Doug Frost, the Kansas City-based wine consultant, lecturer and author of three books on wine, is one of four people in the world to simultaneously hold the Master of Wine and Master Sommelier titles. He writes about wine and spirits for numerous publications and is co-founder of Beverage Alcohol Resource, the preeminent education and examining body for the spirits and cocktail industry.
What current projects are you working on? I’m writing for LePan, a new magazine based in Hong Kong, Shanghai, that will also publish in London and New York starting June 2015. It tells you something about the state of the world economy that my most important writing assignments are coming from China.
What’s your assessment of the wine industry in the Midwest? Continued growth and continued improvement. The Midwest winemaking community is getting smarter about which grapes they should grow, where and how they should grow them, and how to properly handle them in the winery.
What regional wines do you recommend for winter, and for year-round? Many of my favorite grapes – Vignoles, Vidal Blanc, Valvin Muscat and Traminette – are ideal for warm weather, at least when it comes to their crisper iterations. Each can produce lovely sweet wines as well. Those are always fun at the end of a meal, regardless of the time of year. Chambourcin works year-round as far as I’m concerned. And Norton is almost the quintessential American wine for a cold night.
Where do you see the regional wine industry three to five years from now? Regional wineries are challenged to create their own communities and to provide themselves with a customer base by interacting with those customers and giving them a sense of connection. The California wine industry is being told the same thing. Smaller, regional wineries have an opportunity to connect in ways that bigger wineries cannot.
Are there specific grape varietals or wines that you foresee making a big splash among consumers in 2015? Valvin Muscat and Traminette ought to be able to compete with the Moscato flood that’s out there. It’s only the lack of imagination among restaurateurs and retailers that prevent those two grapes from doing so.
Thoughts on new craft distilleries in the region? It seems obvious that the craft spirits industry will act as the craft beer business did a few years ago – it will be overbuilt and a shakeout will have to occur. There seems to be no letup in sight. As with everything, some of these are good and others not so good. Gin is really hard to make well. Most new distilleries trying to make it aren’t doing a good job. Everyone is rushing to join the whiskey boom by aging their spirits in small barrels (for quicker development). That generally creates a bitter, out-of-balance spirit. So there’s a lot of improvement that is needed. Those who have dug in for the long haul are going to be just fine, though.
What trends or impressions did you take away from Kansas City’s 2014 Paris of the Plains Cocktail Festival? Although I regard it as more talk than substance, I’m still grateful that the conversation has moved towards hospitality as the goal and not simply fancy mixology. Fancy drinks are wonderful at times, but most people just want a drink and they can’t wait 20 minutes for it. It will take a few years for the attitudes to change across the board. The restaurant and bar business is based upon the hospitality and guest service. Delicious drinks are secondary to treating people with respect and compassion.
Are there specific bars, lounges or venues in Kansas City, St. Louis, Mid-Missouri or across the region offering any innovative service with wine and spirits of note? Thou Mayest Coffee Roasters, a coffee shop and roaster that also serves alcohol, comes to mind as a contemporary twist on offering high-quality beverages in the same venue. Too many to name. [Kansas] City and this region have a lot of creativity in the bartending community. But hybrids like Thou Mayest are going to be more common.
Given your experience and expertise with wine and spirit, does the industry surprise you with things you didn't already know? The more I learn, the stupider I feel. Every single day, as a certain president used to say.
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