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Monday Manifestos
The Missouri Compromise of 2011—I Will Drink Their Wine

By Charles Olken

The Compromise of 1820 was about admission to the Union. The Compromise of 2011 will see me drinking Missouri wines in a fancy restaurant out in 4-H country whose wine list looks more like something you would find in New York City or Paris.

Just to refresh your memory, and admittedly, I had to refresh mine after I hit upon the title for this article, the Missouri Compromise had to do with admitting Maine and Missouri to the Union. Missouri was admitted as a slave state and Maine was admitted as a free state. But this is no history lesson except as it will certainly presage my encounter with a range of Missouri wines.

In a teacup, here is the story. Mrs. Olken and I and our eight-year old granddaughter are off to Kansas City to visit relatives and to see the new, modern additions to the Nelson-Atkins museum there. One of the KC folks does the exhibits for that museum and it is time to see it, and to allow our granddaughter to visit her cousins on their home turf. Turns out that our niece and her husband are more than just wine drinkers, as we discover every Thanksgiving when they come to visit and Steve (he’s the husband) asks “what do you have open, Charlie?”. Steve likes my wine, which is just fine because I do too and he is the one relative who actually knows something about wine.


Well, Eliza and Steve have hatched this plot to take Uncle Charlie and Aunt Therry to dinner on Saturday night, and they swear that the drugstore in Smithfield out in the countryside is actually a fine place to eat. Now the Olkens have eaten in well-regarded places all over the world, or at least in those parts to which we have paid a visit, but 4-H country has never struck as the source of fine eats. We did have a giant steak, and well-prepared at that, in Havre, Montana years ago, but, all in all, we don’t go searching for great food and extensive wine lists out on the prairie.


Turns out, of course, that the Justus Drugstore Restaurant does have a web site with menu and wine list, and there are dishes on it that one will not see in San Francisco or Paris. But there are few wines that would not show up elsewhere because, at least in the version of the wine list online, most of the wines are from Europe. I did notice a Missouri Mourvèdre recommended as a by-the-glass choice for one of the main dishes, and that leads me to believe that there may be others.


One of my rules for traveling to far-flung regions is that I need to drink the local wine if it exists, and if the locals do not refuse to drink it. I get the impression that Missouri wines are treated that way in Missouri, but that is not going to deter me. Nor, however, will it deter me from bringing something special from California. The relatives don’t seem to drink much of the local tipple, and they do always lug home a case of wine from California on their annual visits here, so I will not be embarrassed to pull an old and interesting wine out of the cellar. Bags fly free on Southwest, and we will have one big bag of clothes and one box of wine, most of which will stay with the relatives but one of which will go with us to dinner.

We head off at the end of the week and will report back and what we find. But, we will drink the local wine. It is one of those rules to live by.

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by TomHill
Posted on:6/6/2011 11:04:07 AM


KC is my home-town and I return 2-3 times a year as daughter & 2 grandsons are there. 

   Probably the best source of Missouri (and don't forget Kansas) wines is TheCellar Rat down on Baltimore about a mile North of the LibertyMemorial. Owner is RyanSciara. Very/very sharp & knowledgable young man (aren't they all so young these days??). He also makes his own Buratta and Mozza that is very good.

   Right there in KC in the stockyards/WestBottoms is Inland Sea Winery. Not visited them yet, but Ryan convinced me to try them. Had a Viognier that I thought was pretty good. Ryan carries their wines.

   CharlesSmith and ExtraVirgin are pretty good restaurants near CellarRat.

   Enjoy KC...great city...great people.



by TomHill
Posted on:6/6/2011 11:07:44 AM

Their WebSite is:

by Dave McIntyre
Posted on:6/6/2011 9:10:52 PM

Charlie - held its 3rd annual bloggers conference in St Louis this April, focusing on Missouri wines. The state focuses on hybrids, and some of these are surprisingly good. Look especially for excellent (dry) vignoles from Stone Hill and Augusta wineries. Norton is the "official state grape," and Stone Hill and Adam Puchta make excellent versions. Look especially for Stone Hill's single vineyard Cross J Norton - and if it has 6-7 years or more on it, the better.

Drink Local Wine dot me
by Charlie Olken
Posted on:6/6/2011 11:32:44 PM

Dave and Tom--

Thanks for the notes. I will follow those leads and give the locals a try.

local wine
by Thomas Pellechia
Posted on:6/8/2011 8:01:52 AM


I promise that while on the West Coast, I will drink West Coast wine--but of course, I'll have a few bottles of Finger Lakes wine with me--in case somebody would like to taste it.

On my way...

by Jeff
Posted on:6/8/2011 8:20:26 PM


Coming from a KC native, do not miss the Nelson. It is one of the best galleries in the country and has one of the most impressive collections of oriental art anywhere. Be sure and take your 8 year old grand-daughter, her eyes will light up.

As for the local dining scene, Justus is definitely something different and fashions organic locavore. But if you are staying in Kansas City and are not up for the 45 minute drive to Smithville, consider JJ's and Starker's. Both are located on the Country Club Plaza and, in addition to having an excellent steak option on the menu(you cannot travel to Kansas City and not have a steak), they both have world class wine lists.

Enjoy the time with your family.

by Christian Miller
Posted on:6/12/2011 3:49:01 PM

Missouri is actually making some really good wine these days. My favorite are the Vignoles, in versions ranging from dry to spatlese sweetness levels, some of which I think are world class wines. The old reliable if never exciting Seyval Blanc can be good too. Traminette and Chardonnel are also credible, the former like a shy Gewurz, the latter tasting like a cross between good Seyval Blanc and a Macon.  Norton is a difficult grape IMHO, it tends to have rather austere tannins and lacks a middle. However, some of the wines I tasted at Unified had rectified this with blending and oak and this wine is beginning to hit its stride. Norton also makes a nice dry rose', although for some reason you rarely see this. I would add Augusta to Adam Puchta and Stony Hill as a reasonably well-distributed winery to look out for.

by Jane Bollin
Posted on:6/17/2011 6:31:12 AM

Now you have hit upon two of my favorite subjects.

As K. C. MO natives, my husband & I have made a point to travel the state and visit local wineries. I agree with the  comments of Christian Miller , The Augusta area has some of the best & also have a very good semi dry Rose.

Now for the Art, I am a Docent at the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art. Monet's trytich of Water Lilies are there now as well as many fine works and the new Contemp. Bloch Building. You are in for a treat. Enjoy, you will want to come back, I am sure.

by Charlie Olken
Posted on:6/17/2011 7:56:30 AM


Back from KC now. Loved the museum. If you do not know Steve Waterman and his role in the museum, do ask.

I will blog about KC one of these days because we had a very "rich" trip filled with all kinds of food for the soul and the mind.

Thanks for stopping by.

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