Know as “the country’s first wine country,” Missouri’s winemaking dates back to the late-1830s when German settlers arrived and planted grape vines in the town of Hermann, on the flanks of the Missouri River. Toward the end of the nineteenth century, Missouri’s Stone Hill Winery that built in 1947 by a German immigrant was the second largest American winery and the third largest in the world and scooping up gold medals at international competitions. Soon Italian immigrants arrived, bringing their wine expertise to the area and in the Ozark Highlands, near St. James.
Amongst the leaders in the wine world, when the phylloxera louse attacked much of Europe’s vines in the late 1800s, Missouri winemakers were instrumental in helping Europe rebuild their industry. They shipped “phylloxera-resistant” American rootstock to France that was grafted with French vine cuttings. There is a statue in Montpelier, France, in honor of this saveur.
There were over one hundred thriving wineries scattered throughout Missouri prior to the start of Prohibition in 1920. But when the planting, picking and pressing stopped wineries closed, leaving the economy in shambles. Only St. Stanislaus Novitiate winery, in St. Louis, who produced sacramental wine during the enduring dry period, was sole survivor by the rescind of the act in 1934. The modern wine industry started to gain some momentum in the 1960s and 1970, but it never regained the same prominent status it once owned.
Today there are over one hundred wineries with five separate wine trails: Hermann Wine Trail, Route Du Vin, Missouri Weinstrasse, Missouri River Wine Trail and Ozark Mountain Wine Trail. www.missouriwine.org. Similar to Virginia, the Norton grape is a reliable workhorse that produces rich, robust tannic red with an inky purple with some tobacco, chocolate-covered berry flavors swirled with a touch of rusticness.
The two standout wineries because of their spectacularly beautiful properties and some very nice wines, which are near wonderful biking and adventuring are Stone Hill Winery in Hermann and Mount Pleasant Winery in Augusta. Both wineries have produced ninety-plus rated wines that won blind tastings against some of California’s best wines – and have fascinating histories.
Mount Pleasant Winery is also the start and finishing point of the annual Vino Fondo cycling event, which is part of local bike shop Big Shark’s Grand Fondo – an epic recreational cycling event series. Held in spring, the Vino Fondo is a fully supported and timed recreational ride - that is not race - with three distance and elevation option: 128 miles with 11,000 feet of climbing, 84 miles with 6,700 feet of climbing or 26 miles with 2,600 feet of climbing. Any of the distances is sure to build up a crazy thirst.
For those looking for something less extreme, but just as beautiful, the nearby, two hundred mile Katy Trail is a very popular for bike wine tours. Crisscrossing through Augusta and Weinstrasse wine regions it connects to stash of rail-trails and wineries.
Stone Hill Winery 1110 Stone Hill Hwy, Hermann, MO 65041 * 800-909-WINE
www.StoneHillWinery.com Open daily.
Mount Pleasant Winery 3125 Green Mountain Drive, Branson, MO 65616 * 417-336-9463 * www.mountpleasant.com Open daily.
Grand Fondo’s Vino Fondo Cycling Event 314-862-1188 * www.bigshark.com
Katy Trail Map & Information * www.bikekatytrail.com