Stone Hill Winery offers regular tours and wine tasting through the bottling facility in Branson. This location supports the Hermann Missouri winery by storing the barrels of aging Cream Brandy and bottling the sparkling Spumante wines.
This tour varied greatly from our other wine-tasting experiences. A group of thirty people gathered in the Stone Hill Winery gift shop and followed our designated guide to the back of the facility for the tour. We walked past a display of the various awards won by the Stone Hill wines over the last few years. I was pleasantly surprised at the awards from international and California competitions. Stone Hill wines did quite well. From the display area, we moved in to a small theater room and watched a brief film on the history of Stone Hill. I learned that Stone Hill was the third largest winery in the world and the second largest winery in the nation prior to Prohibition. The winery survived these years by growing mushrooms in the dark caves where the wine had been stored. In 1965, the Held family purchased the winery and once again began making wines.
After the conclusion of the video, we moved into the storage room which contained new and old (pre-Prohibition) equipment used for making wine. Our guide explained the purpose and history behind the equipment, responding to the questions from the group. We then walked into the next room to watch the bottling process. The Spumante wines are carbonated, and the guide bottling the wine shared quite a bit of information. We learned how to correctly chill carbonated wine (which includes champagne), how to correctly open a bottle of champagne and how to store the bottle once opened. He described the bottling and sealing techniques used by Stone Hill to ensure the quality of their wine.
Our guide gathered us back together and led us to a separate tasting room. The facility had at least 5 tasting rooms that I noticed, allowing Stone Hill to accommodate the vast number of tour groups. Our guide stated that over 500,000 people tour this facility annually. In our tasking room, we gathered on the outside of the large square counter, with the women in front and men behind. Our group barely fit around the perimeter. The tour guide was inside, ready to pour wine. We started with the red, dry wines, skipping the two wines that most people do not like. As we progressed to the white and sweeter wines, our guide demonstrated the correct way to open a bottle of wine, how to pour the different wines, shared which glass shape to use for various wines, and described the ideal storage and retention of wines. He listed the monthly specials for wine purchases and led us in a final toast as a group: to our health and happiness.
After dismissal, we wandered back into the gift shop to make our purchases. Wine carrying containers were available, allowing safe transportation of the wine back home.