Stop and Smell the Corn

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Children of the corn?

In Matt Kramer’s classic book, Making Sense of Wine, he likens the ability to recite and elaborate the information on a wine label to that of a speeding tourist, driving through an area without ever getting out. They may have seen it, but they’ve not been there…

Driving through this big, beautiful country of ours now, I considered this concept as I hurried through states like Ohio, Indiana and Missouri. Really, what is there to see aside from corn fields, the same old-same old stores and restaurants, and farm after farm. I listened to most of the music I had programmed on the iPod and was letting boredom take me into the murky waters of AM talk radio.

Road signs advertising random wineries were popping up every 100 miles or so, and I felt small pangs of guilt for not bothering; although these are the types of places I ought to be exploring, I’ve been burned one too many times by Americana wines, often leaving the winery with a sugar-soaked palate and a strong, strong desire to go Euro-bumming again. Finally, near the border of Missouri and Kansas, my guilt got the better of me as my hands grudgingly turned the wheel to the right and exited I-70.

Le Bourgeois Vineyards“. That’s what caught my eye. “Oh no they didn’t…,” I thought, smirking at the cheesiness of that name. It was a billboard advertising a winery, tasting room, restaurant, and so on, right off the highway. I pulled up, got out and made a bee-line for the entrance, planning to make a quick taste of three or four likely sweet, bizarre and downright scary wines. But I’ll be damned.

DSCN0132When you walk into a tasting room and see names like “Riverboat Red” and “Pink Fox”, you don’t expect much. I know you should never, ever judge a book by its cover, but that was one hell of a cover. I asked to try their dry wines only, and after the fourth wine, I confessed to the very nice woman behind the counter how surprised I was by the wines —  balanced, dry, interesting and generally good. In Missouri! One of their white wines, a chardonel, was fantastically austere and nutty. I swear, it could have passed for an older white from Burgundy. “Chardonel”, by the way, is a hybrid grape developed by the whiz-kids at Cornell, crossing the native American seyval with chardonnay. She confessed to me that it’s always fun to prove people wrong, and had me drive down the road a bit more to see some good “photo ops”.

I wish I had more pictures for you all, but my camera battery, the ungrateful lous, died after just one shot. But trust me, the grounds were stunning. The restaurant and other tasting room overlooks the Missouri river (where there’s a river, there’s a way?), and there’s another area where an actual A-frame bistro serves up less formal food. The whole thing was just… cool. Imagine a mid-west version of McMenamins Edgefield.

And then there was the town of Rocheport. Population, around 300. Entering Rocheport, MO is like stepping onto a movie set, where everything is just so damned perfect. Historical schoolhouses, B&B’s and small cafes line the streets, giving this small, charming town a feel and look to everything that makes you wonder if time forgot about this place. Which of course gave me the heebie-jeebies. But still, what a charmer…

Surprises are never too far away. And what was supposed to be a quick ten minute detour, turned into an hour and a half. But I’d recommend this place to anyone who happens to be driving through Boone county, MO (hey, you never know). And drive I must. I hit another hidden gem in Kansas, hidden in all that corn, and I’ll tell you more about it next time. Exploration has to be the most profoundly disturbing and enriching activity, yielding both treasures and dangers under all those rocks. I’d rather keep exiting off the highway and overturn a few more…

With many more miles (and hopefully treasures) to go,

Jared

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~ by Jared on September 26, 2009.

3 Responses to “Stop and Smell the Corn”

  1. America is full of small gems of many kinds and descriptions hidden away in the most unexpected places. Keep looking for them as you wind your way west and please report your discoveries to us, your faithful readers.

  2. Of course I will… like I’ve always said, this whole traveling business is no fun w/out some friends to share it with. And boy are there some treasures to report.

    More soon,
    Jared

  3. Enjoy the journey… sounds really… invigorating!

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