While few people consider a four and a half hour dinner the best way to spend a Sunday night, my friends and I loitered contentedly a recent Sunday evening at a table in Justus Drugstore, a restaurant in Smithville.
The food was fantastic, as it always is, and while this might surprise some, I happily allowed the able management to choose our wines for each course.
Please understand that I would be content to let many Kansas City restaurants manage my food and beverage pairings for me, but I was sitting with two other master sommeliers, one from Denver and one from New York.
We MS’s are notorious control freaks when it comes to our beverage choices. And as the host, I ought to have been concerned with my two visitors’ vinous experience in my city; a laissez-faire approach was foolhardy.
Or was it? The Denverite asked only that Champagne show up at some point in the meal. The New Yorker, owner of a long and prestigious restaurant resume, lived in Kansas City in his formative years. Neither fulfills the caricature of the snooty MS, so I was delighted to let others steer the ship through the meal.
Restaurant owners Jonathan and Camille Justus offered us enough variety to keep things interesting, and even if it’s only good luck, hit upon some of our favorite producers in our choices: Zuani Bianco (an Italian blend from Patrizia Felluga — okay, I didn’t know about her but her father Marco makes excellent wines), Mount Horrocks (from Australia), Fonsalette (from the southern Rhone), Morey Coffinet (a white Burgundy), and Perrot Minot (a Chambolle Musigny from Burgundy).
Justus’ food can be complicated but often retains a delightful delicacy, or at least the purity of its locally sourced ingredients.
The wines were from further afield, though I was delighted that we began the dinner with a glass of Missouri’s Stone Hill Vidal Blanc. Too many area restaurateurs offer one or two local wines by the bottle only. Who will experiment with a bottle of wine at dinner? Virtually no one.
But a glass of something unusual? Lots of people will give that a try, and Stone Hill was as usual a great regional ambassador for my two visitors.
As for the Champagne … we had to order it ourselves, but no matter. We had been well cared for and happily plumped for a bottle of Rene Geoffrey’s first rate Brut Champagne and shared it with the staff.
And people ask me why I stay in Kansas City.
Doug Frost is a Kansas City-based wine and spirits writer and consultant who for decades has happily educated the public about all things drink. He is one of only three people in the world to have earned the coveted titles of Master Sommelier and Master of Wine. He contributes a monthly wine column for The Star’s Food section.