Travis Brown Photography: The Color of Wine

A bottle of Chateauneuf de Papes:  Vieux Telegraphe, “La Crau,” over the Missouri River

A bottle of Chateauneuf de Papes: Vieux Telegraphe, “La Crau,” over the Missouri River

Even within the Show Me State of Missouri, you can find many Travis Browns.  Travis Brown the cyclist.  Travis Brown the school superintendent.  A Travis Browne that fights.  There are Travis Browns that sing, that play professional football, and even Travis Browns that advertise tattoos.  However, I think that my profile is still relatively-unique in its focus on fine wines, entrepreneurship, and growing our Midwest economy.

If there’s one Travis Brown that I should partner with, it is likely another Travis Brown with a creative focus on photography, graphic arts, and creative productions.  It turns out that even near Saint Louis, there’s another Travis Brown whose career is precisely that as well.  Even though the two of us have never met, occasionally I get to observe his handiwork inside an Opera Theatre of Saint Louis event.

Growing up on our family farm in Ste. Genevieve County, my mother and father used to say that “there’s a Brown in everything.”

There are certainly fewer Travis Brown searches related to the Northern or Southern Rhone valleys in France.  That is likely in part due merely to the fact that the name “Travis” is often thought to be derived from native American/French Canadian roots (like travois).  In any event, for those looking for great wines on this blog, I often refer you, again, to the South of France.

A recent cover article for Decanter Magazine outlines my case better than I could do for myself.  There’s so much diversity – of color, of varietals, and of blending, to be found within the Great Rhone river regions.  Even the bodies, depths, and range of colors found within Rhone whites can be incredibly complex, just like the spectrum of google searches for Travis Brown.

Grapes, Grasshoppers, & Grafting

By Travis H. Brown

As a native of Ste. Genevieve County and their Route Du Vin, it is pleasing to report that Missouri now has more than 100 local wineries in production.  As regions such as Hermann, St. James, and Augusta lobby hard for local tourism dollars and regional respect, many Missourians may not realize how much le monde du vin (the world of wine) owes to Show Me State discovery.

In the 1860’s, an aphid-based plague known as phylloxera ravaged most of Europe’s most precious vines.  It was to grapes what the black plaque was human civilization, threatening to ruin entire populations of varietals within a few growing seasons.  It is such an important threat the Institut Francais de la Vigne et du Vin (IFV) has numerous research studies on its impact still today.

Then our Missouri valentine arrived.  Enter a bug doctor – Charles Valentine Riley, to be precise, Missouri’s first state entomologist.  Thanks to Riley’s tedious study of grasshopper infestations across various states, he lobbied hard for our United States Department of Agriculture to advance many of his biological control methods.  Riley helped develop a grafting technique using native Missouri rootstocks resistant to the pest, which arguably saved the world of fine wines.

I am told that Missouri had more than 200 active wineries prior to the government policy swing brought by the Prohibition Era.  A curious political twist of fate from this movement was that the alliance between the women’s temperance movement and anti-saloon league to ban alcohol ironically helped propel a national income tax.

So, the next time you met a French viticulturist, remind him that he should thank Missouri for giving his vineyard strong American roots.  If the comments back were like mine years ago in Sancerre, you’ll be saying “a la vache!”