Chow Town

Kansas, Missouri wineries show increasing prowess in annual Jefferson Cup Invitational Wine Competition

The 14th Annual Jefferson Cup Invitational Wine Competition ended only days ago, so it’s a fair time to ask what has changed over the last14th years.

During that time, Missouri has increased to nearly 125 wineries from less than half that. Kansas has gone from a punch line — not so many years ago, Kansas’ governor mocked the quality of her own state’s wines — to a consistent winner of at least one of the top awards of the competition.

This year Kansas won three of the 25 Jefferson Cups; only eight states were represented among those top cup winners.

The competition assembles about 700 wines from around the country, with California representing no more than one third of the wines in the competition. From its inception in 1999, the Jefferson Cup Invitational Wine Competition’s goal has been to create a more equitable contest for wineries from less-famed states to compete with better-known California wineries.

It’s not that California wineries are disadvantaged in the competition; indeed, one-third of the nominees for the Jefferson Cups — the competition’s top awards — came from California. The state garnered one-fifth of the Jefferson Cups given out on Nov. 23rd.

But Jefferson Cups went to Colorado, which won one award; Illinois, three; Michigan, one; Missouri, five; New York, five; and Virginia, three of the awards. Kansas garnered three: Holy-Field for its Valvin Muscat, while Bluejacket Crossing earned two Jefferson Cups for its Veritas Chambourcin and its Concord wine called Arrowhead Red.

But let’s not sleep on Missouri: with five awards, the state represents 20 percent of the nation’s Jefferson Cups. Kansas City’s area winery, Baltimore Bend won two of them. They’ve never won one before in the contest’s 14th history. Baltimore Bend’s C2 blend of Chambourcin and Norton was singled out by one of the California-based judges as daring and exciting.

Let’s be honest, the Jefferson Cup seeks to give no particular state a numerical advantage but while California has more entries than any other state, Kansas and Missouri had fairly good numbers here too. But both states, especially Kansas, ought to take pride in these results and in their increasing prowess on the American stage.

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.