Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Wine Girls: Taste of Chocolate Weekend

by Wine Girls C & B

B: We're back! I don't know about you guys but I can't wait for that first nice spring day. C and I are itching for the day we can sit at a winery (or ten) somewhere and kick back after a long day's work. Since neither of us are the patient sort, we decided to hit up the Mississippi River Hills Wine Trail for their "Taste of Chocolate" tour this past Saturday. It was a great way to enjoy the sunshine and get a head start on our spring winery fever.

C: We had ambitious plans B. One afternoon and SIX wineries: Hunter Valley winery of Cape Girardeau, Rothbrick Winery of Jackson, Hemman Winery of Brazeau, Tower Rock Vineyard & Winery of Altenburg, Apple Creek Vineyard & Winery of Friedheim, and The Barrens Winery of Perryville. All were featuring a special wine paired with food made with chocolate. Seriously, does it get better than that? We started close to home and worked our way toward Perryville. Along the way we saw familiar faces and made a new friend or two. Hunter Valley’s amazing strawberry wine always helps remind me that spring is near. At Rothbrick we were had a welcome party of equestrian and canine friends. At Apple Creek we joined a party bus full of ladies who traveled with their own musical instruments. Hemman provided a quiet place to sit and sip delicious fruit wines paired with chocolate fondue and melt-in-your-mouth minipastries and at Tower Rock we reunited with fellow trail travelers from our first stop. The Barrens and Perryville became the finish-line to our wine- soaked, chocolate-covered , fun-filled marathon. What an adventure! Seriously folks, if you plan to embark on a wine trail trip, make sure to plan ahead. We encountered lines at many of our stops. B. and I look at this as an opportunity to make new friends but if you don’t plan your route and timing, these delays can mean that you miss the opportunity to see, sip and “sit a spell” at your next stop.

B: I agree with C, make sure you leave plenty of time to try out the wines and get acquainted with the staff. The whole point of these tours is to find out what each stop has to offer…so have a little patience and enjoy your day! As C. mentioned, after Rothbrick, we headed to Apple Creek Winery. This is the only winery on the trail that I haven't yet visited but I was in for a real treat! Apple Creek was one of my favorite stops of the day. C and I figured this was a good place to have a little lunch (by the stone fireplace) and listen to some 90's classic country music from the entertainment that day. After tasting wine and chocolate all day, my salty side was craving something super savory and boy did we find it at Apple Creek. Try the Apple Creek pizza and you MUST have the sangria. It tasted like summer in a glass. So good! After an awesome lunch and a quick peek overlooking Apple Creek, we grabbed our purchased goods and headed out for some cruisin' (with a kick-butt 90's soundtrack thanks to me...we were in a 90's state of mind).

C: Speaking of soundtracks, B. owe’s me a mix-tape or two (ummmm…am I showing my age with that statement?) Winery trips (and Mondays in the office) are always better with a playlist! Seriously though, B. and I had an awesome day. For a few hours the gloomy winter weather took a break. We had sunshine and smooth-sailing the entire day. I think we would both agree that the “Taste of Chocolate” event made us hungry for spring and ready to hit the wine trail again soon. Lucky for you (and the Wine Girls) several of these wine trail events are already being planned for the spring. We (and will try to keep you posted on upcoming events. We want to see you and share your stories!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The iLuvWine Girls and the Route du Vin

Last weekend the iLuvWine Girls hit the road…the Route du Vin in the Sainte Genevieve County to be exact.

C: B. and I were invited to participate in the “Wine Diva Weekend.” Though I insisted that this event had been created just for us (just look at the name!) we found out that it is actually an annual event held the third weekend of each November.

B: Like C said, this is an actual event so it’s nice to know someone else recognizes our awesomeness and created a whole event named after us! That’s how it happened, right? No? Well that’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Anyway, this is a fun-filled weekend available at a great price. For $25 you get a souvenir wine glass and wine tote (you’ve got to have something to remember the weekend) that is also your ticket to the wine and food pairings along the route. This year, there were six wineries featured and of course, the goal is to make it to all of the stops so you can have your card stamped to enter into a grand prize drawing. It was a beautiful fall Saturday, so C and I hopped in the car and took off to “wine” through Ste. Genevieve County.

C: Our first stop was Sainte Genevieve Winery in the heart of historic Ste. Gen. The winery is one of the oldest in the region (established in 1983) and is family owned and operated. It is also easy to find their wines throughout Southeast Missouri as they are widely distributed and available in stores like Schnucks. We managed to pull up in front of the winery at the same time as our old friends Tom and Suzanne from Vines-2-Wines Excursions. They had a bus full of Divas who were ready to sip and sample just like B and I. We knew it was bound to be a fun day in the company of this crew! (I may have gotten to know a few of them a little too well thanks to a bathroom door that doesn’t lock…ummmmm…take a friend if you gotta go. LOL!)

B: As C mentioned, sip and sample we did. Sainte Genevieve Winery is known for their fruit wines so if that’s what you go for, make this your next stop. This time of year, I do like their Christmas Plum to use in a spiked cider.

C: Like many people in the area, Ste. Gen’s wines were some of the first “Southeast Missouri” wines I ever tasted. Their sweet fruit wines make them a favorite of many drinkers who like their wines to have a sweet, jammy taste. Their Blackberry wine has long been a favorite of my mother. Because I was expecting a sweeter wine, I was (pleasantly) surprised by the tartness of the cranberry wine we sampled during the tour. After the initial shock to my tongue, I really enjoyed the rich cranberry flavor which paired fantastically with the pumpkin cranberry bread served to the Wine Divas.

B: I agree with C. The cranberry wine was definitely tart but paired with the bread it really brought out the flavors in both. I also picked up some great blue glass bottles to use somewhere in my apartment. Twelve bottles. Trust me, I will think of something to do with them! Anyway, we couldn’t linger too long. We had several more stops to make so we bid our friends farewell and hit the road again.

C: I’m cracking up at the mental image of B sitting in her apartment surrounded by her beautiful blue glass wine bottles. …suuuurrree you bought those bottles empty…you lush. LOL.

Meanwhile back on the wine trail…as we headed out of Ste. Genevieve toward the Cave winery (our next stop) I was reminded of just how beautiful the drive is. The weather was perfect for our adventure and both B. and I agreed that it was a great day to be the iLuvWine girls!

B: Exactly! You know, there really isn’t anything better than hitting the wine trail on a lovely, sunny Saturday afternoon. We rolled in to Cave Winery and immediately headed towards their Biscotti Bar. There were numerous assortments of biscotti available but the Divas pairing was the Chardonel Off Dry and Pumpkin Biscotti. Admittedly, I am not a fan of pumpkin anything. Give me sweet potato pie any day! But I really did enjoy the biscotti especially after the suggestion that we dunk it into the wine. I know that may be uncouth to a true aficionado but try it just one time. You’ll be amazed!! We tried a couple of other options (I recommend the goat cheese and herb. I could’ve have eaten every single one on the bar.) and also tasted a few other wines. The Chardonel Off Dry was so refreshing I had to have a bottle to take home. After our sampling, we wistfully looked at the cave but hopped in the car instead to head to the next stop.

C: I’m with B on the quality of both the wines and the baked goods at Cave. Each time I visit I am impressed with the constantly increasing quality of their wines. They could easily rely on the novelty of having a winery above a natural cave but they continue to strive for improvement in their facility and their wine quality. In fact, I may have filled up my wine bag…if you buy six bottles is it a six-pack?

Though  both B and I agreed that we could have happily planted ourselves at Cave for the afternoon, we had places to go and wines to taste! Our next stop was Chaumette to sample their Assemblage wine paired with a crispy chicken croquette with roasted red pepper coulis and creamy orzo pasta…admit it…you would have rushed on to try that deliciousness too!

B. I have to say, Chaumette is one of my absolute favorite wineries in Southeast Missouri. The wines are amazing (try the Huguenot Red…it’s really sweet but so good…), have lunch in the Grapevine Grill and check out the amazing grounds that include a chapel, 26 villas and a spa. I have every intention of spending an entire weekend wine-ing and spa-ing very soon. There’s just something about Chaumette that makes everything great. And if you get the chance, have a conversation with the owner, Hank. You’ll learn so much about wines and what truly goes into making Chaumette a unique experience.

C: If you haven’t visited Chaumette you are missing out. Really! The relaxed French countryside vibe and the outstanding food make it a MUST for any wine tourist. B. and I both agree that you should plan your trip itinerary around a meal at Chaumette. You won’t be disappointed. Speaking of disappointed, some of our fellow wine divas found out the hard way about Chaumette’s popularity. The lines for tastings were out the door and those without meal reservations were looking at wait times of over an hour (for large groups.) Several shuttles (including those Vines-2-Wines girls) pulled up just as B and I arrived and the staff was a bit overwhelmed by the crush. I’m sharing this to prepare you to plan ahead. If you want to visit Chaumette for lunch or dinner, play it safe and make reservations. Pack your very own wine goody bag and prepare to relax and ride out the crush of people if you happen to arrive at a busy time. The Chaumette experience will be worth the wait. We promise!

B: Chaumette has long been a favorite of mine and I was stoked to spend a little extra time there to enjoy the atmosphere. We headed just down the road to Charleville Winery where we decided to veer off the path just a bit and sample the seasonal beer first. C was on a mission for a beer they offered last year but we tried a new seasonal option instead. The Whiskey Scented Santa was ah-ma-zing!! Unfortunately, they only serve it on tap and C and I couldn’t figure out how to strap a keg to the Honda so we’ll just have to make another trip to have a round. We headed down to the cabin to taste their Dry Chardonel which was paired with a savory Corn and Green Chili Pudding. The pudding was a pleasant surprise being warm, sweet and spicy. We had a wonderful conversation with a group of ladies we’d seen several times throughout the day. They’re friends from all over the state (a few from out of state) who’ve gotten together for the Wine Divas Weekend since its inception. They seemed like they were having a blast and really had great things to say to C and me.

C: Admittedly, B. is not much of a beer girl but I couldn’t wait to get to Charleville to try their newly-tapped seasonal beers. You heard me…beers at a winery! Yes, Charleville has award-winning wines but in my book, the beers (and the scenery) take center-stage at Charleville. Even ole’ beer skeptic B. found something to rave over in the tasting room. (I’m not saying I told you so but…lol.) Seriously, she better be glad I wasn’t driving or we would have come home with a keg of Santa’s cheer. It doesn’t get any better than a smooth, dark porter aged in bourbon barrels. Yummy!

A beautifully refurbished 1860’s log cabin adjacent to the tasting room serves as a two-room Bed & Breakfast for guests on weekends. As B mentioned, it is also where we had a chance to gather around the rustic dinner table and chat with some of our fellow wine divas. Since 2006 this group has been coming together each November to soak up the Wine Diva experience. They gave us some invaluable tips and a bit of constructive feedback on the event. The tips included plan to get an early start if you want to visit all the stops on the tour and don’t expect the same experience each year as the wines, foods and number of divas on the trail can vary each year. No matter what the trail might have in store, I suspect these ladies would find a way to have fun!

B: As dusk was upon us, we decided to head back home. My deep-seated fear of winding roads, the dark and deer season gave us no choice. We unfortunately didn’t have time to make it to the final two wineries but I think that was poor planning on our part. We know better for next year. We are definitely going to make it to those we missed soon and we’ll blog on our visit.

C:  For more information on the Route Du Vin, check out their website: . If you want to recreate our Wine Diva Weekend experience at home try one of these recipes:

Charleville’s Corn Pudding (pair with Off-Dry Chardonel)
1 (15 ounce) can creamed corn
1 (15.25 ounce) can whole kernel corn
1/4 pound butter, softened
1 (8.5 ounce) package corn bread mix
1 (8 ounce) container sour cream
1.Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Put butter in 2 quart casserole dish, place in oven until melted.
2. Remove casserole dish and add creamed corn, kernel corn, corn muffin mix and sour cream. Mix well, bake uncovered approximately 30 minutes.

If you would rather watch your recipes, check out this clip from where Chaumette’s Chef Adam shares his “ahmaaazing”  recipe for Coq Au Vin:

NOW Go Drink Some WINE!!!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Veteran's Day in Southern Illinois and Southeast Missouri

Here are a few resources for things to do to honor the men and women of our armed forces!

As always, you can visit our calendars for information. The following links are from the community.

Southeast Missouri:
  • For several events in SE Missouri, the Southeast Missourian has an article including several events. (details)

Southern Illinois Events:
  • Walker's Bluff will host a military breakfast with veterans receiving a free meal. (details)
  • A ceremony and vigil will be held at SIU. (details)
  • Anna, IL will hold a Veteran's Day Parade. (details)

More to come!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Route 66 Cuba Fest 2012

Something I personally have always wanted to do is take a Trolley Tour around some small town in Missouri, well I am not sure my dream will com true, but folks from all over will get their chance to.

October 20 kicks off the 2012 Route 66 Cuba Fest in Cuba, MO.  This years event includes crafts, music, trolley tours, apple butter making, food (of course we are Missouri) family fun, and much more.  

Cuba also proudly welcomes noted Route 66 author Jim Hinckley as he introduces his Route 66 Atlas & Encyclopedia, other Route 66 writers will be in the area along with many crafters.     

Route 66 Cuba Fest is held at Recklein Commons on N. Smith Street in Cuba MO.

For more information visit their website or follow them on Facebook.
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Thursday, October 4, 2012

Old Iron Works Days at Maramec Spring Park

For 34 years folks have been gathering at Maramec Spring Park 6 miles southeast of St. James, Missouri for Old Iron Works Days.

The idea that something old is old news is so not true in this case, the Maramec Springs Park takes pride in educating folks, celebrating with folks, and well just providing folks with a good time.   

Old Iron Works Days kicks off October 13 & 14 and runs both days 12 pm to 5 pm.  Events, attractions, demonstrations include live music both days: Basket Weaving, Beekeeping, Corn-husk Dolls, Stained Glass, Antique Tools, Wood Carving & Working, Civil War Display, Pottery, Kids Games, and much much more.

It does cost to get into Old Iron Works Days, the cost is $15.00 per car load, however, once in the park touring both museums and seeing the spring is free.  

Maramec Spring flows an average of 100 million gallons of water each day making it the fifth largest Spring in Missouri.  The daily temperature of the water is 56 degrees Fahrenheit  therefore the water never freezes, but is always cool on hot days.  

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Bob's Sled at the Bollinger County Fall Festival

For more than 30 years kids of all ages have gathered under the pavilion at the Bollinger County Fair to either participate or cheer on other riders of the Kiddy Tractor Pull. This year the famous Kiddy Tractor Pull is back, but there will be one less face cheering on the pullers of Bob’s Sled.

Bob VanGennip a local businessman, father, and community supporter brought kiddy tractor pull to Bollinger County after visiting a local fair and watching how much fun it was for the youth.  Bob’s daughter Christy says she can remember pulling when she was just 5 , and says each year there has been around 50 boys and girls line up to take their turn at the Kiddy Tractor Pull.

After years of using the make-shift sled and volunteers tossing in bricks as the young peddlers would roll past, Bob had a replica of an actual tractor pull sled built, and well known local artist Tom Runnels put his stamp on this beloved toy.

This past May, Mr. VanGennip passed away, but his daughter Christy says the Tractor Pull must go on.  Christy said “this will be a bittersweet year, hearing all the memories of her dad, watching parents that once participated in the tractor pull now cheer on their little peddlers”. Christy along with several other volunteers has spent every festival beside her Dad organizing, cheering, and handing out ribbons and prizes to all the great pullers. Christy says, “I want my children to continue to look forward to this and remember how great it was grandpa was there.”

The kiddy tractor pull at the Bollinger County Fall Festival takes place on October 13th starting at 12 pm under the pavilion in the Marble Hill Ball Park.  For more information on the tractor pull and other events at the Bollinger County Fall Festival visit their website.  

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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Missouri State Parks Camping in Missouri |

Sometimes, to truly relax, you need to get away from it all. Imagine a place with no honking car horns, no garbage trucks rumbling down the street, and no constantly ringing phones. Now, stop imagining and let Missouri make that paradise a reality. Pack your camping gear and head to one of our serene parks.
Continue to read more with:  Missouri State Parks Camping in Missouri |