grow accustomed to. Not there yet. However, there were a dry red wines here that I liked quite a bit: Tempranillo, Ivanhoe Knights (with definite green pepper or characteristics of vines. reminded me a little of a Pinot Noir) and there Malbec. They also had a Petite Syrah which was a good representation of that varietal although not one of my favorites. I didn't try any of their whites.

Cross Timbers Winery (written Jul 26, 2015)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 4 stars

Visited this winery the July 4th weekend of 2015. Grapevine is a pretty cool town to visit by the way. I liked the set up of the place as it looks like it is more of an event center for weddings, etc. The grapes come from the Lubbock area as do all the wines we found in the area. I think there is something in the terroir in Lubbock that I need to become accustomed to before I can make a fair assessment. There is a lot of vinifera grown: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, Malbec, Syrah, Chardonnay, etc. The wines here and at other tasting rooms in Grapevine sourcing from Lubbock all had a muddy (or something) taste that crowded out the finish on these wines. The sip would start good and then be replaced by this muddy something. I would bet if you're used to these wines you actually appreciate this signature. Unfortunately I am not there yet. My wife, as is usually the case, was more advanced in appreciating the style of these wines. So I gave our rating an average of 3 between her 4 and my 2.

Botham Vineyards and Winery (written Jul 26, 2015)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 4 stars

Favorite Wine: 2011 or 2013 Field 3 (can't remember which one I liked better.)

The tasting room in in a big and well maintained barn on a very well maintained farmstead. This set-up doesn't usually excite me only because I am so used to it but this is a very well maintained, shady set-up. I would think a visit here in the fall with all the fall colors would be tremendous. The drawback on the wine lineup was that they were all of good solid quality that it was difficult for any one or two of them to standout. Each variety, white or red, was a solid, subtle, smooth representation of its style. Maybe not daring but solid and enjoyable. Ones to definitely take home with confidence that you'll enjoy them there as well as you did in the tasting room. For reds, I really liked both vintages of the Field 3 as well as the Uplands Reserve. For whites, which were very crisp, clean and subtle, it was hard to go wrong again: Cupola, Vin 10 and their Riesling were quite nice. Finally, I am not usually a blush fan. However, their Badger Blush was a blush I could welcome home as well and actually we did take some home. And finally, after all of this, the prices were quite reasonable as well.

Barrel Head Winery (written Jul 26, 2015)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars

Favorite Wine: Iowa Dry Red Leon Millot

Visited this winery heading into the Easter Weekend 2015. We had heard and read good reviews of this winery for their red wines and we were not disappointed. John, the owner and winemaker greeted us. He is a gracious host and just a little bit ornery (in a good way). And very proud and passionate about his work. If I was him, I would be too. For this eastern Iowa/upper Mississippi region, I would rate this the best dry red line-up overall. I like Wollersheim's Marechal Foch (locally grown) and Pinot Noir (not locally grown) for those two varieties better. But overall I give Barrel Head the nod for best dry red lineup overall in this area. My favorites were 1. Iowa Dry Red Leon Millot; 2. Iowa Dry Red Noiret; 3. Iowa Dry Red Select Table Wine. Incredible quality off of these couple acres. I would tell you more about what I like about these three wines but there is none left in my cellar as they were quickly consumed and enjoyed when we got back home. We're going to restock on our next trip to Wisconsin.

Vine Street Cellars (written Nov 27, 2014)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars

Favorite Wine: Norton

We had friends bring a Norton to our home from this winery tonight. It was pretty darn good. It was of a jammy KC style but not overly so like some. Definitely could recognize it as a Norton. Made me wonder if they sourced the grapes from Missouri. If they grew them in their Iowa vineyard, then this is hands down the best Iowa or Nebraska Norton we have tried. I contacted the winery later via FB and they told me the grapes are indeed grown locally in Mills County. I am really excited about the idea of being able to purchase a good Norton close to home. We didn't visit the winery yet, so ignore the stars for winery and ambiance. But a visit is definitely on our short-term bucket list.

Wollersheim Winery (written Oct 19, 2014)
Wine: 5 stars Winery: 5 stars Ambiance: 5 stars

One of the nicer Midwest Wineries we have visited by far. The grounds and buildings are among the most attractive we've seen. The wines were very well made. Wollersheim makes their wines from both estate grown and grapes brought in from NY. The winemaker and owner Philippe is from France so they also sell wine from his father's winery in France. Since the vinifera based wines were not made from locally grown grapes we didn't focus on them. All of the wines seemed to have a high level of delicacy and finesse to us. We didn't really taste a bad one on our visit. The star of the show for us was their estate grown Marechal Foch. Wollersheim bottles two versions we really liked: a Domaine du Sac and also a reserve. The reserve was not available for purchase on our visit but we did get to do a tasting of it. These wines also had a low percentage of Leon Millot blended in as well. We enjoyed them both. By far the best Foch we have ever tasted. Just this week now in October after our July visit, we opened up the Domain du Sac. It was a 2013 vintage. It was even better than I remember from our July visit. Very delicate. Very enjoyable. Already complexity is evident. Old World style which is what we prefer over California style fruit bombs. Upon tasting it again, I am going to say it makes our top ten of all wines tasted. Especially when you consider how young this wine is. Not harsh at all. We're going back to the area in November and we'll be purchasing a case of this new fave.

Glacial Till Vineyard (written Sep 15, 2014)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 4 stars

Favorite Wine: Chambourcin

After visiting Glacial Till's Ashland tasting room several times, we finally were able to visit their vineyard for their 6th Annual Harvest Festival. The production facility prominently pictured on their label sits atop a hill southeast of Lincoln about halfway between the towns of Palmyra and Bennet. The vineyards cover a north facing slope which overlook a bout as pretty of a vista as you're going to find in Eastern Nebraska. The day had lots of events ranging from human foosball to rock toss to several raffles to wine tastings to local breweries to a great live band named Red Delicious. It was a great day. Oh and 'Starvin' Marvin' provided the best BBQ ribs I have eve had. It was a great day and a great crowd.

Holy-Field Vineyard and Winery (written Sep 08, 2013)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 4 stars Ambiance: 4 stars

Favorite Wine: Chambourcin

The wine here came to me highly recommended and I was not disappointed. The Chambourcin here was among the very best I have tasted. The Norton was in a jammy Cynthiana style. It is a very good representation of that style. I have also heard this style referred to as the Kansas City style. It's not my favorite personally but this one was very, very good again for this style. I would suspect many people will love the Cynthiana here. The Corky's Barrel is a semi-dry blend that's very nice and has a fun sting on the finish. For the whites we liked the Chardonel. It was buttery smooth. The Seyval was nice too again with a nice tart finish. Their Port was nice. We finished up with a Blackberry fruit wine. This Blackberry was the most pure expression of the fruit we have tried in about a dozen different wineries. I liked that it had a bit of fruit tartness on the finish. Nice that it was very fruity without being syrupy. We were impressed by the vineyards. We were happy to buy a case a wine to take home. We will stop again.

James Arthur Vineyards (written Aug 18, 2013)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 4 stars Ambiance: 4 stars

Favorite Wine: Pokey Red

August 18, 2013 Addendum: visited on this Saturday evening. The band was playing and the crowd was huge. I think this was the biggest crowd we have seen at a winery anywhere. Two wine tasting notes: 1. I really liked their 2012 Dry Vignoles. Definitely 4 stars. Wow. A wine I REALLY like this close to home. Second, JAV doesn't have the red wine thing down yet. Their sweet reds and all their whites are obviously drawing in the crowds and I like them as well. But dry reds are not the reason to come here. We love the setting with the gardens and landscaping. Makes for a very relaxing day. Their sweet wines are what they do best. However it is nice to see they are expanding more into the dry reds. The Pokey Red is a good start. Their Norton has a ways to go yet. Sweet wines worth noting are Edelweiss, Snappy White, Heartland White and Amo Te.

SchillingBridge Winery and MicroBrewery (written Jul 01, 2013)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 4 stars Ambiance: 3 stars

Favorite Wine: Chambourcin

We've always heard good things about Schillingbridge both for their wines and their beers. On our visit today, we were not disappointed. A nice acreage of well maintained grapes greeted us on our entrance. The tasting room/restaurant was among the largest we have encountered. Definitely the largest we have seen in either Nebraska or Iowa. (There is another large room to your right when you first enter.) While spacious, it seemed more like a cafe than a winery tasting room. But maybe I have grown accustomed to the over-decorated or themed tasting rooms I have seen elsewhere. As for the wines, there was not one we did not like. The drier wines were our favorites as usual though. They had a dry white named Chef's Choice that was primarily made from the Aurore grape. It reminded me of a floral Sauvignon Blanc or Seyval Blanc. I usually have trouble liking dry whites but I liked this one quite a bit. Not sure how a real connoisseur of whilte wines might feel about it though. The aurore grape was used in several of their wines including a blush that was quite nice. Usually for me a lot of blushes/roses I try have an element that is off-putting to me. Not this one with the Aurore grape though. The wine I really liked here was their dry Chambourcin. Nicely done. They had a Baco Noir that my wife liked quite well. I liked it too for what it was but so far I have not developed a real liking to Baco Noir or even Pinot Noir for that matter. On the beer side of things, I thought they were all decent but not as bold and flavorful as a lot of craft beers I have tried. Some of this is due to their seasonal ones on tap this day were summer beers intended to be lighter. The standard lager, Git-R Done was my favorite on this trip. Had a pleasant, a bit on the sweet side, finish. Speaking of finish, we ended our day with a fabulous Prime Rib dinner. If you're at Schillingbridge on a Saturday, I would highly suggest you partake in the Prime Rib. You do need to make reservations though a day ahead. This is because they start the meat through a 24 hour cooking journey that includes lots of wine. I was able to cut it with my fork it oh so flavorful. The beer bread was like a steak in an of itself. When I first heard it came with a cream corn side, I was like "Well, OK, whatever. Too bad there wasn't a different side." However, when I took my first glance and then my first bite of this creamed corn. WOW! It was crazy delectible. It couldn't have been good for me but who cares. We'll gladly visit again. Back to the Chambourcin: Nebraska is really coming along with their Chambourcin wines with Schillingbridge, Glacial Till and Silver Hills... leading the way.

Land of Nod Vineyard and Winery (written May 25, 2013)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars

Favorite Wine: Ironmaster Red Reserve.

The proprietor and winemaker is a very welcoming host. We really enjoyed him and his wines. While others have said his wines a not out of this world, they are definitely very nice. Not a bad one in the lot. His fruit wines were very smooth and clean. As one would expect from fruit wines, they are sweet but not overbearingly sweet. Probably some of the best fruit wines we've tried. Three grape wines were also available. His Bianca was an adequate representation of this variety. A smooth rose was nice as well. My favorite was his Ironmaster Red. It is unique. It was semi-dry. He said it was a blend of several hybrids from the University of Minnesota. He said there was St. Croix and Marquette in the blend. I think I might have detected some Frontenac as well. It was a little jammy in a good way. I liked it quite a bit. It's favor with me probably due in part to my being from the Midwest and thus my previous exposure to some of these varietals. My three stars say it was a good experience. It was tempting to go four based on how much we enjoyed our host. But three stars is nothing but a compliment.

Millbrook Vineyards and Winery (written May 24, 2013)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 4 stars Ambiance: 4 stars

Favorite Wine: Cabernet Franc

This winery sits in the midst of 35 acres of grapes with wooded hills and mountains on every side. Wine tastings are $10 but come with a pretty extensive tour of of the vineyards, crushrooms, tanks, barrels and bottling lines. There is also an art gallery on the second level. I really liked their Cabernet Franc. My wife also liked their Chardonnay. A new variety to me was an Italian varietal that was an interesting white. It is Tocai Friulano. It was raining the day we went but on a nicer day, it would be very easy grab a bottle wine and enjoy at the tables they have at their pond. On the weekends they have food service as well.

Terre Beau Vineyards (written Oct 30, 2012)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 2 stars Ambiance: 2 stars

Favorite Wine: K. C. (Norton / Chambourcin Blend

We gave this winery 2 stars meaning that we could take it or leave it. Didn't really stand out to us. However, that is not to say it is bad. Just didn't stand out. There Norton is dry but lighter bodied than I would really prefer. The Chambourcin was light as well but seemed to have a hint of a fortified brandy feel to it. I am sure that is not the case but it was sweeter albeit dry than other Chambourcins we've tried. The Vintner's Choice was a steel, non-oaked version of Norton which isn't my thing. I probably liked the KC best which was a fairly decent representation of a Norton/Chambourcin Blend. Nice people. I was just looking for fuller-bodied wines. August 2012 edit: opened a bottle of a Catawba at home that was semi-sweet and quite pleasant. Not syrupy like some other versions of this varietal. This white even had a hint of tartness. Not usually a fan of Catawba but instantly this one is my favorite. Upgrading my wine star rating to three stars.

Winery of Hot Springs, The (written Oct 29, 2012)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars

Favorite Wine: Arkansas Red

Nice gift shop and the museum is a nice extra. If you like sweet wines, this winery has a lot of sweet wines. We tried Razorback Red and Slick Willy. They were both Concord / Niagara blends. Of the two, the Razorback had more Niagara. While they weren't our cup of tea, I think they were good for what they set out to be. The staff was very nice and went above the call of duty. They recommended their driest wines in the house: Arkansas Red which was a blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Our hostess didn't know if these grapes were produced locally or shipped in from California. Upon further conversation we gleaned that most of this tasting rooms wines come from the Altus, AR AVA so my guess is these two vitis vinifera were produced in Arkansas as Altus does grow quite a bit of vinifera. The Arkansas Red was not dry. It was rather semi-sweet and dry drinkers like us found traits to like that we bought a bottle. The helpful staff also recommended we taste their Rosé. I am not usually a fan of Rosé but this was nice. So we bought a bottle of it too. Overall if you want a nice staff, a nice gift shop and a tasting room while in Hot Springs, then you will be happy with your visit. If instead, you want to see a working winery and / or vineyards and a special setting, you will be better off going elsewhere. We will stop again when we're in Hot Springs.

Big Cottonwood Vineyards and Winery (written Oct 13, 2012)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars

Favorite Wine: Frontenac

We came here after really enjoying ourselves at Silver Hills. Cottonwood was nice but not quite as nice as Silver Hills to us in terms of the wine or the ambiance. But this really is no knock. The DeChaunac here was average so pretty good. But it was a little vinegary or perhaps green. Typical in a Nebraska DeChaunac. Good enough to buy just not good enough to rave about. Their Frontenac was pretty darn good. I anticipate that as this winery gets a few more seasons under its belt my impression will only get better. We will come again on another day when we can focus on them more.

Silver Hills Vineyards and Winery (written Oct 13, 2012)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 4 stars

Favorite Wine: Twelfth Harvest Red

Enjoyed our day here in September. They were serving free Bratwurtz and Italian Sausages so how can one go wrong. The owners were very nice. The dry reds were some of the nicest we have tasted in Nebraska and Iowa. I liked the SilverFox from trying it elsewhere previously.It is a nice blend of Marechal Foch and Frontenac. My surprise of the day was their DeChaunac. It might be the best DeChaunac I have ever tried. We both liked their semi-sweet Twelfth Harvest Red since it was a warmer day. Nice blend of Valient, Foch and Frontenac. All the wines were nice here. Dry to Sweet, Red to White. It was really neat to see the place was packed. Silver Hills has a good amount of patio space and every seat was taken. This is a good hour or so north of Omaha and the locals plus "tourists" like us were out in force. Neat to see the wine culture catching on.

Breezy Hills Vineyard (written Jul 21, 2012)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 2 stars

Favorite Wine: Vignoles

More good than bad so let me start with the so-called bad to get it out of the way so I can focus on the good. The dry-reds are not the strong point of this winery. And probably most midwestern wine drinkers will not care. The reds all seemed to have a minerally taste I often find in western Iowa reds. Might be a terroir thing. And for me this minerally taste is off-putting so far. Their de Chaunac was a positive exception to this. I thought their version was about as fruity as any I have tasted and its full flavor covered up all but just a slight hint of the mineral tones. The de Chaunac was good. Didn't try their fruit wines but I bet they were good as their whites ranging from semi-dry to sweet we're all good and crisp as far as the ones we tasted. Our favorites were a semi-dry Lacrosse,a sweeter Brianna and a very crisp, yet sweet Vignoles. The Vignoles was sweet without gettng syrupy, actually pretty crisp and just a wonderfully floral, tropical nose that is typical of a good Vignoles. The Brianna was good but the Vignoles here ran paces around it in our opinion.

Danish Countryside Vines and Wines (written Jul 21, 2012)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars

Favorite Wine: Tivoli Celebration

The winery owner here is just a gem of a man and a Norton Wine enthusiast as well. And you have to be to make the attempt to get Norton to grow North of the Iowa/Missouri state line let alone north of I-80. But hey, where there is a will there is a way. Of the wines three of us tried and shared this day, we did not really taste a bad one. For the dry wines they struck me as more European in style rather than fruit-forward. Some of the dry reds could have used more oak in my opinion but again that is not to say they were bad. I liked the Tivoli Celebration best among the dry reds. The Norton which is Named Horse Trader here was decent. It seems that when I am out tasting, I get a lot of fruit forward and sweet wines and all of those make me less appreciative of subtle reds like this Horse Trader Norton. Later though when I get home and relaxed and not so ADD'd from tasting a whole bunch of wines, I end up really liking these more subtle European-style dry reds. I think Horse Trader will be the same. I also liked his dryer (not real dry though) steeled Chardonnel. My son who has a greater appreciation of the sweeter wines really liked the Danish Arbor wine which is a Concord.

Galena Cellars Vineyard and Winery - Dowtown (written Jul 18, 2012)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 4 stars Ambiance: 4 stars

Favorite Wine: General's Reserve Red

We really liked the reds here. Nothing at all wrong with the whites. The whites were good and representative of other good whites we have tried over the years. This winery excelled in our opinion in the red varietals such as Frontenac and Marachal Foch. The wines with these varietals were clean and smooth. No funky off-notes or harshness. Our favorite was General Reserve Red which was a blend of Frontenac and Syrah. A close second was Eric the Red which was a very nice Marachal Foch. Their Vineyard Red, a St. Croix, was nice. But as a strange twist it didn't rate as well with us because it didn't taste like the wines of this varietal we have had in Eastern Nebraska and Western Iowa where we were first exposed to this grape. Yeah I know: IRONIC. The town of Galena itself is just a gem. I had read about it and seen photos over the years and I was afraid once I finally got there it wouldn't live up to my expectations. Actually as hyped up as I was the town blew me away. We are definitely going to come back for a weekend. You gotta love main streets that wind and bend. Next visit we will take in the vineyards east of town in the Mississippi hills (not just the tasting room in town).

Slattery Vintage Estates (written Jul 11, 2012)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 4 stars Ambiance: 5 stars

Favorite Wine: Poet''s Red from Cuthills Vineyards

This vineyard is perhaps the most beautiful tasting room and outdoor seating area we have visited in Nebraska. Multi-level decks some of which are covered, outdoor fireplaces including a wood fired oven for pizzas, single tables under ivy covered trellises, pond with ducks and lots and lots of beautiful landscaping. And there is glamour camping too. Nice tasting room inside with neat cellar-like sales racks, fireplace inside as well. It all makes for a very nice escape. This vineyard is not bottling their own wines yet but . . . SVE provides the opportunity to taste wines from all across Nebraska. On this particular trip we really liked a wine called Silverfox from Silver Hills winery in Tekamah. It was a very pleasant and smooth dry Red. Our favorite on this outing was from an old favorite of ours: Cuthills Vineyards in Pierce. The wine was very nice in a lot of ways. It's called Poet''s Red. Upon the first sip I thought on the front end, "Ooops, this one is going to be a semi-dry or maybe even a semi-sweet. But that sensation was gone immediately as the front end transitioned to a nice peppery finish. Dry and peppery but delicate at the same time.And Poet's Red is a very, very pretty red. No Cinnamon flavor mind you, but cinnamon color, bright red. It was like it glowed or was on fire in terms of color. Very interesting. I don' t know what grape varieties were in either of these wines but both surprised me as being far better than what I have had previously from Nebraska wines. We really liked our time here and will definitely come back. I am giving the ambiance five stars but was tempted to downgrade because our tasting room host was trying to hurry us. But with that said, I think she might have been new and was nervous I think. She calmed down nicely as we spent some time with her. It would have been nice if she knew more about what she was pouring but then again these weren't this vineyards wines. Despite the few nitpicks a very nice experience.

Cellar 426 (written Jun 23, 2012)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 4 stars

Favorite Wine: Treno and Sunset Red

We visited during their first two weeks of being open. The wines were surprisingly good for such a new venture. Most were a little bit sweeter than we liked but not way out there. They had a decent drier red too. More wines are being introduced at a couple a month over the summer. Be sure to visit their website which has a blog that goes over their adventure of dreaming the place up, finding the site and building the tasting room and production facility. The winemaker also describes his internship working at a California winery. Nice food selection. While it is a nice facility year-round, I think their beautiful elevated deck will really excel in the Fall as it overlooks a wooded valley between wood hills with the Lincoln skyline on the western horizon. The tasting room has sort of a lodge feel and with its fireplace, it will be a perfect place to waste away a winter day.

Prairie Crossing Vineyard and Winery (written Jun 05, 2012)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 2 stars

Everything was just sort of bland for us here. Nothing bad. But nothing to stand out either. Didn't have a bad experience but we've never found a reason to go back or choose it over other wineries in the area. Their strength would be typical sweet Midwest wines.

Windcrest Winery (written Jun 05, 2012)
Wine: 1 stars Winery: 2 stars Ambiance: 1 stars

Favorite Wine: St. Vincent

We really liked the winemaker here. He is just a very nice guy. Unfortunately, we didn't really like the wines or the ambiance of the tasting room. The view down the hill across the vineyards toward the lake was nice though. The wines, with the possible exception of the St. Vincent, we're 1 and 2 stars (out of 5). They all tasted similar with what seemed to be a soapy taste. Not as soapy or disagreeable as the ones we had at Endless Summer in Missouri but toward that end of the spectrum. He had many fruit wines here that we're semi-sweet to maybe semi-dry like Endless Summer had. And again, if this is a particular style, we have a long way to go before we learn how to appreciate it. The one exception, mabe to this was a enjoyable, by comparison to the rest of the wines here, again was the St. Vincent.

Glacial Till - Tasting Room (written Jun 05, 2012)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 5 stars

Favorite Wine: Chambourcin

As we visited Glacial Till Vineyard's tasting room in downtown Ashland everything said quality and relaxation. Thus we were not really surprised when the wines were a clear step above anything we have had before in our home state of Nebraska. The wines, in general were crisp, clean and bold. Their Chambourcin was the most fruit forward I have ever tried. The Seyval Blanc in a steel and an Oaked style were nice to us especially since we're not usually white wine fans. Again everything said understated, yet clearly quality. For instance, they decided to do bigger pours and quality stemware paired appropriately to each given wine. Nice art gallery upstairs. The downtown had a nice buzz on the Sunday we went. We will have to visit the vineyards in Palmyra next time. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, we thought this tasting room and the wines compared very favorably with anyplace we have been. I am tempted to give the wines four stars. That might be stretching it but they're definitely a high three.

Deer Springs Winery (written Jun 05, 2012)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 4 stars

Favorite Wine: St. Croix

Nice farm house restored to make the tasting room with lots of nice shaded grounds. It made me feel like I had stepped back in time to the fondly remembered family picnic gatherings of my youth. The wines were on the plus side of Nebraska wines. Decent enough. No real stand outs but pleasant. The St. Croix was smooth if a little thin. But nice St. Croix flavor. On this particular day they were serving chips with a vy nicely roasted salsa. We can see ourselves going back to relax for the day.

OakGlenn Vineyards and Winery (written Apr 29, 2012)
Wine: 1 stars Winery: 2 stars Ambiance: 3 stars

This winery has a great river bluff view. The wines though are probably below average. Been here twice and the wines were disappointing the second time as well

Bias Vineyards and Winery (written Apr 29, 2012)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 4 stars

Our second visit after a less than impressive visit a few years back. Not as bad this time around but still too many other choices we like better to purchase wine here. On our previous visit All the wines must have been very oxygenated. This time none of the vinegary, raisin flavors.

Robller Vineyard Winery (written Apr 29, 2012)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 4 stars

Favorite Wine: Le Trompier Noir and Norton

Went back to Robller after our first visit several years ago. Apparently my tastes have matured or my horizons have expanded. I really liked the wines this time. Very much so. I liked every one of their dry reds. Hard to choose but my favorite was either the Le Trompier Noir or their elegant, spicy Norton. As so many others have said here, the family is a real privelege to meet and be in their presence.

Stone Hill Winery (written Apr 29, 2012)
Wine: 5 stars Winery: 5 stars Ambiance: 4 stars

Favorite Wine: 2001 Norton

Been Coming to Stone Hill for years. This latest visit was to partake in their Norton Vertical Tasting. Maybe the top wine experience of our lives was had. We started off with hor d'ouvres with champagne style Blanc de Blanc and Brut Rose in the Apostle Cellars. Then we proceeded to the vertical tasting with vintages stepping up year-by-year from 2002 through 2011. Oh the Aged Nortons were so good. We liked the 2002, 2005, 2007, and 2009 the best. Not all for the same reasons though. The 2011 was off to a very good start and seems it will be very good in the years to come. The favorite by vote of all the guests was the 2005. Then we were off to a three course meal. The main entree of a bison filet was unbelievably good. The first course was paired with a dry Vignoles. The bison was paired with a 2001 Norton which has been my favorite for some time. It didn't disappoint. By the time we got to the dessert with a Norton Port, we'll I was at my limit. I sometimes note the negative reviews of the Stone Hill wines. My guess is that if you like sweet white wines from other Missouri winemakers, you will note that Stone Hils whites are different. As such, we didn't care for the Blanc de Blanc or the Vignoles. The Norton however was to die for. Stone Hill to us is in our top three in the U.S. for quality aged Norton. And since it was Stone Hill that first introduced us to this grape, we will remain always endeared to it. The evening was great from start to finish including the opportunity to speak with the Held family. If you ever get a chance to do this dinner, do it.

Endless Summer Winery (written Apr 29, 2012)
Wine: 1 stars Winery: 1 stars Ambiance: 3 stars

Brand new and striving to be different. Unfortunately, in our opinion, Endless Summer's offerings are different but not good. The owner wants to be different by specializing in fruit wines rather than grapes. Second he wants to be different by offering semi-sweet or semi-dry fruit wines rather than sweet fruit wines. He had pear, apple, pineapple, pecan-raisin among others. Hopefully it is just us, but we couldn't really find the different fruit flavors. They all tasted almost the same with the same flavor being something soapy. The owner is new and very enthusiastic. We enjoyed him but hope he offers some other styles as well soon or we fear he won't gather a following to sustain his business.

Belvoir Winery (written Apr 29, 2012)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars

Favorite Wine: Norton

A very unique location for a winery and they even have a paranormal tour of the buildings once a month as the owner's son-in-law told us Belvoir is ranked #2 in Missouri for such activity. The buildings ( a former orphanage, home for the poor, retirement home and hospital) represent an unimaginable amount of overhead and upkeep. As such the grounds are not in immaculate condition. The tasting room is just a tiny fraction of the entire site. All in all the ambiance was a little confusing or maybe even disappointing. Don't want to be too harsh but just want to lower the bar a little because I accidentally came in with unrealistic expectations for the buildings, grounds and ambiance. The wines were pretty nice. Very soft. Definitely not going for big fruit or bog oak. Again what I think others have told me is a distinct Kansas City style to the Norton that carried over to their other offerings. The son-in-law told said that they are on the verge of a major business deal in another venture that could result in major capital becoming available to the longstanding plans for Belvoir. Keep an eye on what happens here. Exciting days could be ahead.

Ladoga Ridge Winery (written Apr 29, 2012)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 4 stars Ambiance: 4 stars

Favorite Wine: Norton

Beautiful grounds are your first impression. Then a very nicely done tasting room. During our visit we were the only ones there and received a warm and enthusiastic welcome from the father and daughter team. Given how new this winery is the wines were surprisingly good. There Norton was a good representation of what had been previously described as the Kansas City style. Ladoga made me appreciate this style more. Didn't really taste a bad wine although some were in styles not in our range of preference. We will definitely come back and enjoy their wines and park like setting. Very relaxing. Smithville Lake is just a few blocks away.

Riverwood Winery (written Apr 29, 2012)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars

Favorite Wine: Cynthiana

The physical plant is a lot larger on the inside than it appears from the outside. Lots of choices in the gift shop area. The wines were okay if unremarkable. Look for the wines to imorove as time goes on. The owner is very nice and has a great knack of making you feel relaxed. At least this was our experience as the only guests on a Thursday morning. We found the reds better than the whites. His Cynthiana was a little different and in a good way. It is a nice alternative as a semi-sweet style Norton. Still prefer the dry personally but this should broaden the base of those who like Norton. We will stop again.

Pirtle Winery (written Apr 29, 2012)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars

Favorite Wine: Vignoles

We've been coming to this winery for a lot of years and the wines seem to get a little better each year. Way back when our favorite was the Mellow Red which is a sweet Concord. Over the years our tastes have migrated to the dryer wines. The Chambourcin was nice on this last visit. The Norton was sold out so we'll have to wait for another time. The real surprise on this latest visit was their Vignoles. It was very crisp, floral and yet not syrupy sweet and not bitter dry. Perfecto. We are thinking about having our Missouri Wine and Grape Board free tasting for 10 here. The town of Weston is a real treat. The lovely restaurant, The Vineyards, is right across the street, O'Malley's, an Irish bar you have to step inside to appreciate how cool it is, is just a half-block away (if you use the shortcut) as well as other neat shops / restaurants and a distillery to boot. Plenty of neat B&B choices too. Overall the wines are a three with the Vignoles a strong four. Weston as a whole is a 4.

Soaring Wings Vineyard (written Dec 12, 2011)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 4 stars

Favorite Wine: Norton

We've been to the winery several times before in the heat of summer. As such we tended to the sweeter wines that were chilled. We're not big fans of the sweeter wines and Soaring Wings sweet wines all seem to be syrupy on the white side or have a foxy (bubble gummy) taste on the red end of the spectrum. Today we went on a "warm" December day (40's) so we could focus on the dry reds. In particular we wanted to try their new Norton. We each had a glass of the Norton and it was decent. Smooth, jammy with a slight pepper on the finish. It's nose was typical of what we find in Nebraska and Iowa grapes. More fruit to it. I don't kmow if it is fig, currant, raisin or what but it's consistently there. We probably would have been well served if we had stopped with the Norton. But we proceeded to try the Chambourcin, Syrah, Dechaunac and St. Croix. To us at least, they all pretty much tasted and smelled almost the same. I would give a slight advantage to the Norton, Chambourcin and St. Croix in that order over the others. Part of their advantage was they had a fuller nose and body. In our limited travels, I am tempted to say Eastern Nebraska/Western Iowa, Hermann / Augusta, Mo, Ste. Genieveve and Virginia have definite differences in terroir. The Norton we had today is the best representation we have had yet in the Nebraska / Iowa style which we appreciate dearly. But it is still quite a ways below the other areas aforementioned. In all fairness, the Norton today was very young with a 2010 vintage. We bought a bottle to lay down. We'll try it again in 4 or 5 years and see what some age does.

Augusta Winery (written Dec 04, 2011)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars

Favorite Wine: Norton

It’s street corner, metal building entrance to the tasting room didn’t create the best first impression or ambiance for me. But up the hill they have nicer grounds and there is actually some nice outdoor seating areas back at the tasting room too. Go there with a few friends on a nice fall day or evening and the ambiance would be just fine. We liked several of the wines here. The price points on many of them were very nice as well. We liked their Norton. My wife thought it was very good. She felt it had a buttery undertone that she hadn’t picked up in any other Nortons. I couldn’t make this flavor out myself but I still felt this was a nice Norton at a 3+ to 4 stars. They were sold out of their Norton Reserve so it might have been better yet. I liked their Reserve Red which is a blend of Norton, Chambourcin and St. Vincent. As I tasted their Chambourcin, I thought it was rather flat compared to their Nortons. The hostess pointed out that this Chambourcin is a great compliment to foods such as pizza and its lighter character wouldn’t overpower the food. Upon a few more sips and taking her words in, I concede her point. Their Chambourcin as a table wine is nice too. Finally, I liked their unoaked Chardonnel at a ridiculously low price of $9.13 a bottle. Then there is their Vintage Port which is a very special Port and again at a very reasonable price. This Port is a solid 4 stars.

Baltimore Bend Vineyard (written Nov 01, 2011)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars

Favorite Wine: 2006 Cynthiana

We added this winery to our upper tier of wineries in Missouri. They had several nice wines including several interesting blends. Many nice price points too. The 2006 Cynthiana was a nicer one that we have tasted. It was full-bodied and fruity with just enough oak and nicely balanced. The Norton Chambourcin blend was quite nice too. They had a couple really interesting blends in the Encore (Cynthiana, Chambourcin, Chardonel and Concord) and the Joli Vin which is a blush comprised of Norton, Seyval and Chardonel. The interior of the tasting room is very nicely done. We didn't use the outdoor patio due to the late October weather. Too bad the deck isn't in a different setting that along the highway. But heck with your special someone or the right friends, the deck is probably okay too.

Jowler Creek Winery (written Nov 01, 2011)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars

Favorite Wine: Red Cock-a-Doodle Do

We liked our enthusiastic host and the whole sustainable ag theme of this winery. The dry Norton and Chambourcin were a little light to our liking. We would have preferred more fruit and oak. They have a sweet but very light Catawba blend called Butterfly Blush. Sweet without being syrupy. I picked their Red Cock-a-Doodle Do as my favorite because it is very different from others I have tried. This last wine is a Concord-Norton blend with a good Concord start but a nice Norton finish that reminds me of cloves when it is done. Don't know if I could drink a whole glass of it or not. But we bought a bottle of it so we will find out. The Nort (Norton Port) is decent at a lower price point. Yet there are several other Norton ports I like better. The winery and local countryside is very nice. The Babydoll Sheep are not to be missed. We will visit again.

Hilltop Orchards (Furnace Brook Winery) (written Oct 25, 2011)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 4 stars

Favorite Wine: Zinfandel

Very nice setting on the grounds of the Hilltop Fruit Orchard. Now doing wine too. First winery we visited in the Northeast so we didn't have anything to compare to. Our tasting hostess told us that the wines would be a typical New England style in that they are lighter bodied. I would agree they were lighter bodied but pleasant nonetheless. Sort of refreshing. Between the Cabernet Sauvignon and the Merlot, I liked the Cab better and my wife the Merlot. Both of us liked their Zinfandel best. It was approaching a medium body in our estimation. Unless you select fruit wines, all the grapes are shipped in from elsewhere. Later visits to other wineries in the area pointed out that Furnace Brooks wines are lighter in comparison. I would probably prefer bigger wines but still a good drink and an excellent day in the country at the orchard. Got a peck of Honey Crisp apples and some of their Hard Cider on our way out. The apples were fantastic.

Les Trois Emme Winery and Vineyard (written Oct 25, 2011)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 4 stars

Favorite Wine: Shiraz Cabernet

The personal touch the husband and wife put into our experience made this a delight. First, we were greeted by the owner who explained that he and his wife named Les Trois Emme (the three M's) after their three daughters and then proceeded to tell us the story behind the name of all of their wines. They had a pretty extensive selection. Then his wife took over and told us that in order to try their wines we would "have" to subject ourselves to their food pairings as well. The pairing were very very nice. The food was fabulous but the crab cakes and the melted cheese season with dillweed on a thin rye bread were my favorites. They bring their grapes from California and do all the processing then on-site. We liked several (the food pairings helped no doubt). Didn't really try the whites. My wife really liked their Old Vine Zinfandel. I liked their Shiraz Cabernet best. Although their Malbec was very tasty and very unique compared to any other Malbec I have had. It had a certain element to its flavor I found very intriguing. We would go back to this winery again for the fabulous food pairings again if nothing else. I didn't ask to confirm but I got the impression that the food is always part of the deal here.

Honora Winery (written Oct 25, 2011)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 4 stars Ambiance: 4 stars

Favorite Wine: 2006 Syrah

Very nice winery with good sized acreage. In town is the tasting room which is tastefully done. Nice seating and setting right alongside a mountain stream. We really appreciated the cheese case and really like an English Cheddar they had in addition to several nice Vermont options. Hurricane Irene in August actually put up to 18 inches of water in the tasting room and took away all of their maple syrup so we didn't get to try any of that. If we hadn't asked we would have never known they had just completed a pretty remarkable recovery. We liked all of the wines here. We were coaxed into trying the Chardonnays. One steel the other oaked. We liked both but the oaked better. Like other wineries in the area, the vinifera is brought in from California and crushed, processed, etc. on-site. We tried several reds which we liked. None were big and bold. The oaked varieties were done so very lightly. Our favorite by far was the 2006 Syrah. Very big yet clean fruit flavor with more of the peppery finish than other Northeast Syrah's we encountered. I am tempted to give the Syrah a 4 star rating but will leave it at a very strong 3.

Saratoga Winery, The (written Oct 25, 2011)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 4 stars Ambiance: 4 stars

Favorite Wine: Pinot Noir

We enjoyed this tasting room a lot. Even though it's located right along a fairly busy highway, the tasting room is decorated in a very fun way. Huge tree trunk slices form the tables. Several other decorations from someone handy with the chain saw are salt-and-peppered throughout. Very nice back patio. My attempt at words really is doing it no justice. But a very fun atmosphere. It was very relaxing on the early weekday we went. I can see where it could be a very lively atmosphere during events and weekends. The grapes are all brought here from other locations in New York and California and I assume points in between. We sort of liked all of the wines here. I think they must benefit from selecting only the varieties and lots they like to work with. While all were generally good, I liked the Pinot Noir best. PN is a newer adventure for me and I am still trying to get used to it. A bold PN is still a little too much for me. This medium-bodied Pinot Noir was just right for me at this stage. My wife liked the Cabernet Franc best. We both liked the Bloodroot Memomel as a unique port-like wine. Our hostess told us the melomel comes from recipe the owner got from an "old hungarian" known to the family.

Brookview Station Winery (written Oct 25, 2011)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars

Favorite Wine: Cassis

A nice fruit orchard that is also making wine. We had the pleasure of meeting the owner Sue and her daughter at the tasting bar. Brookview offers tastings and sells their wines plus limited examples from one other winery and a local winemaker. We didn't try the fruit wines nor the whites here. They had a light to medium-bodied European varietals which were fine but unremarkable. Very little oaking or at least very little oak flavor in their wines. I didn't care for their Vignoles or Cream Sherry at all. I found their Cassis very unique (at least to me as the uninitiated in New York wineries) and a very fun sweet wine. Sort of toward the port end of the spectrum perhaps. I would visit this winery and owner again although we liked some others in the 1 hour radius better.

Noboleis Vineyards (written Sep 20, 2011)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 2 stars

Favorite Wine: Traminette

We visited this winery late in the day and our taste buds were admittedly tired. This is again another very new winery. The Norton was good but didn't stand out from the Augusta pack. We felt their Traminette was a little more unique. There are a lot of new plantings visible from the highway so they are still ramping up production. Because everything is so new (not to mention a tornado that dropped down and tore off part of the roof on their building this past spring (2011), the tasting room experience lacks character in my opinion. We will visit again earlier in the day in a few more years when they have some more time under their belt.

Cedar Lake Cellars (written Sep 20, 2011)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 4 stars

Favorite Wine: Cabernet Sauvignon

This is a very new winery. Upon entering the grounds from ample parking, we were very taken in by the beauty of the grounds. There were several outbuildings of which one housed an antique firetruck. The whole area was very nicely "country-style" manicured meaning it was all very tidy but not to the point it was sterile. Finally the grounds had a very nice picnic area overlooking a beautiful pond or should I say lake. The dining and tasting area are very nice. The huge wooden doors to the entrance were bigger than life. As this is a very new winery, none of the wines are yet made from their vines. They did have a nice representation of the Norton from a local winemaker in the area. (I suspect it is Nobleis and their winemaker who was formerly at Mt. Pleasant.) As what seems to be a growing trend, they also had California Wines. They had a very nice Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. Could very easily see ourselves enjoying a peaceful afternoon here especially as the winemaking part of the operation matures. Footnote is that they give you a unique glass to keep as part of the paid tasting. Not the standard issue found at many wineries.

Westphalia Vineyards (written Aug 31, 2011)
Wine: 5 stars Winery: 4 stars Ambiance: 4 stars

Favorite Wine: 2008 Norton Reserve

This tasting room is located in the very charming village of Westphalia. And the tasting room itself is in a wonderful old hotel with the restaurant, party rooms and gift shop on the main level. Upstairs is the large tasting room and a sports room to boot. Wrapped around half of one side and all of the back of the building is a multi-level deck with additional seating. It is a very interesting building right from curb appeal and all the way through. There is a very cozy bar / restaurant next door, too. Next door be sure to try a Stag Beer. Mary Neuner, co-owner and wife of Terry, who apparently focuses on the restaurant portion of the enterprise, welcomed us on arrival and immediately made us feel right at home. Terry, co-owner, husband of Mary and winemaker, was very knowledgeable and a warm, friendly host. We really liked their dry reds. I liked the 2006 Norton Reserve that was offered in the tasting room best. It was smooth, had a distinctive Norton nose and yet had also a hint of Brandy-like undertones present. Coming in at a very close second for me was the Cabernet Franc. It was smooth with a bit of spice from the first sip and had a very nice warm, flush, comfort inducing feel to it. Coming in at #3 was Westphalia’s blend of Norton and Cabernet Franc which Terry has named Prodigal Son. It was very nice again and really has its own signature that is similar yet different from the two wines that make this blend. My wife liked Prodigal Son the best. She was very smitten by it. She couldn’t stop raving about it. Next for her was the Cabernet Franc and the Norton. The difference between the three red wines is very small. We both gave these three reds four stars out of five which means we would go out of our way to get these wines again. We give the entire operation and the town of Westphalia four stars as well. By the time we had what seemed like a quick tour, enjoyable tastings and chat with Terry and dinner, we we’re very surprised to learn that 3 ½ hours had passed. When it came to time purchase our wines at the end of our stay, Terry told us he was selling only the 2008 Norton Reserve and not the 2006 which we had tasted. I was a little apprehensive about this since I liked the 2006 so much. WOW! A couple days later we opened up a 2008 Norton Reserve in a relaxed setting, gave it just a little time to breathe and this Norton was fabulous. It was all the 2006 was and more. The 2008 had even deeper hints of what I would describe as pipe tobacco, mocha, nut, vanilla and raspberry or some type of berry anyway. It was so layered and complex and yet so smooth. It warrants the first five star rating I have ever given to a red. On the Norton Wine Travelers’ recommendation, we drove out of our way to visit this winery. Based on these wines and really our total experience we will drive out of our way to visit Westphalia again whenever possible. As a final aside, for those of you who are Norton enthusiasts, Terry shared that Jenni McCleod, owner of Chrysalis Winery in Virginia, had visited Westphalia a week before us. Those of you who have read Todd Kliman’s enthralling book “The Wild Vine” which is about the Norton grape and the varied cast of characters along the way has many interesting Virginia – Missouri connections. What Kliman’s book didn’t tell us is that Jenny is originally from Westphalia, Missouri. Jenny herself is yet another one of these connections.

Adam Puchta Winery (written Aug 31, 2011)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 2 stars

Favorite Wine: Vignoles

We've visited Adam Puchta several times and for us it is the sweet wines they seem to do best. We really think their Vignoles is above all other sweet style Vignoles. My wife also likes Adam's Choice but it is too sweet for me. This time areound we purchased Traminette and Misty Valley. For the really sweet, the Jazz Berry is an incredible Raspberry adventure. But I could never drink a whole glass of it as it is so sweet. Moving to the drier end of the spectrum, we have always read good things from other reviewers but our experience in the past for the dry reds here was so-so to the raisiny category especially for the Norton. This time the Norton was much better for us. But as this was our last day in nine days of Norton discovery, much better was not good enough to sway us off of our finds earlier in the week nor old standards from years gone by. It was a solid and good middle of the pack. I really like this winery and the owners. As a result, I really want to find what others are finding in the reds at Adam Puchta that I seem to be missing. Next time we visit, I think we are going to just spend a few hours here with a bottle of reserve, let it breathe, relax and see if the wine doesn't enlighten us. Which brings me to my last comment. I wish the seating area was a little more inviting or something. I can't really put my finger on what is missing. But our trips to this winery always seem to start with great expectations and experiences in the tasting area and then it seems to be a little bit of a gradual let down in the store and then to the seating area. Perhaps food service or meats and cheeses. Perhaps different seating areas or arrangements with some more private areas too? Something to say "Welcome, stay here, relax and enjoy yourself." I like this winery. I just want to like it more. We never visit the the area without stopping at Adam Puchta.

Sugar Creek Winery and Vineyards (written Aug 29, 2011)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 4 stars

Favorite Wine: Michael's Signature Red

Very nice grounds and refurbished home. We could see ourselves relaxing here at sunset. The wines were perhaps average, maybe a tad better than that. The Cynthiana wasn't bad at all, just not great. We liked Michael's Signature Red, a 70/30 Blend of Cynthiana (Norton) and Chambourcin, a little better. The Sunset Red, a semi-dry blend of Norton, Chambourcin and Noiret was a nice departure from the beaten path. We haven't encountered the Noiret before this trip but it has made a very nice first impression with us.

Chandler Hill Vineyards (written Aug 25, 2011)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 4 stars

The setting of the tasting room, restaurant and adjacent vineyards is very attractive. The building is gorgeous. Inside on a Thursday night in August when business was slow, the atmosphere was sort of devoid. The patio was nearly empty as well and the hired musician was sort of singing to himself. Unfortunately, I think this empty atmosphere translated into how we felt about the two wines we tried. Perhaps on a different night our experience would have been different. It was also our last winery of the day so our taste buds were probably tired. That being said, the one glass we had of Chambourcin and the Savage Norton each seemed a little uninspired to us. The Chambourcin was very light. The Norton was okay. But all I could seem to taste was the fruit. None of the fun layers or complexity of the best Nortons we had in the area. It was a mundane middle of the pack albeit in one of Missouri’s finest Norton producing areas. We will have to visit again when we can make this our first or second visit of the day and during a lively weekend. For now, though we were rather unimpressed.

Mount Pleasant Winery (written Aug 24, 2011)
Wine: 5 stars Winery: 4 stars Ambiance: 4 stars

Favorite Wine: Norton Estates

I really liked the wines here. I gave their Norton Estates 5 stars which is my top rating. Loved it. For full disclosure it was 15% Missouri Cabernet Sauvignon. So for you Norton purists . . . However, it was very good. Very smooth. I kept picking up all sorts of wonderful flavors. What seemed to be the most marked difference was this wine had an additional layer of coffee flavor to it. It even seemed to swish in my glass differently. Perhaps it was the Reidel stemware they were pouring in. Interesting sidenote, we tried this Norton in the regular Reidel glass side-by-side with the Reidel Norton glass. Both tastes were good but the nose and the taste were more complex and enhanced in the Norton glass. I was so impressed with this wine that I didn’t buy any. I came back for a second visit a day later prior to any other current day wine tastings to see if I was overly enthusiastic the day before. Day 2 confirmed that this is a great wine. I did something I have never done before. I joined the Mt. Pleasant Wine Club. This brought the price down significantly as I did purchase this wine after the second tasting. Plus, now I know I will always have some more of this Norton Estates and other MPE wines coming. I liked every one of their reds with the possible exception of their Merlot. But I think it was just overshadowed by the bolder selections side-by-side. On its own I think the Merlot would be fine. What impressed me most about the Cabernet Sauvignon is that it is the first Missouri grown example of this variety that smells and tastes like a Cab. I do not usually like Chardonnays that much, but I really liked the Chardonnay Estates here. Surprised me how much I liked it. We also liked the white Villagio Estates very much. I think our host said it is a blend of three varieties. I can’t remember which ones. Moving on to the winery, grounds, restaurant etc. I think it is all very smartly done. I felt like we were in a park or something. It is a little bit of a stretch I know, but it reminded me of how Disney themes its areas to a great level of detail. Since going to this winery for the first time, I have been fascinated as I further explore the history and influence of this winery on the area and the industry, its various winemakers over the years and the members of the Dressel family which owns the winery.

Montelle Winery (written Aug 24, 2011)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 4 stars Ambiance: 5 stars

Favorite Wine: Chambourcin

Most beautiful view of all the wineries we visited in Augusta area. Great place to relax or take in the entertainment. We probably caught a flat bottle of the Cynthiana as it was good but not great. It certainly didn’t stand out from other Nortons in the area. We did like the Chambourcin as a medium bodied table wine. We ordered a bottle with a chicken/red pepper/asparagus pizza here and it was easy to finish. Looking for something unique here I would point to the River Country Red (semi-dry to semi-sweet) and the Stone House Red which was sweeter yet. They just seemed a little different from some of the other reds in this category. I should have bought a bottle of their Cynthiana to try at home to see if it was any better. But I guess in the back of my mind, I knew that I liked the Norton at Augusta Winery (same owner between the two) at a lower price so I didn’t press the issue at the time. The wines were okay or good. The scenery and feel of the deck would bring me back. Beautiful setting and view.

Balducci Vineyards (written Aug 24, 2011)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars

Favorite Wine: Aria

Yet another nice winery in the Augusta area. I tried the Norton first. In any other area, I would probably rave about this Norton. It was very good. Only problem is that the Hermann-Augusta-Defiance area has a lot of good Nortons. The wines we liked best here were the semi-dries. First, the oaked Aria which is a blend of the Chambourcin and St. Vincent grapes. Next was the unoaked Sonata, an off-dry white blend of Vidal Blanc, Rayon D’Or and Chardonnel. Nice crisp, floral blend. Coming in third was an unoaked version of the Chambourcin / St. Vincent blend called Chiaretto. We thought these blends were rather unique and what set this winery apart. Our hostess was very nice and helpful.

Blumenhof Vineyards and Winery (written Aug 24, 2011)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 4 stars Ambiance: 4 stars

Favorite Wine: Femme Osage

We enjoyed the grounds immediately upon driving in. Lots of shade and lots of flowers in bloom. The overall of quality of their wines was quite good although it was hard to pick out a superb standout wine from their offerings. Having said that, the Original Cyn, their Norton, was rather average to me. We might have had an oxygenated bottle perhaps. They were sold out of their Chambourcin. The whites were all quite good including their dries: Seyval and Vidal Blanc. We sampled a new one to us: their Rayon D’Or. It was a quite pleasant semi-sweet (they listed it semi-dry). It was crisp and refreshing. They had a good and unique Traminette in the Femme Osage. I really like the Vignoles variety and I thought the Blumenhof Vignoles was as good of a semi-sweet version as I have ever tasted. I thought their semi-sweet Norton / Chambourcin blend, Devil’s Den Red, was quite good as well. Again the wines were all quite good. Only thing that held me back just a little is that they all were a bit to the sweeter end of the spectrum for my preference. Many, many people though would love the wines here just for that same reason though.

Peaceful Bend Vineyard & Eatery (written Aug 23, 2011)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars

Favorite Wine: Forche Renault

This winery had some very nice wines and the winemaker seems to enjoy trying some non-traditional (at least to us) varieties and blends than are usually found at most other Missouri wineries. I really liked their dry red blend called Forche Renault comprised of the St. Vincent and Noiret varieties. Their Meramec blend of Chambourcin and Norton was noteworthy in its smooth delivery. Their Norton was very unique. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this one. I passed on buying any of it and now I regret it. They also had another Chambourcin in a semi-sweet style called Yadkin Creek. It had a Chambourcin nose, a semi-sweet start and then a more typical dry Chambourcin finish. Nice. I was delighted to try their Dry Creek (Lot#3) which was an oaked Traminette. A very nice surprise. None of the bitter, metallic traits I usually find offensive in too many whites. Yet it had nice dry, oakey, buttery flavors. I would not have guessed this was a Traminette. Finally to the semi-sweet portion of the spectrum, we liked the Whittenburg which was a blend of three varieties of which the Vignoles was most prominent to us.

Heinrichshaus Vineyard and Winery (written Aug 23, 2011)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 2 stars

Favorite Wine: Chambourcin

When you visit Heinrichshaus you will not find a big fancy sign to welcome you. You won’t be impressed by groomed grounds or a fancy giftshop. None of that. What you’ll find instead is that Heinrich Grohe is a gem of a man, a native European of French and German upbringing, an experienced winemaker, an historian of two continents, an artist. and a treasure. When you visit this farm winery, you’re not visiting a commercial enterprise so much as you’re visiting the passion and lifelong journey of this man. Limited selection but every wine was a winner. I think his Chambourcin may be the best Chambourcin I have ever had (a solid 4 stars). I liked his blend called Prairie Rouge very much. He smiled with a twinkle in his eye as he told me it’s the winemaker’s secret when I inquired as to what the components of the blend might be. The Cynthiana was right on mark with a true signature of what we term the Arkansas style of the variety. Of all the reds on display, it was the only one that probably would have benefited with a little more time to breathe. Everything else was very smooth. The Chardonnel, the Traminette and the Vignoles were all very nice but as usual we liked the reds best. The Chardonnel was nice in our opinion. Heinrich told us he first started making wines in the US in 1958. I asked him what made him first start making wines and he said he simply wanted to be able to drink wines that taste good. Well sir, that you have done and done mighty well. Thank you for sharing yourself, your vast knowledge and your wines with us.

Meramec Vineyards (written Aug 23, 2011)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 2 stars Ambiance: 2 stars

Favorite Wine: Bistro Red

We liked the Chambourcin. We liked the Bistro Red better which is a Chambourcin / Syrah blend. The 2006 Norton was also good. On the white side I liked their clean crisp Vignoles best. We tried their dry Stark Star and their Semi-Sweet of this variety as well. The Stark’s Star grape is a cross of the Norton and Catawba. It wasn’t bad but the Catawba stood out more to me than the Norton. Again these weren’t bad per se. But I think I would just want the two flavors on their own rather than in combination

St. James Winery (written Aug 23, 2011)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 4 stars Ambiance: 2 stars

Favorite Wine: Louis (Podium Series)

I still don’t like the plastic thimbles at the self-serve bar. Thimbles might work for tasting sweet wines but they are useless for tasting anything dry. Very frustrating. We learned today they have a new series of dry whites and reds called the Podium Series. More on those later. First up is what I will call the regular series of dry reds. The 2006 Norton was more complex than the 2008. The younger wine was still a little harsh and pepper was really the only flavor I could pick up. Their Cynthiana was okay but otherwise unremarkable to us. After discussing these with us, our hostess pointed out that they have a newer series of just dry reds and whites: The Podium Series. We tried their “Louis” which is a 2008 Chambourcin. It was in an entirely different league than their other Chambourcin and Nortons/Cynthianas. Much more complex and robust. One of the best things about the podium series is that for $5 you get to sample them from an actual wine glass. The Louis is the first dry from St. James that I can really say I like. We left with a couple of the Louis, a 2006 Norton and two bottles of their Cherry Wine. We really like it but don’t really think of it as wine. We think of it as Cherry Cider that has a nice alcohol bite in a smooth package.

Chaumette Vineyards and Winery (written Aug 23, 2011)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 5 stars Ambiance: 5 stars

What a neat dream owner Hank Johnson is building. We arrived too late to try their wines but we were fortunate to enjoy a very nice, relaxing sunset dinner. What a difference fresh ingredients make. I hated to see the meal end. We had a three wine blend red named Assemblage. Like other wines in the Ste. Genevieve area, it had a slight mineral tone to it (could it be the terroir?) but very nice with the perfectly cooked sirloin tips of our main entrée. I would buy more of this wine but I don’t think it would be something to drink outside of a meal. Upon arriving we were met by the owner who immediately offered us a guided tour of the tasting room. We very much appreciate his taking the time to make us feel very welcome and special. I just loved everything about the facilities. My understanding is that everything is new construction make to look old and mimic the French Colonial history of the area. Inside the old touch is there but with class and a sense of elegance at the same time. The grounds and vineyards are all recipients of obvious care yet leave the impression of relaxed informality. I am not usually much into the gift shops on our winery visits. But I found Chaumette’s gift shop offerings quite extensive and interesting. We will find a way to someday get back to stay in the villas, partake in the offering of the spa and once again savor the fine food here. I hope that day comes sooner rather than later.

Twin Oaks Vineyard (written Aug 23, 2011)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 4 stars

Favorite Wine: Shady Oak

– The first thing you notice is how new and manicured the vineyards are at the front gates and the same for the grounds around the tasting room, patios, pond and parking lots. The wines were decent but not any real standouts. We tried the Norton and their Norton reserve (the Hutson Reserve) and their Chambourcin. Of these three the Hutson Reserve was marginally better but not to the tune of $39.95 a bottle in our opinion. As an overall value, we liked their Shady Oak best which is a Norton / Chambourcin blend. This is a new winery so a little more maturity and development will probably make future visits more memorable.

Sand Creek Vineyard (written Aug 23, 2011)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars

Favorite Wine: 2006 Chambourcin Reserve

Nice patio and oak barrels on display. The day we were here the one hostess behind the bar had no hope of keeping up with the size of the crowd. They were loaded up pretty heavy on the sweet wines and by this point in the day I had lost interest in that. The red Nortons and three different Chambourcins. My wife liked the Norton but to me it seemed quite flat. We both liked their 2008 Chambourcin Reserve which just came out of 36 months in oak. It was very, very nice. Solid four stars. The day we were there, we were told there were only four bottles left out of a total production of 18 cases. The price point of $34.99 caused us to hesitate. In hindsight, we probably should have bought a bottle. While it is true there are a few other great Missouri wines at lower price points, I would suggest there are few others to rival this Chambourcin at any price point. Hopefully, they find a way to replicate this one.

Charleville Vineyards (written Aug 23, 2011)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 4 stars

Favorite Wine: 2006 Norton Reserve

Quite an adventure getting to this winery but worth it. Once you finally make it to their driveway you will not quite a few working vineyards along the way up hill on their winding drive. You can make it easily in a sedan but you’d be more comfortable taking a higher clearance SUV. Once to the top though, they have a very nice set up with a wine and beer tasting room. Very nice outdoor patio and seating areas overlooking downward sloping vineyards. We tasted several nice wines which were average to better than average. Two notable offerings were the 2006 Norton Reserve and their Port. Three stars each flirting with four. If we lived in this area, we could see ourselves coming back often to enjoy the relaxing hilltop setting. (Apparently the locals do just this, as this winery was crowded even though it is the most remote by far of the area wineries.) Now, if there was only a way to improve the long winding driveway. But alas, it is part of the adventure.

Cave Vineyard (written Aug 23, 2011)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars

Favorite Wine: Chambourcin

The Cave Vineyard has a nice building for a tasting room. But it seemed pretty non-descript. There was a nice open-air covered pavilion just outside for picnics, group functions etc. There was a sign at the beginning of the trail to the cave that let us know we couldn’t visit the cave unless we purchased some of their wine. Now to the wines. The wines were pretty good. But nothing exceptional in our opinion. If I was a local resident, I would probably visit several of the other wineries in the area repeatedly before visiting this one. It’s not bad but as far as the wine and hospitability of the grounds, others in the area just do it better. I thought their Chambourcin and Norton were decent representations. Not the best review but I should note that there wasn’t a bad wine on the menu. Just not good enough for us to purchase theirs over other offerings in the area.

Les Bourgeois Vineyards & Restaurant (written Aug 23, 2011)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars

Favorite Wine: Chambourcin

From other reviews I came here expecting the wines to be so-so. And in general that was our experience. However, from the winery’s website I did expect to be a little more wowed by the buildings, ambience and grounds. First it was a little peculiar to us that the Bistro and the A-frame were at different locations on the river bluff site and then the tasting room was back at the interstate at a different site altogether. On our way off the interstate, we opted to come back to the tasting room if there were no offerings at the other location. (There weren’t as far as we could tell.) We arrived in the middle of the afternoon in mid-August. Although it was not very hot (especially for August), I suspect everything would have been nicer with fall colors and if it was about 10 degrees cooler. But everything seemed void of any real character to us. The wines were okay but nothing stellar here and many of them were $25 a bottle. Although we didn’t choose to buy any wines here, the ones I liked best were REDS: #1 Chambourcin; #2 American Red (a blend of Zinfandel, Merlot and Syrah) and #3 Norton. WHITES: #1 Solay (a blend of Chardonnel, Vidal Blanc and Vignoles) and #2 2009 Vidal Blanc. My wife (the better half of us) liked the Chambourcin and the Norton.

Hermannhof Winery (written Jul 04, 2011)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 4 stars

Favorite Wine: White Lady

We've been coming back to this winery for years. I will acknowledge, like the Norton Wine Travelers have said, the tasting room is not this winery's strongpoint generally. Just getting rid of the plastic tasting vials would go a long way. In the tasting room's defense, though, the sheer volume of visitors would make it difficult to keep that much glass clean and ready. With that weak point admitted up front, let me move to the strong points. If you get an chance to go on a Norton Wine Trail Tour Event, you will get a different tasting experience by being hosted in their cellar which is quite nice and you will get a personalized, educational experience. Even without the tasting room upgrade, the grounds are unique and attractive from the moment you park amid grapevines, walk up to the main building, encounter the expansive sausage case and then stroll outside to relax with a bottle of wine in the large biergarten to be matched by none anywhere else. (Relaxing on the grounds with bottle and some eats is a must. Plus they exchange the plastic vial with a glass when you purchase some wine by the bottle or glass to drink onsite. The wines. The dry reds are so, so. They have a very nice sweet Concord. Very deep rich flavor in addition to the usual sweetness. We're not white wine drinkers but we buy two whites from Hermannhof by the case. Germantown and White Lady of Starkenburg. They're not too dry with only a little sweetness. White Lady being the dryer of the two and our favorites. We also like their Vignoles as an occasional dessert wine.

Mount Bethel Winery (written Mar 30, 2011)
Wine: 4 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 4 stars

Favorite Wine: Can't pick just one: Syrah and Cynthiana, tempted to list more.

This was a repeat visit for us as our first visit was rushed. I very much like this winery. The hospitality is nice. The wines are pleasant and smooth. The price points are a pleasant surprise too! Apparently their clientele likes the sweeter fruit wines and if fruit wines are what you like, Mount Bethel is for you. However, their offerings are wide and there is something for everyone. We're not the best judges of whites and we only tried the Vignoles and the Viognier. Both were nice. I have more experience with the Vignoles and I like MB's in that it is very floral and aromatic without being too sweet or syrupy. We liked their Cabernet and Merlot. They have a semi-dry red blend currently made from Chambourcin. Pleasant little table wine. Their Cynthiana is different from the Missouri and Virginia Nortons we have tried. A little smoother and a pinch less dry. But the Cynthiana flavor is there nonetheless. (I opened a bottle at home and it didn't seem to have a lot of aroma at first, but it really bloomed after about thirty minutes as you would expect. I mean it really came alive in smell and flavor.) I called back to the winery today and ordered another case of the Cynthiana. The biggest surprise of the day for us was their Syrah. Wonderful. I am waiting until the weekend here at home to give the two bottles of Syrah our full attention. I expect we will probably be getting a full case of the Syrah soon as well.

Cowie Wine Cellars (written Mar 30, 2011)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 2 stars Ambiance: 2 stars

Favorite Wine: Robert's Port

We had read the Travelers review before arriving so my expectations were not too high. (There reviews have usually coincided with ours and vice versa.) And unfortunately the wines were just flat with no flavor to me. I didn't try the sweet wines. Maybe they're better. But if you're looking for something dry or even semi-dry, this winery has no offerings. Did buy a bottle of Robert's Port as a courtesy. It was okay.

Bias Vineyards and Winery (written Jan 01, 2011)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 1 stars Ambiance: 2 stars

On a 7 winery tour over two days, this was the least impressive winery for us. First, we found the wines to be not impressive. The dry reds all contains an earthy smell and taste we didn't like. In fact the reds were brown rather than red. Lots of raisin and fig flavors which we don't care for. Second, our tasting host couldn't have shown less interest in us. He was not able to answer any of our questions and just seemed to want to be somewhere else. We did find one sweet red that had almost a carbonated feel to it. Very clear and refreshing taste. It is called Sunset Red. Several others in our group commented positively on this wine too. Because of this one wine, I will upgrade my rank on their wines to two stars. Otherwise it would be a single star. The single star on the winery is due to the tasting host. The ambiance is due to a nice wooded setting. Of the seven wineries we toured in the Hermann area, this is the only one I wouldn't go back to. Maybe we should try their microbrewery next time if there is one.

Chrysalis Vineyards (written Jan 01, 2011)
Wine: 5 stars Winery: 4 stars Ambiance: 4 stars

Favorite Wine: Norton Locksley Estate (the Petit Manseng was great too)

Oh where to begin. So many enjoyable things to choose from during our late August 2010 visit. Let's begin with Kelda, the tasting room director. Albeit we arrived at the first minute of their morning hours and we we were greatly enthused to be visiting the largest acreage of Norton in the World and getting our first taste of Norton outside of the midwest. However, Kelda was just fabulous in her attention she gave us. She introduced us to her husband, Alan, the winemaker. He was busy with matters at hand, but she made sure he gave us a few minutes to get introduced. She told us how she would be sure to pass our regards on to Jenni the owner. And of course she was very knowledgable about all things wine. Kelda made us feel as if we were her only concern in the world. We left the winery wanting more and feeling like we were part owners or something. The winery itself is beautiful with its mountain setting and acres and acres of hillside vineyards. Very relaxing environment. The wines. First the Nortons. They were more robust or fruit forward (if I am using the term correctly) than all other Nortons I have had. More fruit, less oak and earthy elements. But not overdone either. Upon arriving one minute before close a couple days earlier after a long day's drive to "just get there", We had a bottle of 2006 Estate to tide us over until we could visit in earnest and it was good and robust but had not fully benefitted from more aging and mellowing. It was very good for a younger Norton but we know what an aged Norton can bring. Upon getting back to the winery for our actual visit, we tried the 2005 Estate and oh what a difference a year of aging made between it and the younger 2006. When Kelda suggested we try the 20005 Locksley Reserve, I was a little afraid to give it a try for fear that I might be disappointed and not see an improvement over the 2005 Estate Bottled. My fears were unnecessary. The Locksley was another level above. Wonderful. So full yet so smooth and without any tendencies toward the raisiny tones you can find in lesser Nortons as they age. We also tried the Sarah's Patio Red which again is made from Norton but I would describe it as less dry to almost semi-sweet. I gave it somewhat of a ho-hum at the winery but my wife really liked it. I am glad she purchased it because now at home I am really, really liking it. (Actually, it is all gone and we need to order more as soon as the temperatures warm to allow shipping. Not sure if Chrysalis actually ships but we're going to find out soon.) I hestitate to say the Nortons here are the best we have had because of loyalty to some of our other favorites. But the Chrysalis Nortons are tied with our favorites and given their unique (to us at least) fruit forward expression, they are definitely the best of this style that we have had. Several other wine varietals were really noteworthy for us as well. First was the Viognier. It is a sweet white but with very nice floral and peach/apricot fruit flavors. This offering from Chrysalis is right up with our other favorite sweet, yet light white, the Vignoles from Adam Puchta Winery in Missouri. I can't wait to try these two side-by-side. They really stand head and shoulders above anything else we've tried in this category. We tried the Albarino white. This variety is unlike anything we're had before and we only had a tasting of it. We are going to have to have more to get a better handle on it. I suspect it is going to grow on us. Last and certainly not least, was the dessert wine Petit Manseng. It is a luxurous dessert that can be enjoyed alone after a special occasion meal or over ice cream or bread pudding, etc. Last year in Boston, we were at a restaurant and I ordered a dessert off the menu without knowing what it was. To my surprise, I was given a liquoer glass of this wonderful white liquid that quickly made all "well and warm in the world". I had never had anything like this and I wondered if I would have anything like it again. This Petit Manseng, oh how lucky can I be to have found it, does the same thing. This drink and its effects have the power to take a great evening and make it into a best evening. This is probably my longest review by far. We really enjoyed this winery from top to bottom. Our enjoyment was boosted by the fact that I had read about this winery and the Norton in the book "The Wild Vine" by Todd Kliman in the months leading up to our trip to Virginia. The book is fantastic. It reviewed places and people in Missouri we have come to know and love. It previewed all the same for us in Virginia at Chrysalis, Horton, and Monticello. It's a great story on so many levels.

Horton Cellars Winery (written Dec 31, 2010)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 2 stars

Favorite Wine: Pinotage

We visited the winery in August 2010. Like others have noted there were a lot of sweet wines which are not our favorites. As far as the Norton, it was not in the style I traditionally like. It was sort of raisiny and cooked. Maybe it was just a bad sample at the tasting bar. The two reds we liked better than the others were the Tannat and the Pinotage. My wife liked the Tannat better. For me it was the Pinotage. Again, though, we liked both. Will purchase more of these two. Probably will give the Norton another shot but I suspect that the winemaker here is aiming for a different style than we personally like. I like more of a fruit forward and oak expression. The reds here in general seem to be going more for the earth tones. The wine tasting room experience was less than average for us in that the help didn't seem real enthused. Sort of just going through the motions.

Mount Bethel Winery (written Aug 09, 2009)
Wine: 5 stars Winery: 4 stars Ambiance: 4 stars

Favorite Wine: Merlot

We were in Arkansas visiting my wife's family when I noticed several wines in a Hot Springs Walmart that were from the town of Altus, AR. On our way home, we decided to drop off of I-40 and see the town. Our GPS had the address for just one of the wineries. On our way there, we saw the sign for Mount Bethel at the end of their lane. Driving up the lane the winery looks like an ordinary farm house. My expectations at this point were not very high. I found myself expecting hobbyists who had just recently decided to become winemakers. In behind the farmhouse, is the winery and tasting room located in the original cellars. Inside the cellar/tasting room we had the pleasure of meeting the winemakers wife who explained that her husband is a fifth generation winemaker in his family. They have been making wine at this site post-prohibition back to 1956. The family's winemaking in this country, however, dates back to the 1880s. We were on borrowed time so we tasted their Cynthiana and Vignoles. Both were excellent. We also tasted there Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon both of which were locally grown. Again both were excellent. Also tasted a Cynthiana port under the fun brand name of Big Daddy. Sorry to sound redundant, but it again was excellent. Didn't have time to taste it but they also had locally grown Chardonnay. This is what a winery hobby is all about. We stumbled onto what may very well be the best wines I have tasted in the midwest. All from a very gracious and informative host in what is probably one of the smallest wineries we have visited. We discovered a real gem. If they decide to grow their business further, then an area to sit and relax and enjoy the wines and ambiance of their home is the next step beyond what they are doing now and doing very well.

Robller Vineyard Winery (written Jul 02, 2009)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 4 stars Ambiance: 2 stars

Nice Family owners. The son-in-law doing the tastings and narrations was very entertaining. However, I just didn't really care for the wines. I think the winemaker is going for a certain style that apparently isn't what I am looking for. All of the wines seemed to have an undertone of a pungent earthy flavor and smell. For me, at least, this trait distracted from the wines We purchased a sweet red called Kasselfest that my wife liked. But this wine, too, had a hint of the earthy, (moldy?) undertone.

OakGlenn Vineyards and Winery (written Jul 02, 2009)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars

James Arthur Vineyards (written Jul 02, 2009)
Wine: 3 stars Winery: 3 stars Ambiance: 3 stars

OakGlenn Vineyards and Winery (written Jul 02, 2009)
Wine: 2 stars Winery: 2 stars Ambiance: 3 stars

The drive through the glenn to the top is the river bluff is enchanting, the view overlooking the river is spectacular and the history exhibits are nice too. With just a few notable exceptions, however, the wine is ho hum. We purchased three dessert wines for celebrating the Christmas holidays later this year. Sweet Caroline, River View Red and the Port White are unique. The wine shop and seating area were too commercial for our tastes.

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