This post could also be known as “Buzzed with My Mother in Miami County” or “How to Disrupt the Paola Price Chopper.” We tasted 25 wines, two wine slushies, and a sparkling cider.
In one afternoon, we bought nearly half the wine as we tasted, ran into people we hadn’t seen for years in New Lancaster (which is hardly a place), learned about the history of wine in the Midwest, stopped at an antique store, and found this salsa.
We discovered wine tasting and antiquing have something in common; they are all about The Hunt.”
There is a similar rhythm to the day — tracking, digging, and sniffing the air. Sometimes you find something you like; sometimes you don’t. Sometimes you find yourself in great fields with variety and plenty; sometimes you find yourself in holes and dives with hidden gems, deep in the forest; sometimes you return with nothing to show for the day; sometimes you return with a trove. Sometimes you hunt in pairs or packs; sometimes you hunt solo.
But it isn’t about the wins and losses; it’s about the hunt. And everyone is hunting something different — whether it’s a certain dish pattern or a favorite varietal.
Top 3 reasons to do the Somerset Wine Trail (again and again!):
- There’s a TROLLEY. That’s right! The Miami County Trolley. The idea that there is a trolley of wineaux rolling along the country roads of Miami County, Kansas, makes me so happy. I have seen many things in many places, but a trolley in the Kansas countryside just makes me giggle.
- Inexpensive and generous tastings — $5 – $7 for 5-6 wines, plus you keep your glasses at two of the wineries.
- Music, food trucks, and overall charm.
We arrived at the New Lancaster General Store in a roundabout way (or as my grandmother would say, “We were on an adventure!”) and immediately liked its country charm. Lots of crafts and goodies to browse. The Graue family owns the winery and runs the store so tastings are conveniently provided at New Lancaster. Six wines and two wine slushies later (all for $7/person), we ended up with the sweet Peach Wine and the Noiret, a hybrid grape that makes a nice semi-dry red aged in oak. And you get to keep your glasses!
We decided this had the best tasting experience because we tried six wines (and wine slushies!) while browsing the store, and until the trolley crowd arrived, we had the place to ourselves and could ask a lot of questions.
Wines we tasted (*purchased): Peach*, Middle Creek White, Cheyenne Red, Norton, Noiret*, Sunflower White, Middle Creek White Slushie, and Noiret Slushie.
The Peach dessert wine was delicious, reminiscent of drinking fruit cup juice (but with alcohol!) The Middle Creek White had a strong nose of fresh-cut grass and other summery floral flavors; this wine transformed as a slush (loved!). The Cheyenne Red reminded us of a cherry popsicle with a hint of medicinal sweetness. We learned that Norton is a standard Kansas-Missouri grape, and this earthy red brought up memories of old antique stores, like licking an old wooden trunk. The Noiret stood out as having good structure and resonance with medium oak and overall more subtle than the previous wines. The Sunflower White had a bit of a rubbery nose and lingered.
We arrived just ahead of the trolley (which followed us all day) and ended up running into some folks I knew from college. Kansas is a very small world…!
NightHawk Vineyard & Winery | BEST OUTDOOR SETTING
This is the place to spend an afternoon listening to music and wine tasting with lots of shady outdoor seating. Upon arrival, we were greeted with live blues music and a food truck of fried artisan meatballs.
Wines we tasted (*purchased): Osage White, Vidal Blanc, Vignoles*, Seyval Blanc, Sparkling Hard Cider, Norton*, Chambourcin*, Camp 50, Traminette, and Moon Dance.
The Osage White was dry and light, while the Vidal Blanc had more oak. The Vignoles paired well with Kretch’s homemade macaroni and cheese; at first it reminded me of a sauvignon blanc but better. The green apple and notes of hay in the Seyval Blanc stood out differently to each of us. We loved the lightness of the pale Sparkling Hard Cider. The Norton — noted as the “cabernet of the Ozarks” — lived up to such a label here. I couldn’t decide which I liked better, the Norton or the Chambourcin. Both are great dry reds for pairing. Camp 50 had an interesting story but did not stand out to us among the sweet wines; granted, we had had a lot of wine at this point. Of the sweet ones, the Traminette had a more delicate sweetness than Moon Dance.
Somerset Ridge Vineyard & Winery | BEST QUALITY WINES
Somerset Ridge definitely stood out as having the best wines (as anyone could deduce from our purchases), though the venue was busy on the day we went and the setting not as relaxed as the other two. They also had music and a food truck
Wines we tasted (*purchased): Chardonel*, Traminette, Flyboy Red*, Ruby Red*, Oktoberfest, Buffalo White*, Buffalo Blush*, Buffalo Red*, and Citron*.
The unoaked Chardonel resonated with me, especially for summer. The Traminette is always a safe bet, especially for anyone who likes their gewurztraminer. The Flyboy Red hit my zin spot, spicy and high in tannins — a blend of cab franc and marquette. Another great red blend (I’m a sucker for well-done blends!), Ruby Red is a blend of cab franc, cab sauv, and chambourcin. German-style wines are common in the Midwest, and Oktoberfest is a solid white, especially for holidays. The Buffalo White, Blush, and Red were favorites of my mother; she liked them so much I did not even get a taste! The Citron I’d had before, and it is a great take on limoncello.
Happy Hunting, my wining, dining, and antique-finding friends!”