I was first introduced to the wines of Amigoni Urban Winery about a one-and-a-half years ago.
By DAVE ECKERT
A couple of friends, members of our local wine tasting group, Vintage, suggested we head to the West Bottoms and visit Amigoni’s tasting room. I’m so glad I did as both the wines and the room were revelations.
The tasting room is located in the historic Daily Drover Telegram Newspaper building at 1505 Genessee Street in the Stockyards District.
The building was erected in 1909. For the first 50 years of its life it served as the home for a daily newspaper for the livestock industry called The Daily Drovers.
The building reflects the quality craftsmanship of its era, and the Amigonis used that to its full extent.
“Our designer, John O’Brien, owner of the Dolphin Gallery in our neighborhood, restored our space to the majestic look of the era and truly recycled a building, with over 24 reclaimed doors and tile resembling the early 1900s,” said Michael Amigoni on the winery’s website. “We at Amigoni Urban Winery are blessed to have someone with his talent design our winery.”
Amigoni gave me a little tour of the building, and it really is impressive. The front space is used for the tasting room with a bar and tables. The back space, which is truly gorgeous, can be booked for private dinners and tastings. I would recommend it highly.
Now to the wines, which are some of the best I’ve had out of Kansas or Missouri.
The Amigoni’s wine journey began when Michael and his wife, Kerry, both passionate wine lovers, began making their own wine in 1995. By 1997, they had planted some Cabernet Franc in their Leawood backyard as an experiment.
They wanted to see if they could make wine from local grapes. But, not just any local grapes, “Vinifera” grapes, the highest quality grapes. They are grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and others and they are responsible for the vaste majority of wine consumed the world over.
Cabernet Franc seemed like the most logical “Vinifera” candidate as it’s a heartier variety, able to withstand the harsh Midwest winters. They’ve successfully planted Cabernet Franc in Ontario, Canada, and if it can make good wine there, it should be able to make good wine here.
It was an educated guess and a bit of a gamble, but it paid off. The Amigonis won a series of Blue Ribbons in local homemade wine competitions and they were on their way.
In 2000, the family decided to take the next step, and purchased 10 acres of pastureland in Centerview, Mo., about 30 miles east of Kansas City.
The Amigonis had their first grape harvest for commercial purposes in 2006, and every year since, a little more land has been developed for grape growing with new “Vinifera” varieties planted and tested.
“We were officially winemakers,” Amigoni told me. I asked him about the challenges of making wine in Missouri, or any Midwestern state for that matter. He had an interesting answer and made some points I had never considered.
“The climate can be very difficult, too cold in the winter, which can kill the vines, and hot and muggy during the summer with little cooling at night. That can lead to rot and mildew,” said Amigoni. “Plus, a lot of winemakers in places like Missouri and Kansas are using grapes that aren’t “Vinifera,” and might be more difficult to work with.
“Then, there’s the fact that many of the winemakers here are self-taught, learning on the job. So, you’ve got people who often aren’t professionally trained dealing with more difficult grapes in challenging climates-not always a recipe for success.”
Amigoni has met those challenges, and others, and makes an array of very drinkable wines. I tried the entire roster, which ranges from the Urban White, a blend of Chardonnay and Viognier, right up to the Amigoni Estate Cabernet Franc, 100-percent Cabernet Franc, aged for 18-months in Missouri White Oak. It’s the fullest-bodied of Amigoni’s offerings, and my personal favorite.
On the white side, I really liked Amigoni’s Viognier, which has wonderful fresh aromas, and surprisingly good acidity for a grape that can often be a bit blowsy in the mouth.
Overall, I’d say the Amigonis are doing a remarkable job with the wines and are able to showcase them in a unique, historic, lovely setting.
It’s a good combination, and an addition to the Kansas City food and wine scene we can all be proud of. Stop by their tasting room sometime and give the wines a taste. I’m betting you won’t be disappointed.
Dave Eckert is the producer and host of “Culinary Travels With Dave Eckert,” which aired on PBS-TV and Wealth TV for 12 seasons, or nearly 300 half-hour episodes produced on six continents. Eckert is also an avid wine collector and aficionado, having amassed a personal wine cellar of some 2,000 bottles.