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Doug Frost: mug
By Doug Frost
More than 20 years ago, when the Wine Spectator ran its first in-depth article describing non-west coast wineries, Missouri received its first prominent mention in America’s dominant wine magazine. Perhaps that mention was justified by the achievement of Missouri’s pioneer American Viticultural Area (AVA), the Augusta AVA. The AVA concept defines all of America’s famous wine growing areas: Augusta was the first AVA approved by the federal government, back in 1980. It took three more years before the second AVA was approved: It was a little place called Napa Valley.
Mount Pleasant Winery’s Port was the most prominently featured Missouri wine in that Spectator article. Moreover, the winery deserves a goodly portion of the credit for establishing the Augusta AVA; the Dressel family has shepherded the winery since 1966 and has consistently brought attention to the upstart Augusta AVA.
The Dressels have always had an experimental mind-set: They grow 16 different grape varieties on 85 acres; it’s just another example of how the Dressels can be vexing to anyone expecting them to follow the well-trod path. For one, they grow vinifera vines (a Eurasian vine that is difficult to grow in Missouri’s climate), and a Pinot Noir vineyard was recently planted on a 200-foot Missouri River bluff. Owner Chuck Dressel explains that the vineyard is windy enough to mitigate hot temperatures, and the air movement tends to keep the temperature above the point where Pinot Noir dies in winter. It will be another year or two before we know how that experiment has concluded.
Mount Pleasant has had far more tangible success with hybrid grapes; their gentle, lemony Rayon d’Or is the world's best version of a grape that nearly a century ago some thought might be ideal for France’s Loire Valley, though there are probably about 10 versions of the grape worldwide. The winery makes smart whites and reds across the board. Its white wines include a very tasty Vidal Blanc, called Cuvee Blanc, and a semisweet Vignoles. The Harvest White is a soft, sweet, and pretty blend of Vidal Blanc, Seyval Blanc, Chardonel, and Rayon d’Or. They offer several sparkling wines; the best is Mount Pleasant Brut Imperial, a tangy example of Vidal Blanc with a touch of St. Vincent.
And through it all, they’ve continued their winning ways with Port, whether with the Vintage Port, the White Port (made from Rayon d’Or), or the Tawny Port Library Volume XIII.