Jason is the author of The Beginner's Guide to Wine, a book that introduces people to the world's wine regions and varieties.
About Missouri's Wine Country
Growing up in Missouri has given me the unique opportunity of experiencing wines from an up-and-coming wine region. I also lived in Napa Valley for some time, so I can recognize a quality wine when I see one. (Or, rather, when I taste one.) I thought it might be fun to share some of the wisdom I’ve gathered over the years and compile a list of some of the must-see Missouri Wineries with others.
These are the wineries that consistently put out a variety of high-quality wines, so they deserve some recognition. This is a state that might be more famous for its most famous brewery, but there is more to the Show-Me State’s adult beverage scene than Anheuser-Busch's Budweiser. In some ways, Missouri’s wine producers are related. Both the beer and wine industries of Missouri were largely crafted by German immigrants in the mid-1800s.
Later, Italian immigrants would join in. But the state’s grape-growing region would come to be known as the Missouri “Rhineland,” after the famous German wine region. Prior to Prohibition, in the early 1900s, Missouri was considered the country’s top wine-producing state. (Take that California!) Today, it remains one of the top ten winemaking areas in the United States, challenging not only Napa Valley but also New York’s Finger Lakes.
Missouri is a beautiful state, full of caves and rivers, mountains, and grasslands. Its fertile soil and relatively mild climate make it just right for growing certain grapes. Trying to compile a top ten list, is difficult because there are just so many skilled winemakers producing wine at so many picturesque landscapes. But, I narrowed it down, and here are my favorites.
Stone Hill Winery
This winery has called Hermann home for more than 170 years. It is located in a setting reminiscent of a German village, right in the heart of Missouri’s “Rhineland,” Stone Hill is the state’s top-producing winery. As with nearly every wine producer, Prohibition destroyed Stone Hill’s business. Before then they were the second-largest winery in the United States, shipping more than a million gallons of wine all around the world. The Held family took over operations in 1965 and has spent the last five decades rebuilding one of the country’s best wineries and vineyards. Today 200 acres of vines produce award-winning wines.
Located in an old church in the small town of Weston, about twenty minutes north of Kansas City, Pirtle Winery produces some of the State’s best grapes. People flock to the winery daily to enjoy a tasting and take home a bottle or two. Calling the historic town of Weston home since 1978, Pirtle Winery offers choices ranging from whites made from Riesling to reds like Alhambra, aged for 18 months in French Oak. After enjoying a bottle on their patio, you should explore the downtown charm of boutiques featuring old west architecture.
St James Winery
Because the area was ripe for winemaking, Italian immigrants settled in Missouri’s Meramec Highlands region. Prior to Prohibition, the St. James area was home to around 200 wineries. It took years afterward to rebuild the wine business. In the 1960s, however, Missouri’s wine industry started to bounce back. The Hofherr family took over the St James Winery, producing 8,000 gallons of wine, its first year. They are known for using sweet Concord grapes, becoming known for brands such as Velvet Red and Velvet White. For those who want to see more of the process from vine to glass, they offer tours of the beautiful property.
Nestled among scenic hills and woods less than an hour west of St. Louis, Montelle Winery is located in the country’s first viticultural area, due to its soil, microclimate, and history. Clayton Byers opened the winery in 1970 leading the rebirth of Missouri wineries. Renowned winemaker Tony Koojumjian has owned Montelle for the last few decades, offering daily tastings of the winery’s five best wines. They host music acts on the weekends, so if you like your wine served with a side of entertainment this might be the place for you.
Les Bourgeois Winery
Located in Rocheport, just West of Columbia Les Bourgeois overlooks the Missouri River. You can enjoy fine dining or go down to the A-Frame for casual entertainment. There, you can watch the sunset as bands play. Sweet wines like Riverboat Red or White and dry ones such as the famed Norton are all available to wet your Palate. The blufftop views are absolutely incredible.
More to Explore
While this list, shows off only my top five picks, there are so many more to explore. Missouri has more than 400 vineyards supporting more than 120 wineries. This equals more than 1,600 acres planted in grapes producing more than 888,000 gallons of Missouri wine.
© 2021 Jason M Arnold