Thanks to everyone who has come with us on this trip.
The final leg of the trip home took us through Missouri's famed wine country. Before Prohibition, the area around Hermann, Missouri, was one of the largest wine producing areas in the nation. The soil and climate reminded many of the area's original German settlers of the Rhine Valley in Germany. You can taste that similarity in many of the wines.
We visited the Stone Hill Winery as they were preparing for Maifest. Their Late Harvest Vignoles is expensive, but very, very good. For the rest of the wines, this last year wasn't as good as some past. The award winning Pink Catawba was a bright and tasty spot.
We travelled south through Arkansas. You know you're getting close to home when you find deep-fried pickles and deep-fried corn-on-the-cob on the menu.
Probably the Wiederkehr Wine Cellars is the largest of Arkansas' wineries. They always have something to tempt the palate. Their Muscat Di Tanta Maria is certainly one of those. It's not on the shelves very often, and it's worth looking for. The 2006 is almost as good as the 2003 was, so I had to pick up a bottle. In a different category, the Cynthiana is worth consideration.
Our final stop was at the Mount Bethel Winery in Altus, Arkansas. Last year was an absolutely wonderful year for the areas native Muscadine grapes. This year Mount Bethel has the best Red and White Muscadine wines in the area. If you can visit, visit the tiny tasting room in the family owned winery. Stay awhile for some great conversation and sample the wide spectrum of tastes there. Then pick up a bottle of the White Muscadine, you'll be happy that you did. I am because it absolutely rocks :-)
We used a lot of gasoline on this trip. We've put just over four thousand miles onto the rented Dodge Grand Caravan since we left. We got 25 miles per gallon going up to Rochester, New York, but with all the weight of ... stuff ... my son had acquired during his first semester of college, our mileage dropped down to 22 miles per gallon.
I hope that one day we can ween our nation off Big Oil. Right now the options ordinary consumers have is fairly limited. Conservation works, but it only reduces consumption. Besides measures like driving responsibly and making sure the car had correct tire air pressures, etc., the only option is E-85 ethanol. The Dodge I drove was Flex-fuel equipped, so I bought some in Hermann, Missouri.
I'm from a state that has just two heritage industries: agriculture and energy. I know that there are more efficient ways to manufacture ethanol for motor fuels than corn-based moonshine. Oklahoma is a good state to raise switch grass for cellulosic ethanol. Thanks to our Governor Brad Henry, we have a state plan to look into switch grass more closely.
It's so hard to find gas pumps out there for anything other than gasoline and diesel. I think that if we were more serious about moving off oil, we'd have more pumps available AND we would allow imports of ethanol from Brazil. They use sugar cane which is a more efficient source of sugars than corn for making ethanol. In terms of where my energy dollars go, I'd rather keep them in the US if it were only possible. Since that's not an option, I'd rather support Brazil than Saudi Arabia.
I don't just say that because I spent a whole bunch of time there during the Gulf War ... and don't want to go back. On the other hand Brazil is really interesting. Maybe I should do what investigation I can by planning my next vacation to start the Friday before the next Ash Wednesday, you know, time for Carnival in Rio.
Anyone want to come with us?