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Touring the Missouri Wine Country
Follow the Wine Road to this surprising wine lover's haven in the Midwest.
St. Louis is known for its famous Arch, the Cardinals, and a certain brewer of well-known beers. But what many don't know is that not far west of St. Louis is an acclaimed wine country that offers everything a wine lover wants on a vacation: lush vineyards, charming towns, pleasant innsand the pleasures of tasting world-renowned wines at dozens of welcoming wineries.
A Little History: In the 1830s, German immigrants settled in the Missouri River Valley west of St. Louis, because the beautiful rolling countryside reminded them of their homeland and because the land looked like it would be good for growing grapes. They were right. By the 1880s, Missouri was producing two million gallons of wine a year and establishing a reputation as the nation's leading source of quality wine.
Prohibition ended the first chapter of Missouri winemaking; the second chapter began forty years ago with the restoration of Stone Hill Winery in the historic town of Hermann. Today there are almost fifty wineries making wines that win national and international competitions.
Where: An hour's drive west of St. Louis puts you on the Missouri Weinstrasse, or Wine Road, less prosaically known as Highway 94. By following 94 from Interstate 64 through the charming German river towns of Defiance, Augusta, and Dutzow, you'll see some of the best scenery in the statewooded hills, lush valleys, and frequent glimpses of the Missouri River. You'll also pass by some of the state's best wineries.
Cross the river at Washington and follow Highway 100 to Hermann to reach another half dozen wineries. If the weather is nice, park the car in Defiance, rent a bicycle, and pedal along the Katy Trail, once a railbed converted to a cross-state bike path, that takes you to, or very near to, a number of wineries (www.bikekatytrail.com).
Plan to visit in the spring or fall, when the weather is frequently glorious. If you can travel on weekdays you'll avoid the crowds.
Virtually all of Missouri's wineries offer tours and tastings; in all but two, tastings are free. For more information and links to wineries, visit www.missouriwine.org, or call 1-800-392-WINE. As for accommodations, dozens of bed and breakfasts dot the wine routes.
The possibilities include:
- Montelle Winery offers outstanding views of the Missouri River Valley (www.montelle.com).
- Mount Pleasant Winery is a historic property with handsome old buildings, limestone cellars (built in 1881) and especially noteworthy ports.
- H.S. Clay House Bed and Breakfast is an elegant B&B located in town. (www.hsclayhouse.com).
- Blumenhof Vineyards No tour, but a very friendly staff pours tastes of excellent estate wines (www.blumenhof.com).
- Adam Puchta Winery is the oldest continuously owned family farm winery in Missouri (established in 1855) and perhaps the most beautifully situated.
- Stone Hill Winery was the second-largest winery in the country; now it's the largest winery in Missouri and, arguably, the best.
- The Captain Wohlt Inn offers four contiguous buildings in the center of Hermann with a total of eight rooms and four suites (www.captainwohltbandb.com).
Dining: Restaurants in the area run the gamut from culinary destinations to family diners. In addition, many wineries have on-premise stores selling locally made breads, cheeses and sausages, as well as wines, plus places to picnic.
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