Last week I went to a wedding in Kansas City. My editor, Barbara, married her upstanding fiance named Andrew (and to her credit held no outstanding grudges against his being from Nebraska).
Okay – Kansas City is NOT the geographical center of the lower 48 contiguous United States of America. But it’s close. With a little help from Wikipedia and Google Maps, I found out that the real center of the United States is in Lebanon, Kansas, located a few hundred miles north and west of Kansas City.
But for a wedding? This was the center of the universe…at least for an evening.
Though it may not grip any reputation for fostering rip-roaring action and cultural frisson – Kansas City once did. In the 1920’s the city was a haven for gangsters, corrupt politicians, and public shoot-outs – hence its nickname as the Paris of the Prairies. (Did Paris have gangsters? Maybe not, but the fact is, KC was once a hopping den of inequity, inebriation, and gunslinging gamblers. So we’ll just go with that historical nickname.)
The surprise is this: today in Kansas City (prairie heartland of the U.S.) the taste for sampling eclectic wines appears to soar higher than in many other regions of the U.S.
A friend named Steve and I sat on the porch of a seafood restaurant in the ‘Power and Light District’ of Kansas City (raging night life there on the weekends, by the by).
At the Bristol Seafood Grill we ordered Char Crusted Ahi Tuna, then flipped our paper menu over to see a list of about 160 wines. This included five ‘flights,’ or choices of wines that complement each other. The flights had names such as ‘Platinum Blondes,’ ‘Cosmopolitan Whites,’ (including a Veitliner from Austria, a Riesling from Napa, and a Pinot Gris from the Willamette Valley), and ‘Fiery Redheads’ (Petite Syrah, a Meritage blend, and a Cabernet).
When I asked the waiter (or must we call them ‘servers’ nowadays?) what the most popular choices were – expecting a typical Cabernet Sauvignon / Chardonnay combination (the chocolate and vanilla flavors of the wine world), he told us that Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand is the favored white, while the most ordered red is a Gascon Malbec from Argentina.
That is intriguing, especially when I considered how, a week later, another friend and I checked into a boutique hotel in the Sonoma Valley wine country of California. The receptionist with the crisp and erudite voice offered us a choice of one of two complimentary bottles of wine – a Chardonnay or a Cabernet (yaaaaaaawwn…!).
Back to Kansas City. For our late lunch I drank a Belle Glos Meomi Pinot Noir from California, followed by a Rosenblum Red Zinfandel from Sonoma, while Steve downed a Joel Gott “815 Blend” (including Cabernet Sauvignon), followed by a Spellbound Petite Syrah. Steve comes from the town of Washington in the northeast of England (yes, there’s some intriguing history regarding the name), and he is apt to speak his truth. He tasted my Pinot and gave the following analysis – “Consistent. Doesn’t hit you, and then run away.”
Kansas City. Great people – with a thirst for wines from all over the world, and customers who are ready for more than vanilla or chocolate.