Chow Town

Somerset Ridge Vineyard and Winery releases local Kansas port

Somerset Ridge Vineyard and Winery’s Ruby Port
Somerset Ridge Vineyard and Winery’s Ruby Port

If you are a lover of port then you are going to really enjoy what's going on locally with my favorite winery. I think it's really interesting when you discover something in your own backyard and I feel very fortunate to live in Kansas.

I was recently having lunch with some good friends, my brother Leonard and my nephew Jasper and it came time for dessert. Of course there was cannolis on the table along with some chocolate and traditional Christmas holiday desserts.

It was my job to pair them after dinner or dessert wine. It was an easy decision for me, I went directly to my wine cellfar at the restaurant and pulled out a few bottles of our local Kansas Ruby Red and Somerset Ridge Tawney Port to share.

Somerset Ridge Tawny and Ruby Port … both retail for $19.99 is a family-owned vineyard and winery located in the rolling hills of Miami County, about 20 miles south of the greater Kansas City area. Wine producers and owners Dennis and Cindy Reynolds take great pride in making handcrafted, premium wines from Kansas grown grapes.

The hillside vineyard was planted in the Spring of 1998 and now encompasses more than 8,000 grape vines. The vines are pruned and the grapes are harvested entirely by hand to improve wine quality. They only use sustainable farming methods in the vineyard and no pesticides and no synthetic fertilizers.

Somerset Ridge was the first winery to be established in Miami County since statewide prohibition in Kansas was implemented in 1881. However, prior to prohibition, the area around Somerset was a significant wine making region. Now the area is once again a grape growing and wine making hub, with numerous new vineyards, five licensed wineries and the establishment of the Somerset Wine Trail, all occurring since the opening of Somerset Ridge.

Dennis and Cindy continue to pursue their passion by creating artisanal regional wines that pair well with local foods, supporting the growing local, sustainable food and wine movement, and helping to reestablish the once proud Midwest grape and wine industry.

This past month, Somerset Ridge released their award winning Somerset Ridge Port. They actually produce two ports each year … a Tawny and Ruby Port.

Most simply, port is grape wine fortified with brandy. Our local port is produced with Kansas grapes.

Somerset’s Tawny distinguishes itself because it’s made with both their red and white grapes grown locally, aged multiple years in oak barrels and matured until it reaches a golden-brown hue. It has a silky mouthfeel and an intensity of flavor. During the aging process the wine slowly evolves from a purplish-ruby color to a topaz amber.

Somerset’s Tawny has a candied spiciness with appealing caramel, cinnamon and almond flavors perfect for holidays and cold winter nights. This Tawny is one of the easiest to pair with a multitude of desserts as well as an addition to an after-dinner coffee.

At our restaurant we feature it on the dessert cart and especially recommend it with our Coconut Cake, ricotta cheesecake and cannoli. We offer it at room temperature or just slightly chilled unless an in-the-know customer asks for it as an addition to an after-dinner coffee. The mellow, nutty flavor is perfect after a special meal.

Somerset’s Ruby Port is made from their own Norton grapes and brandy, aged two years in Oak. Norton grapes, the North American variety that offers intensity of flavor and acidity, is a perfect choice for this fortified wine. It maintains its ruby red color and red fruit flavors, making it a perfect pairing with chocolate and Gorgonzola or Stilton blue cheese.

Now that’s a sophisticated end to a holiday meal. As for this chef, I know what will be on my holiday table this year and I hope you also support our local winery and enjoy and share with friends and family. Salute.

Somerset Ridge Tawny and Ruby Port … both retail for $19.99 and are available at retail liquor stores in Kansas and some larger stores in Missouri.

Chef Jasper J. Mirabile Jr. of Jasper’s runs his family’s 59-year-old restaurant with his brother. Mirabile is a culinary instructor, founding member of Slow Food Kansas City and a national board member of the American Institute of Wine and Food. He is host to many famous chefs on his weekly radio show “Live! From Jasper’s Kitchen” on KCMO 710 AM and 103.7 FM. He also sells dressings and sauces.