VOX VINEYARDS + AMERICAN HERITAGE GRAPES
Situated right in the middle of the United States, Missouri has more ecological diversity than any other state. It is ideally positioned at the convergence of the eastern woodlands, western plains, Ozark highlands, and the Mississippi Delta. The diversity of these ecological biomes creates the perfect environment for the evolution of diverse plants and animals, and the cultivation of fruits.
This remarkable diversity is cause for celebration. At Vox Vineyards we are dedicated to raising awareness of the heritage and potential of North America’s native grapes. Discover with us which of the native grapes form the best expression as wine in our vineyard just north of Kansas City, Missouri.
WHAT ARE AMERICAN HERITAGE GRAPES?
American Heritage Grapes are grapes that come from specific species native to North America. Each species can potentially have as many different varieties as there are seeds. Grape varieties are like dog breeds, and ours are as unique and varied as a Chihuahua and a Great Dane. Most of the AHG’s at Vox were developed and cultivated by Thomas Volney Munson.
A little biology 101: every plant genus contains many individual varieties. Every grape seed—as every apple or peach seed—produces a unique plant: if a desirable individual plant is discovered, it’s given a variety name, and more copies—all copies of it—are produced asexually, by grafting, or rooting cuttings.
Many of the most famous wines in the world come from Europe’s ancient grape varieties, which are all from the species Vitis Vinifera. But in the late 1800’s Thomas Volney Munson, the viticulturist who is the philosophical foundation for Vox Vineyards, identified 31 separate species of grapes, 27 of them are indigenous to middle America. American Heritage Grapes have their origins in one of those 27 grape species.
WHO IS THOMAS VOLNEY MUNSON?
T.V. Munson is the American viticulturist credited with saving Europe’s traditional grape varieties from the Phylloxera epidemic in the late 1800’s, and is the philosophical foundation of Vox Vineyards. Munson saved Europe’s wine industry by grafting the Vitis Vinifera grapes to American rootstock. The hardy North American rootstock was resistant to phylloxera (since both pest and American vines had evolved side by side) and thus French wines like Bordeaux and Pinot Noir are still enjoyed today, having been grown on native American rootstock.
In addition to being the savior of European wine, Munson was also an avid breeder and the leading expert in American grape species. He is responsible for the initial cultivation and study of most of the grapes grown at Vox today.
WHO IS JERRY EISTERHOLD?
The story begins with a love of wine and great dirt. Owner/founder Jerry Eisterhold, a Missouri farm boy, grew up surrounded by wild grapes in the lush Gasconade River Valley upstream from Hermann, Missouri. Jerry’s early Agronomy education at the University of Missouri in 1969 brought with it a connoisseurship of soils (he was the third-best soil judge in the Big Eight). In 1996, this special appreciation for soil helped Jerry find the right dirt in the Missouri River Bluffs. That same year Jerry began his mission to find the grapes that would complement the land.
Jerry was determined to follow in the footsteps of the renowned viticulturist Thomas Volney Munson, who brought American Heritage Grapes to the world’s attention when he saved the French vineyards through grafting Vitis Vinifera (the Eurasian wine grape) onto American rootstock. At Vox Vineyards, Jerry is continuing Munson’s journey by cultivating over forty native varieties, in his quest to discover the unique flavors that American Heritage Grapes bring to wine.