Toast Missouri Wine Country

The grapes are ripe and ready. Come to central Missouri, and taste what the region has to offer.
Clay Nordan

To read more about regional wine, see Toast Virginia Wine Country.
Just 30 minutes from the bustle of St. Louis lies a magical land of peace and beauty. They grow grapes here, and from grapes comes wine--very good wine. When summer's heat finally breaks in mid-September, the air clears with the promise of fall, the harvest reaches its peak, and wine lovers are never more welcome to spend a few leisurely days sampling the local vintages.

Dotting a 50-mile corridor on both sides of the Missouri River, from Augusta to Hermann, are 14 award-winning wineries and some of the most beautiful farms and charming towns you'll ever see. The vineyards are a legacy of the German immigrants who settled the region in the 1830s and 1840s; their cultural influence remains strong today.

Most of the wineries are small affairs with lots of personality, but several are big operations that play host to ambitious seasonal events and encourage large numbers of visitors, even those who don't care for wine or spirits.

Some offer tours of their winemaking areas and cellars, while all have comfortable tasting rooms and picnic spots for thoughtful sampling. In their well-stocked shops you'll find that the wines you enjoyed sipping can be purchased by the bottle or case.

In and Around Augusta
Along State 94, stop at Sugar Creek Winery & Vineyards, about 8 miles east of Augusta. Here you can strike up a friendly chat with owners Ken and Becky Miller as they welcome you into their cozy publike tasting room and gift shop. They'll offer samples of Sugar Creek's delicious red, white, and blush wines and explain the qualities of the dry, semidry, sweet, and dessert wines made from the French and American hybrid grapes grown in the vineyard close by.

On your way out there's a good chance you'll see baskets of just-picked grapes fed into a fascinating machine that separates them from the stems. It's not unusual for several tons to be picked and processed in a single day. The sweet, heady aroma from the ripe grapes is nearly intoxicating.

Augusta, Missouri, is a gem of a town. With only 300 residents, the amenities oriented to travelers are surprising. The town benefits from the many visitors attracted by the wineries, and it's also a favorite stopover for hikers and bicyclists traveling the popular Katy Trail nearby.

Mount Pleasant Winery, perched on a hilltop overlooking a vast expanse of the Missouri River bottom, is the showplace in Augusta. The winery's ample patio and terrace area is a perfect place to relax with companions and listen to live music performed most weekends. Conveniently located at the winery, the Augusta Grocery sells wine and gourmet picnic delicacies. Mount Pleasant's 120-year-old limestone cellars also open for tours on weekends.

Other wineries in the area worth a look are Montelle, Balducci, and Augusta Winery. Across the street from Augusta Winery is a no-frills bakery called The Bread Shed. Stop by for fresh pastries, breads, and cookies.

If you've had enough wine for the day, investigate some of the town's fine shopping. Look in at The Augusta Emporium, Americana Galleries & Augusta Pottery, and Augusta Wood Ltd. Be advised that many businesses and restaurants in town and throughout this region may be closed on Monday and Tuesday.

There are several first-rate bed-and-breakfasts here, so don't hesitate to stay over and take advantage of everything Augusta has to offer.

 

Heading West
Your quest for wine on State 94 takes you west out of Augusta through the village of Dutzow. Here, you'll find Blumenhof Vineyards & Winery. However, if you leave 94 and cross the Missouri into Washington, a lovely river town, you'll find interesting antiques shops and a handsome riverfront park. American Bounty and Richard's on the Riverfront are some commendable restaurants on West Front Street. Frontier Grill, which serves only local wines, is another worthwhile eatery located on State 100 and High Street.

State 100 from Washington completes the remaining 25 miles or so to Hermann. Bias Vineyards & Winery lies several miles off 100 near the town of Berger. Take a leisurely walk among the rows of grape-burdened vines to a picnic down by the pond. Or sit under the trellis on the patio, and watch the butterflies while sampling one of the snack plates along with a glass of dry white wine.

Hello, Hermann
Just before entering Hermann, you must stop at The OakGlenn Vineyards & Winery. A fabulous drive under a canopy of hardwoods leads to the most scenic of all the wineries.

Surveying the majestic Missouri River and the well-kept vineyard, the view from OakGlenn's picnic area makes it an ideal place to have lunch, sip some wine, and drink in the breathtaking panorama.

You'll experience central Missouri's German heritage in Hermann. Stop at Hermannhof Winery and Vineyards as you come into town, and it's as if you've passed into a small slice of the Rhineland. Hermannhof offers a self-guided tour of its cellars where you might bump into winemaker Paul LeRoy as he makes the rounds testing his handiwork. Sample the wines in the well-appointed tasting room, and also choose from the extensive selection of authentic, Missouri-made German sausages and cheeses.

A lot of Hermann's early architecture still stands and has been put to good use. A wide variety of stores and historic sites cater to the interests of visitors passing through. There are plenty of good restaurants for you to select from with German cuisine predominating. Among these are the Vintage Restaurant at Stone Hill Winery and The Wild Grapevine Restaurant on Market Street.

Hermann is a B&B town, with more than 40 different choices in a range of prices. But a trip devoted to the wines of the region would not be complete without a stay at Hermann Hill Vineyard & Inn.

Clinging to the side of one of the town's steep ridges, the inn offers eight rooms, each boasting a memorable view of the sloping vineyard and the picturesque village and spires below. In keeping with the spirit of a wine country jaunt, Hermann Hill's spacious rooms have such names as Cynthiana, Chambourcin, and Seyval--local grape varieties.

After a restful sleep, enjoy a hearty breakfast on your balcony or terrace or in the dining room with fellow guests. Rates range from $125 during the week to $220 on Saturday.

Just down the ridge and within easy walking distance of the inn, you'll find Stone Hill Winery & Restaurant. Stone Hill, the largest winery in Missouri, has been making wine off and on since 1847.

Visitors can take a guided tour ($1.50 per person) of the winery's cellars and see first-hand how wines and sparkling wines are made and aged. The tour ends in the winery's elegant tasting room where your host sets out miniature wine glasses and offers samples for your pleasure.

Stone Hill operates a phenomenal gift shop where you can purchase wines, picnic supplies, and every kind of wine-related gift item you could possibly imagine. From soaps to glassware to party accessories, it's all here.

As your time visiting the central Missouri wine country comes to an end, you begin to realize that you have fallen under its spell. What could be more satisfying than knowing you visited a magical land graced by good wine and the hospitality of warm and inviting people?

 

Who Knew It Would Be so Good?
Prior to visiting the central Missouri wine country, we had no idea what to expect from the region's wines. We were completely prepared to politely sample what was offered as the area's best and hope for something palatable. What we found was an outstanding array of wines in the $10 to $20 price range that compare favorably to anything coming out of California, Chile, and Australia. If you like a good dry Merlot, Chardonnay, or even sparkling wine, there's something here for you. Those who prefer a sweeter wine will find plenty to choose from as well.

Norton or Cynthiana
For full bodied dry reds, such as Cabernet Sauvignon

Chambourcin
For medium bodied reds, resembling Pinot Noir

St. Vincent
For delicate reds, resembling Burgundy; can be slightly sweet

Seyval
For dry to semidry whites; resembles Chenin Blanc

Chardonel
Cross between Chardonnay and Seyval; very dry whites.

Vidal
For dry to semidry whites

Vignoles
For dry to sweet whites and dessert wines.

Concord
For a sweet, dark purple dessert wine.

Catawba
For blush and rosé wines.

Direct Shipment Laws
Laws regarding the direct shipment of wine vary significantly from state to state and can be very difficult to understand. For information regarding this important subject, visit the Web site for the Califorinia Wine Institute at www.wineinstitute.org.

 

B&B's and Hospitality
During our research trip to Missouri wine country for the story in the September 2003 issue of Southern Living, we had the good fortune to stay or visit with four bed-and-breakfasts in the area.

We were welcomed by Bill and Debbie Schaefer at the cozy Lindenhof Bed & Breakfast on the corner of Walnut and Jackson in Augusta. Freshly baked cookies awaited our arrival. The owners provide a couple of common areas for guests to use that include a refrigerator filled with refreshments, round-the-clock hot water for tea and other beverages, and freshly brewed coffee ready for early risers.

Lindenhof offers a nice combination of period charm and modern conveniences. Antiques furnished our comfortable bedroom as well as the parlor. The B&B offers both thick and thin pillows, depending on your preference, and we appreciated the armoire with extra towels and the candy box filled with different kinds of chocolate.

Around back, there's a nicely maintained hot tub for guests to use in a private courtyard setting. Debbie thoughtfully keeps a bottle of insect repellent handy to ward off mosquitoes.

Following a restful night in a lush four-poster bed, we were treated to a breakfast of French toast stuffed with cream cheese and drizzled with orange-butter sauce, a Havarti-and-dill soufflé, fresh strawberries, crisp bacon, and fresh orange juice.

Our room for one night during the week was $110. Look for more information at www.lindenhof-augusta.com.

Just up Walnut Street is the H.S. Clay House and Guest Cottage. Proprietors Alan and Leigh Buehre have fashioned a fanciful Queen Anne-style dreamhouse that's loaded with their quirky collections of all kinds of antiques and old-time household items and knickknacks. It's worth a stop just to see what's inside.

But if you decide to stay the night, Alan and Leigh offer pampering with a capital P. You can choose from any of the main house's comfortable and well-appointed rooms, or select the charming and spacious guest cottage across the street. There is an inviting swimming pool behind the main house with a relaxing sitting area adjacent.

Alan is a gourmet chef, so you can expect the very best from the breakfast portion of your stay. Alan and Leigh love to show off what they have at the H.S. Clay House, so be sure and ask for the grand tour and allow them to tell you the stories behind the history of the house and their collections within. Rates range $135-$210; visit www.hsclayhouse.com for more information.

In Hermann, visitors have many options for B&B selections. A budget choice is Birk's Gasthaus on Goethe Street. Birk's is one of the most impressive architectural examples you'll see in Hermann. It's a three-story, old-world mansion that is a real head turner. Rick and Dianne Pankau are bringing the place back to its former glory, and they are doing a marvelous job. Birk's has a strong appeal to the Katy Trail set, and they even have bikes that guests can use during their stay. They offer Murder Mystery Weekends and special deals for groups. Visit www.birksgasthaus.com for rates and more information.

The cream of the crop in Hermann is Hermann Hill Vineyard & Inn. In the style of European mountain chalets, the four-story inn clings to the edge of one of Hermann's handsome ridges. The inn's own grape-rich vineyard stretches out on the slope below, lending a truly exotic sense to the scene. Hermann Hill is all about pampering and romance. There are only eight rooms here, but they are all very spacious and come with amenities galore. Each bath has a large whirlpool tub and separate shower. There's cable TV, VCR, DVD, CD player, fireplaces, and the view from your room is spectacular. The inn maintains a library of tapes, CDs, and movies for guests' enjoyment. At 10 p.m., Terry and Peggy Hammer, the proprietors, leave cookies at your door.

In the morning, you are served a sumptuous breakfast at the location you selected the previous evening. The choices are your room; your private balcony or patio; or to join other guests in the kitchen, dining room, or outside on the deck. The breakfasts we enjoyed at Hermann Hill included rich cinnamon-nut French toast, egg casserole, cheesy potatoes, fruit, yogurt, orange juice, coffee, and tea.

Terry has a most unusual, but entertaining, request he makes of each couple whom he hosts. Outside under a grape arbor hang an array of heavy, tubular, gold-painted metal gongs. Each is intended to represent a word or phrase that best describes a couple's relationship and is inscribed accordingly. The choices are: "Magic," "Passion," "Silk & Champagne," "Romance," "Strength," "Soul Mates," and "Excitement." You are asked to strike the gong most appropriate for the two of you with a rubber mallet one time for each year you have been together. It's a special and stunning thrill to hear and feel the boom of your chosen gong echoing repeatedly across the valley and to the distant ridge.

Rates vary depending on the day of the week and time of year, but mid-week you can usually arrange to stay for less than $150 per night. For specific rates and more information about Hermann Hill Vineyard & Inn, visit www.hermannhill.com.

 

Augusta-Hermann Area Wineries
Sugar Creek Winery & Vineyards
125 Boone Country Lane
Defiance, MO 63341
(636) 987-2400
www.sugarcreekwines.com
10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday, noon-5:30 p.m. Sunday
 

Montelle Winery at Osage Ridge
State 94
Augusta, MO 63332
(636) 228-4464
www.montelle.com
10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday
 

Mount Pleasant Winery
5634 High Street
Augusta, MO 63332
(636) 482-9463
www.mountpleasant.com
11 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday-Friday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday May-October
 

Augusta Winery
High & Jackson Streets
Augusta, MO 63332
(636) 228-4301
www.augustawinery.com
10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, noon-6 p.m. Sunday
 

Louis P. Balducci Vineyards
6601 State 94 South
Augusta, MO 63332
(636) 482-8466
www.balduccivineyards.com
11 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday
Serving food 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday
 

Blumenhof Vineyards & Winery
State 94
Dutzow, MO 63342
(636) 433-2245
1-800-419-2245
www.blumenhof.com
10:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday, noon-5:30 p.m. Sunday
 

Bommarito Estate Almond Tree Winery
3718 Grant School Road
New Haven, MO 63068
(573) 237-5158
noon-6 p.m. Saturday-Sunday; noon-6 p.m. daily throughout October
 

La Dolce Vita Vineyard & Winery
5 West Second Street
Washington, MO 63090
(636) 239-0399
www.ladolcevitawinery.com
11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday
 

Röbller Vineyard Winery
275 Röbller Vineyard Road
New Haven, MO 63068
(573) 237-3986
www.robllerwines.com
10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday, noon-6 p.m. Sunday
 

Bias Vineyards & Winery
3166 Highway B
Berger, MO 63014
(573) 834-5475
www.biaswinery.com
10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday
 

The OakGlenn Vineyards & Winery
1104 OakGlenn Place
Hermann, MO 65041
toll free 1-877-486-5057
www.oakglenn.com
noon-6 p.m. daily
 

Hermannhof Winery and Vineyards
237-330 East First Street
Hermann, MO 65041
(573) 486-5959
1-800-393-0100
www.hermannhof.com
10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday
 

Stone Hill Winery & Restaurant
1110 Stone Hill Highway
Hermann, MO 65041
1-800-909-9463
www.stonehillwinery.com
8:30 a.m.-7 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 8:30 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday
 

Adam Puchta Winery
1947 Frene Creek Road
Hermann, MO 65041
(573) 486-5596
www.adampuchtawine.com
Summer (April-November):
9 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday
Winter (December-March):
10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday
 

Augusta B&B's
Lindenhof Bed & Breakfast
Debbie and Bill Schaefer
P.O. Box 52
Walnut and Jackson Streets
Augusta, MO 63332
(636) 228-4617
www.lindenhof-augusta.com
 

H.S. Clay House and Guest Cottage
Alan & Leigh Buehre
Public and Walnut Streets
Augusta, MO 63332
1-888-309-7334
www.hsclayhouse.com
 

The Red Brick Inn Bed & Breakfast
252 Lower Street
P.O. Box 56
Augusta, MO 63332
(632) 482-4046
www.redbrick-bb.com
 

The Swan Haven Inn Bed & Breakfast
164 Jackson Street
Augusta, MO 63332
(636) 482-8017
www.swanhaveninn.com
 

Augusta Wine Country Inn
5619 Fifth Street
Augusta, MO 63332
(636) 482-4307
www.augustawinecountry.com
 

Cottage Guest House
215 Jackson Street
Augusta, MO 63332
(636)228-4024
www.augustacottage.com
 

Find the following at Augusta, Missouri's town Web site, www.augusta-missouri.com:
Calendar of Events
B&B listing
Shops
Restaurants/Bakeries
Wineries/Breweries
Public Sites
Services
Churches & Museums
Town History
 

Find the following at Washington, Missouri's town Web site, www.washmo.org:
Calendar of Events
Restaurants
Guided Tours
Walking Tours
Attractions
Dining
Shopping
Lodging
Antiques
Galleries
Recreation
 

Find the following at Hermann, Missouri's town Web site, www.hermannmo.com:
Calendar of Events
Lodging
Restaurants
Shops
Museums
Maps/Directions
 

This article is from the September 2003 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.