Weekend Itinerary: Missouri Wine Country
Ramble past rolling hills, fertile vineyards, and stretches of lazy river. Small towns pop up along the way like wildflowers. They're great spots to hop on the Katy Trail, the nation's longest leisurely bike path. This trail is scenic, safe, and gloriously flat. Find your own pace, and remember: The best part of this journey is stopping along the way.
The aptly named Mount Pleasant Winery sits on a rise overlooking vibrant fields. Choose your vintage, buy cheese and crackers from the deli, and have a picnic in a little gazebo with a big view. Enjoy equally stunning vistas at Montelle Winery, where deli sandwiches and Missouri-made salami taste even better on a shady deck on a 400-foot ridge above the valley. On some Friday evenings, Sugar Creek Winery in nearby Defiance has live music.
Hop on the Katy Trail near the Augusta Brewing Co. The outdoor beer garden promises beer brats, beer, and Missouri wine at the end of your jaunt. Spend the night at the H.S. Clay House, a rare B&B with a pool and a hot tub. We loved the gourmet breakfast and the treetop suite, which feels like a secret hideaway.
On a clear day, you can see across the whole town from Stone Hill Winery. Pair your wine with a meal of schnitzel and wurst at the winery's Vintage Restaurant. Hermannhof Winery sells German sausages to go.
Portraits of five generations of winemakers line the walls at Adam Puchta Winery, the oldest family-owned winery in the country. On the way to Adam Puchta, have lunch at the cottage restaurant & gallery, a little bistro and art gallery hidden in the woods. The Vignoles goes great with their chicken salad.
Crowning a hillside flowing with sprawling grape vines, the Hermann Hill Vineyard & Inn feels like a private estate. The large, elegant rooms and breathtaking views make it a worthwhile splurge at $159 per night and up.
photo: The biggest of these wine country towns, Hermann is filled with shops, antiques, and small eateries. Hermann was founded by German immigrants whose flavors are present today.
Don't miss dinner at Les Bourgeois Vineyard's Blufftop Bistro. Enjoy a gourmet meal from an outdoor terrace overlooking the Missouri River. For something less fancy but just as fun, order burgers, brats, and a bottle of wine at the informal A-Frame Wine Garden next door.
Guests write notes on the chalkboard at the School House Bed & Breakfast Inn, a real class act. We scribbled an A+ for the well-appointed rooms, hearty breakfast, and charming schoolhouse atmosphere. We think you'll love it too.
photo: Blufftop Bistro promises a memorable meal for a very reasonable price. Most entrées are less than $20.
- Sweet wine lovers will enjoy this region's fruit wines and semisweet German-style whites, such as Vignoles.
- Like full-bodied dry reds? Cynthiana, the state grape (aka Norton) has won over a few Cabernet purists.
- Most wineries charge a little extra to uncork on their premises. A few charge a tasting fee of about $5.
photo: The view from the outdoor terrace at Montelle Winery is worth the trip.
You don't have to be a wine snob to enjoy the ritual of wine tasting, but if you've never done it before, it can feel a little intimidating at first. Don't be daunted--most pourers are happy to show you how. But to give you a little confidence before you go, we asked the folks at Mount Pleasant Winery to give us a crash course on tasting wine. They told us it was as simple as five S's.
- Sight: Holding the glass by the stem (so the heat of your hand won't warm the wine), raise the glass to the light. It should be clear and free of sediment.
- Swirl: Keeping the glass on the table, swirl the wine. This mixes in oxygen, letting the wine breathe, and releases the wine's distinct aromas, called the "nose."
- Smell: Start sniffing above the glass, because some of the scents waft higher. Don't be afraid to stick your nose right in (the glass, not the wine). Open your mouth as you inhale, and see if that changes the smell.
- Sip: Don't gulp. Let it roll over your tongue, washing over your taste buds. Draw a little air in your mouth to further oxygenate the wine.
- Swallow (or spit): Appreciate the aftertaste, which is called the finish. Is it short, long, clean, crisp, bitter, acidic, or soft? The flavor often changes several times. Most tasting wines have a spittoon so you don't have to swallow every wine you taste. (If you're tasting many wines, it's not a bad idea to use one.)
- Mount Pleasant Winery: 1-800-467-9463
- Montelle Winery: 1-888-595-9463
- Sugar Creek Winery: (636) 987-2400
- Augusta Brewing Co.: (636) 482-2337
- H.S. Clay House: 1-888-309-7334
- Stone Hill Winery: 1-800-909-9463
- Hermannhof Winery: 1-800-393-0100
- Adam Puchta Winery: (573) 486-5596
- The Cottage Restaurant & Gallery: (573) 486-4300
- Hermann Hill Vineyard & Inn: (573) 486-4455
- Les Bourgeois Vineyard's tasting room: (573) 698-2716
- Blufftop Bistro: (573) 698-2300
- A-Frame Wine Garden: (573) 698-3401
- School House B&B: (573) 698-2022
photo: Hermann Hill Vineyard & Inn features lavish rooms, a hilltop view, and a cozy B&B atmosphere.
- Defiance: Katy Bike Rentals, (636) 987-2673
- Augusta: Frazier Brothers Cycle Shop, (636) 795-5807
- Hermann: Hermann Ride Rest & Go Bicycle Shop, (573) 486-9170
photo: You'll roll along in style on retro beach cruiser, mountain bike, or even a tandem recumbent bike.