This weekend the Hermann Wine Trail, an association of seven wineries along the Missouri River Valley, is holding its Holiday Fare Wine Trail. As a start to the holiday season, visitors to Hermann can spend time at each of these wineries over a two-day period sampling holiday dishes paired with local wines. You might try a slice of ham with an apricot and cranberry sauce, and wash it down with a glass of Vignoles. Or maybe snack on some pumpkin spice cookies with a mug of mulled Hermannsberger.
Next month, during the second weekend of December, the Just Say Cheese! Wine Trail takes place. This time around each winery will feature a different cheese dish that goes together, tastefully, with one of their wines. Reading the menu made my mouth water – I was especially happy to see a four-cheese smoked macaroni and cheese paired up with a hearty red wine. It’s good to know my favorite comfort food has been elevated to gourmet standards!
Regardless of the theme of the wine trail or the selected offerings, the underlying idea is to get lovers of food and wine (and really, who of us doesn’t fall into that category??) to think about unusual pairings of both. It’s a concerted effort by the Hermann vintners to move people away from the old rule that red goes with beef and white with fish – end of story. I like to think of our wine trails as gastronomic therapy – assisting those who may be stuck in a ‘steak-with-Merlot’ rut to really see the world of possibilities available to them!
Naturally, when we consider pairing things up, we think of things that coordinate, that appear to be the perfect fit, that were designed to go together. What comes to mind? Well, shoes that match your purse, complementary colors like red and green at Christmas, pizza and beer, Bogart and Bacall, Thanksgiving and roasted turkey. Even online dating services, a multi-million dollar industry, have been built on the concept of finding the perfect match. But, do we spend too much time assuming things should be a certain way? Sometimes that which seems “perfect” remains elusive, and what is simply “right” for us may be in front of our eyes.
Coming home to Hermann, my hometown, after years of living in Alaska seemed far from being the perfect location for me. Granted, my time in the north was up. After more than twenty years, the weather and the isolation had tarnished the perfect image I had of Alaska, but was returning to small town life in the Midwest the best choice? I spent the last three years trying to determine the answer. Returning home can be confusing at times – people don’t always understand where I’ve been, or what I’ve experienced, or how those years away have shaped the person I am now. I’m not the same as when I left, and at times it seems overwhelmingly apparent to me. But, you know what? I’m the only one who seems to notice – I am still just another hometown girl to everyone else. Hermann might not be the perfect match for me, but for now, it’s the right place for me.
My husband, Mick, and I just returned from a walk in the bottoms, near our home, savoring what may be one of the last warm days of the year. The bottoms are the acres of low farm land along the river. Here the bottom land sits between the river and the railroad tracks, and overlooking both, perched on a bluff, is the Bias Winery, one of the seven stops along the Hermann Wine Trail. We made a short pit stop at the winery, just to see if they were having a busy weekend, and indeed, they were. Now, if your image of a winery is more along the lines of a grand Napa Valley estate, right out of Falcon Crest, complete with terraces and arched cellars, then the Bias Winery will shake that image. This small family-owned operation is more about casual, laid-back charm – picnic tables, cats sunning themselves, hayrides, and annual barbeque cook-offs. Oh, and their mascot is a gnome called Gruhlke – apparently he holds the secret formula for the microbrews which are also produced there. This might not be the perfect winery envisioned, but for the visitors at Bias Winery, enjoying this warm November weather and relaxing in the homey atmosphere, it was the right place to be today. Just like wine, it’s all a matter of taste.
There are five wine trails held throughout the year, but by far the most popular is the Chocolate Wine Trail which takes place the third weekend of February. Tickets sell out early for this one – for more information, visit http://hermannwinetrail.com/.