Club Profile: Missouri Winemaking Society
Some of the big events in my winemaking year are the occasions when I get to meet with fellow amateur winemakers. One of them is coming up soon as the Wine Enthusiasts’ Dinner in Troy, New York at the Italian Community Center. Here we will eat, taste wines from several dozen entries and get a chance to sit in on a seminar on a winemaking-related topic. I feel at home here despite my Scots/Nordic heritage. (Once a year someone will suggest I put a vowel at the end of my name and join the “paisans.”)
These are people who grew up in a winemaking tradition and sometimes pool grapes and resources, meeting periodically to sample, bottle, and plan for the following year. They are wonderful to be with.
There are juried awards and awards selected by the audience and the winners are announced before the end of the dinner.
The Musto Wine Grape Company puts on an awards dinner in Connecticut as well and this competition is intense, on a level with the Winemakers Magazine International Competition in March.
Before I knew about these events, my only interaction with other winemakers was either through the Homebrew Emporium in Rensselaer North Greenbush, my source for many supplies, or on the loading dock of a distributor when the grapes came in in the fall. First at Ryan’s Produce in Albany and then, years later at Musto I gathered with men and women to trade addresses and thoughts on winemaking. Then we scatter back to garages and cellars to work – largely alone.
Consider then the history and achievements of the Missouri Winemaking Society. Steve Brunkhorst is the president and Lisa Nordmann, the secretary. The following was sent by Lisa.The Missouri Winemaking Society was founded in 1977 when Jim Howard, owner of a new wine and been supply store named 'Wine-Art of St Louis' suggested the idea to the attendees of a winemaking seminar being held at the shop. The society has functioned continuously since that time, for 41 years! Note: the wine store still exists today as “St Louis Wine and Beer Making” under current owner David Deaton, and this store often is a sponsor for WineMaker magazine conferences.The Missouri Winemaking Society has 35 members who are all grape growers or winemakers. The attendance at our monthly events is strong with about 20 active participants. Our stated mission is to share grape growing and winemaking knowledge and skills. Last year our club secretary selected Square Space to host our website based on affordability and user friendliness. Club current activities and calendar are now easily updated on the site. https://www.mowinemakers.org. A favorite feature of the website is the "Library" where files from all meeting presentations are posted. Helpful files from other wine websites are also incorporated into the site. The website also includes a "Featured Winemaker" page, which features members with photos and stories about their winemaking and vineyards.Last year our club secretary also created a closed Facebook page, which includes files from meeting presentations and grape growing and winemaking posting from members. Since this site is limited to our club members, it serves as another benefit for dues-paying members.There are almost 50 wineries within 1.5 hours of St Louis, each year we visit a different one and meet with the winemaker to learn winemaking tips and taste award-winning wines.A favorite meeting each year is the “Missouri Gold Medal Tasting” of wines from bonded Missouri wineries judged by credentialed judges at a state-wide competition.We hold two club contests each year, one for each white and red wines. Members bring their “best” wine of the year to the appropriate contest and members taste and score each wine. Attendees vote for their “favorite” wine and the top three wines are recognized.Best meeting of the past year, a member purchased a high quality Chardonnay kit and fermented in small batches with 10 different yeasts, the results were surprising and fascinating. A real world comparison of the impact of yeast on the final wine.In the past three years, five of our members have competed and won medals in national competitions including those sponsored by WineMaker magazine, Indy International Wine Competition, and the American Wine Society.Most of our members make wine from Missouri-grown grapes including: Chardonel, Vidal Blanc, Seyval Blanc, Traminette, Norton, and Chambourcin. About a third of our members make wine from estate-grown fruit. Other members make wine from California and Washington State grapes and juice.We have two club 'projects' underway: Members purchased the frozen Chardonnay juice from Peter Brehm in September of 2017 and will compare results at an all-member tasting in September 2018. Members also purchased fresh California Merlot grapes in September and will compare results at an all-member tasting in 2019.The program chairman has a list of more than 40 grape growing and winemaking topics. Each year we ask for member inputs and then select topics from this list for the year’s program.This is what one of our new members has to say about the society:‘My husband and I joined the Missouri Winemaking Society in August 2016. We found out about the club after having been to a local store that carries supplies for home winemaking. We have been grape growers since 2003. I had been working at a local winery that had vineyards of their own but also bought grapes from local growers (as do most of the wineries in our area). We were happy just selling our crop and letting the winemaking up to the "professionals."But, very often, we were asked by friends and family why we weren't making our own wine... my answer was "because I'm not a chemist!" I was under the impression that one needed a degree in chemistry or viniculture to make decent wine.In 2016, with retirement in the near future, we decided maybe it was time to give winemaking a try. So I set about doing some research and found out about the Missouri Winemakers Society. BEST. FIND. EVER!! This group is a great mix of individuals ranging from very serious, to relaxed (but very accomplished) winemakers. The meetings are both fun and informative. The wines they share from their own cellars are impressive. Everyone is so open and willing to share their knowledge and experience, which is vast! We have learned so much since we joined and truly enjoy every meeting.Some couples go to the movies, we go to "Wine Club" for our date nights!’This is what another member has to say about the society:‘My husband and I joined the Missouri Winemaking Society in 2014 and have been very impressed with how friendly and helpful everyone is.We became new winemakers and invested a lot of money and time in our new winemaking hobby. We purchased wonderful grapes, but the wine was undrinkable. The second year we made wine the grapes we purchased were also amazing, but the wine was barely drinkable. We were getting closer but knew we had to find a better solution to our winemaking. We found Missouri Winemaking Society's website and went to a meeting. We were very impressed with how friendly and helpful everyone was. We immediately joined the group and have found the group to be a wealth of information and have found great friendships. Because of this group we are making, drinking, and enjoying our wine.’
I would enjoy hearing from other clubs as well.