Weekend Itinerary: Missouri Wine Country
Enjoy Missouri by the glass or by the mile. Follow this scenic, leisurely trail to three small towns that offer the best of the bunch.
Three Days in Missouri Wine Country
Drive, pedal, or taste your way through a region at its peak in early summer. Wineries, shops, and B&Bs dot the countryside and open their doors to spring. Like riding a bike, this road trip to three of our favorite hamlets is something you'll never forget.
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.
Day One: Wined and Dined in Augusta
The ambling pace of wine country is far from the bustling spirit of St. Louis, but your first stop, Augusta, is just an hour's drive along State 94. Filled with quaint B&Bs, this town also boasts several wineries and a beer garden.
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.
Day Two: Go German in Hermann
German settlers planted roots--and vines--here in 1837. Their flavors still run strong, from the region's Riesling-style white wines to the WurstFest held here every March.
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.
Day Three: A High Note in Rocheport
Pedaling through the town of Rocheport's perfect charming streets will fill you with childish glee. So will the shops and bistros. Traffic is mellow, and the Katy Trail is particularly pretty here, flanked by the river on one side and high bluffs on the other.
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.
A Few Missouri Wine Country Tips
- 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.
Wine Tasting 101
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.)
Missouri Wine Country Travel Planner
- 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.
An unforgettable road trip
You can rent bikes along the way for a few hours or a few days. We prefer the cushy cruisers to the higher tech mountain bikes. As one rental guru put it: "Twenty-one gears on the Katy Trail? That's like putting lipstick on a pig!"
- 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.