Chaumette Vineyards & Winery was voted the best winemaker in St. Louis in the 2015 Feast 50. This Q&A was conducted with Chaumette's new winemaker Henry Johnson and Mark Baehmann, who has been the winemaker for the past six years.
Tell us about a few of the winery’s signature wines.
Mark Baehmann: Our Chardonel Reserve 2014 is an excellent example of a great Missouri dry white varietal wine that can compete in the international marketplace. It's made to have a nice expression of oak but still retain the fruit-forward characteristics of this variety reflective of our climate. Also, our 2014 Dry Rosé has just been a fabulous summertime wine made by cold-pressing Chambourcin grapes and is just a delightful, everyday drinking rosé.
Henry Johnson: People really enjoy our Dry Rosé, because it has a significant fruit-forward profile with both red and white flavors, like strawberries and citrus. I think people really appreciate the wine because of the creamy mouthfeel from less stirring, or stirring the yeast residual during barrel-aging for nine months, and not just [a] straight oak flavor.
What have been some milestones in your career so far?
MB: Two things: Overall, Missouri wineries have achieved a quality that can compete internationally, and we've worked very hard for that reputation. Secondly, it's rewarding having national recognition of 90+ point awarded wines from Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast.
HJ: Our great 2014 harvest and vintage. Frankly, I'm currently launching my career, and I look forward to many upcoming milestones!
Clearly your wines have resonated with wine enthusiasts – what would you attribute this to, and what does it mean to you?
MB: I guess I'd attribute it to my experience of working with the public closely and understanding what they like and what they look for in a wine. I'm very pleased about this, as obviously the customer likes my wines.
What do you hope to see happen next in the local wine scene, and why?
MB: I would like to see continued interest in our consumers understanding and accepting Missouri wines — that a Norton will never be Cabernet. It's a Norton, and there are many things to appreciate about Norton wine.
HJ: I'd like to see the initiative of adjusting the qualifications of what a Missouri winery is, by adding a "Missouri wine garden" category to gain momentum. Also, I hope the trend continues in Missouri winemaking towards focusing on dry, serious wine.
Where do you get your inspiration when developing new wines? What inspires you and motivates you to do the work that you do?
MB: The passion of winemaking as an art form is my guide — it provokes creativity, a genuine motivator.
What’s next for you and your work?
MB: Opening my own place, Wild Sun Winery, which is located in Jefferson County, Missouri, not far from Chaumette and about 30 minutes south of St Louis. We plan to open this summer.
Chaumette Vineyards & Winery, 24345 State Route WW, Ste. Genevieve, Missouri, 573.747.1000, chaumette.com