America’s rich tradition of wine making began in earnest in the 1800′s, when European immigrants brought their skills to various unsettled areas of the country. A few decades before California and other west coast wine producing states were settled, many eastern and midwestern states had thriving wine industries. In the 1830′s, a group of German immigrants made their way to the Missouri river valley, west of St. Louis near the present town of Hermann, Missouri.
These early settlers noted how the topography and climate of the river valley resembled their European home areas of Germany and Switzerland. In particular, various grape varieties were growing wild on hillsides surrounding Hermann, prompting founding fathers and town leaders to encourage further cultivation and ultimately, wine making. After a few short years, the prolific grape crop merged with the settler’s wine making skills, and America’s first wine district was born.
After Prohibition, wine making became viable again, and since the 1960′s over 75 wineries have opened in Missouri. Situated on a 20 mile stretch, this wine district just over an hour from St. Louis boasts historic villages and seven wineries. Those who enjoy wine trails and wine travel are drawn here for a variety of reasons, not the least of which are award winning wines and spectacular scenery.
Missouri has long been known for deep, rich red wines typically produced from traditional grape varieties such as Norton and Chambourcin. Wineries in this area use these native grapes to develop award winning varieties of Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignons, and Burgundy styles. But these wineries aren’t all about reds, as winemakers on this wine trail also produce clean and delightfully crisp styles like rieslings and chardonels.
A visit to the central Missouri wine trail usually begins with a visit to St. Louis. From St. Louis, travel west on Interstate 44 to Missouri Highway 100, continuing on Highway 100 twenty miles to the town of New Haven. This charming village is the eastern edge of the wine trail and is home to historic Robller Vineyard and Winery, which offers a spectacular view of the Missouri river valley.
Just west of New Haven and on your way toward Hermann is the Bommarito Almond Tree Winery, a family owned estate winery producing a savory award winning port, among other offerings. A few miles west is Bias Vineyards and Winery, situated on a 64 acre farm and featuring a microbrewery and winery, only the 2nd such operation in the United States. Be sure to try Bias’ River Blush Rouge, an easy drinking friendly blush.
As you reach the Hermann area, you’ll discover four thriving wineries offering the chance to try Missouri wine. Stone Hill, Oakglenn, Adam Puchta, and Hermannhof wineries all offer wine tasting, winery tours, and scenic views. Take time to savor the offerings at each. Among those we particularly enjoyed were Oakglenn’s spicy Chambourcin and Stone Hill’s Vidal Blanc. Stone Hill and Hermannhof are other must stops, not only for their fine wines but also for their historic settings.
The western end of the wine trail is punctuated by the picturesque town of Hermann, MO. This is a town you’ll really enjoy – historic architecture, local restaurants, and specialty shops galore. It’s a perfect place to spend the night and participate in one of their many local events, several devoted to enjoyment of wine. Also, for the fitness buff within you, Hermann is also known for its easy access to the Katy Bike Trail which winds through the Missouri river valley.