An October 2003 trip
to Missouri by Re Carroll
Quote: Located within easy driving distance from St. Louis, Missouri’s Augusta wine district was actually the first designated wine district in the country thanks to the German immigrants who settled here in the 1800s. Today, it is home to over 100 wineries and many are open for tours and tastings.
We took one sunny autumn Saturday and travelled from St. Louis along Highway 94 nicknamed Weinstrasse (Wine Road). Coincidentally, Octoberfest was happening and the wineries were packed with visitors. Some even had live bands on site and there was quite a party atmosphere.
Most of the wineries had small cafes or deli and bakery sections filled with gourmet picnic fixings. Picnic areas and patios were available so people could spread out their feast, have the winery open their selected vintage and enjoy a relaxing afternoon of good food and entertainment.
Each winery had its own special appeal but the best part was travelling Missouri’s scenic back roads with family and friends, although sampling the wine wasn’t hard to take either.
Make sure to have a designated driver because there are a lot of wineries and wines to try.
Attraction | "Montelle Winery"
The winery’s interior was dominated by a huge oak tasting bar where samples of their different wines are offered. Unfortunately, the woman who served our area was not in the best of moods and gave the impression that we were keeping her from more important business so we didn’t spend a lot of time here. To be fair, they were very busy and the staff may have been overwhelmed but they do need to recognize that customer service is extremely important.
Montelle produces 15 different wines that run the gamut from dry white like Seyval to semi dry fruit wines including blackberry, strawberry and raspberry. Prices average $9 per bottle ($11 for those who wanted to enjoy a chilled bottle of wine on the terrace) and they also produce Ports and a couple varieties of grape juice. Everyone has different opinions of wine but the Montelle wines I tried seemed too young to me, a bit flat and bitter however the bakery/deli section was a different story. The store sold everything needed for a picnic right down to plastic cutlery, plates, glasses and all kinds of interesting and yummy gourmet foods. We bought a loaf of sourdough garlic bread that was made with whole garlic cloves baked into the dough. A block of creamy Havarti cheese and a roll of cheese and pepper salami provided us with the makings for a tail gate picnic that we enjoyed later in the day.
The winery is open year round - Monday through Friday from 10 to 5:30, Saturday 10 to 6 and Sunday 11 to 6. Although we tasted better wine at other wineries we didn’t find anyplace that came close to offering as scenic a picnic/relaxation area as Montelle. Their web site is: www.montelle.com and the toll free phone number is 888 595 9463.
Member Rating 2 out of 5 on March 8, 2004
Montelle Winery & Klondike Cafe
201 Montelle Drive
Augusta, Missouri 63332
Mount Pleasant hosts winemaker’s dinners throughout the year and is a popular place for wedding receptions as well. It was one of the few places where we noted a uniformed security guard very obviously in attendance. He said the wineries provide their own security to ensure revelers don’t get too carried away. I’d be more concerned that they’d try to steal some of the beautiful hand-painted wine glasses that were for sale in the small gift shop.
Staff at the winery were extremely pleasant and helpful and there was a crush of people lined up to taste the wine. In fact, potential tasters were two deep in some spots and we waited about 10 minutes before finding space at the bar. Most of Mount Pleasant’s wines are dry, and I enjoyed their specialty Cabernet Sauvignon called "Timepiece," as well as their 2000 Norton, which uses Norton grapes, indigenous to Missouri. I wasn’t crazy about their sparkling wine called Ten Bucks, which reminded me of Asti Spumante, and didn’t get a chance to try any of their ports.
There is a deli/store as well as an outdoor patio where you can sit and sip a glass of your favourite Mount Pleasant wine. The winery is open daily year round and discounts are given for orders of four or more bottles. On Saturdays and Sundays at 1 and 3pm, the winery offers a 45-minute guided tour of the grounds and the winemaking process. Cost is $5.00 per person and includes a souvenir wine glass.
Mount Pleasant’s website is: www.mountpleasant.com and their phone number is 800/467-WINE.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on March 8, 2004
Mount Pleasant Winery
5634 High Street
Augusta, Missouri 63332
Augusta was the smallest winery that we toured and there was a continual stream of customers coming and going. There was quite a line-up at the sales counter and many people were buying cases at a time - we took this as a good sign. The tasting area was small and decorated with the many ribbons and medals that the winery has won over the years. The extremely friendly server more than made up for the short wait to sample the wines.
We tried and bought a bottle of their Cynthiana which won the gold medal in the LA County Fair in 2002. Its smooth taste and hints of oak made it a perfect gift for my wine connoisseur nephew. Their Reserve Red was pretty good as well – semi-dry and light. We also tried their ice wine, a popular dessert wine. Its smooth, sweet taste is achieved by letting grapes stay on the vine through a couple of frosts, which encourages sugar production in the grape.
Augusta makes 13 different wines as well as port, and prices average $8.00. The winery is open 7 days a week. It has a small deli section, gift store and an outdoor covered patio where people can relax with a glass of wine.
Augusta Winery is located just a few blocks from Mount Pleasant Winery, so if you’re pressed for time, you can sample wines at both in a short period and without a lot of driving. Their website is:www.augustawinery.com and their phone number is 888/667-9463.
Member Rating 3 out of 5 on March 8, 2004
5601 High Street
Augusta, Missouri 63332
The visitor centre and tasting area resembles a rustic Bavarian haus, as does a separate, smaller structure that serves as a takeaway grill. Bavarian sausages, hot dogs and potato salad were offered for sale and there was a band just setting up.
Blumenhof’s vineyards were established in 1979 and they offer 10 varieties of wine. Unfortunately, we were running out of time, so did a rather hurried tasting of their "October Wine of the Month," the 2002 Chardondel, as well as Katy’s Blush and 2002 Seyval. We thought the best of the bunch was Katy’s Blush, a white zinfandel.
There were a couple of indoor tasting areas set up in different rooms but offering the same brands. This seemed to alleviate the crowded and cramped conditions that we noticed at other wineries and made Blumenhof quite a relaxing place to be. The winery is open Monday - Saturday from 10:30am to 5:30pm and on Sunday from noon until 5:30pm. Prices average $10 per bottle and case lot discounts are available. Their website is: www.blumenhof.com and their phone number is 800/419-2245.
Dutzow, Missouri 63342
Attraction | "Louis Balducci Vineyards"
Balducci’s is one of the newer wineries established in Missouri and their intent is to create a sophisticated, destination winery with live music presented free of charge most weekends and a restaurant where people can enjoy a good meal, paired with a glass of two of their wine.
The tasting area and restaurant are in different sections of the same building and both have lots of big windows that look over the park like grounds - definitely an enjoyable spot. Their wines average $13 per bottle and of those tasted, I especially liked Aria, a dry, light-bodied red. Their port was one of the best I’ve tasted and equal to any that I’ve tasted in Portugal.
The winery is open for tasting on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from 11am. Full dinners are served at the restaurant and there is also a small snack bar and gift shop. For more information, including the restaurant’s full menu, check out their website at: www.balduccivineyards.com
Louis Balducci Vineyards
6601 Highway 94 South
Augusta, Missouri 63332
Our tour guide, Natalie, provided us with lots of facts on the winery. Now listed on the National Historic Register, Stone Hill was established in 1847 and became the second largest winery in the U.S. By the early 1900s it was shipping in excess of 1,200,000 gallons of wine each year but this came to an end with Prohibition in 1920 when vines were ripped out and the underground cellars were used to grow mushrooms. Now restored to their rightful purpose, these cellars are the largest of any winery in the U.S. and Stone Hill is the fourth most awarded winery in the nation.
Our tour lasted about half an hour and included a visit to the underground cellars where the wooden casks are stored, including one enormous pre-Prohibition cask that can hold 6,000 gallons of wine. Scrubbing these casks used to be quite a chore and the small entrance meant that older children were given the job because they were the only ones that could fit through. Even empty, wine fumes permeated the wood so each child could only stay in the cask for a short period of time to ensure they didn’t get dizzy from the fumes.
From the cellar we were escorted into a private tasting area where two extremely friendly fellows plied us with samples of some of Stone Hill’s 20 different products. They gave us information on each wine as well as tips such as white wine should only be chilled for 25 minutes before serving. Children and non-drinkers were offered grape juice and sparkling raspberry juice. The rest of us worked our way through eight wines, starting with dry white Chardonell and dry red Hermannsberger through to semi-sweet Rose Montaigne, cream sherry and juice. I was very glad this was the last winery of the day so that I could have a little nap in the car on the way home.
In my opinion, the best of the wines I sampled was the Chardonel with its subtle hints of the oak from the barrels it was aged in. I also like their signature Steinberg Red, but wasn’t as crazy about Steinberg White, although it is their biggest seller. An attractive gift for sweet wine lovers is their Vignoles, which is packaged in an attractive cobalt blue bottle.
Stone Hill is open Monday through Saturday from 8:30am to dusk and on Sunday from 11am to 6pm. The winery’s website is: www.stonehillwinery.com and their toll-free phone number is 800/909-9463.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on March 8, 2004
Stone Hill Winery
1110 Stone Hill Highway
Hermann, Missouri 65041
Abbotsford, British Columbia