Amongst my many happy duties is to teach aspiring Master Sommelier students some of the arcane information required of a successful candidate.
We Master Sommeliers will often bring along a few odd bottles to share with each other and it can take the edge of our 18-hour workdays. This past weekend one of the bottles I chose was a Michigan Riesling, one of my favorite grapes from one of my favorite producers — Left Foot Charley.
Winemaker Bryan Ulbrich has long ago proved himself a master with aromatic white grapes — I still count his Pinot Blanc as one of finest efforts with the grape made anywhere in the world.
What sparks this post is that only a few of my fellow Masters were curious enough to try the wine. Perhaps they don’t trust my palate — fair enough. But if there is a single trait that wine experts ought to show, it’s curiosity.
There are more excellent wines today than ever before, and they hail from anywhere and seemingly everywhere.
Michigan for Riesling and Pinot Blanc? Damn straight. Other than the Finger Lakes, I have not yet found an American region that can consistently make great Riesling outside of Michigan.
The style is slim, sometimes taut, generally delicate and easily overlooked. But if you will but take the time, there is depth and complexity inside these Rieslings. I can’t imagine why my compatriots weren’t leaping at the chance to taste one of the world’s distinctive, stylistic, new benchmarks for one of the world’s most important grapes.
It’s not so dissimilar to the response to Missouri wines that I often drag along to these events — they pick up the bottle, say the words “Missouri” and set it back down as if they have determined without tasting it the character of the wine.
Missouri wines such as St. James, Stone Hill, Augusta, Montelle and many others have won medals galore at national tastings under blind conditions. Yet those who should be most curious about these wines assume too much, and shrug off an opportunity to discover a new skill amongst American vinous talents.
On the other hand, sometimes those 18-hour days of opening, serving, tasting and talking about wine make you long for nothing but a cold beer.
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.