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.