In 1980, Missouri was recognized as the first American Viticultural Area (AVA) in the United States. In the decades since, the state now boasts over 125 wineries and five official wine regions.
In fact, long before Napa was a household name, Missouri’s wine country was active and fermenting. Perched on the bluffs above the Missouri River, are small towns like Hermann, whose views reminded German immigrants so much of the Rhine River valley that they started planting vineyards not long after settling the area in the mid-1800s.
Almost 200 years later, Missouri is still a charming, critically-acclaimed wine destination, and ready for a national comeback. With skilled winemakers and ideal growing conditions, the Show Me State has become a destination for wine-lovers looking beyond California for great vintages.
Midwest prairie towns provide gateways to wine regions that challenge notions about American winemaking.
Small Town Charm Attracts Big Investors
Jerri and David Hoffmann grew up in Washington, Mo., just across the river from Augusta. While visiting the wine region in 2020, they saw the town needed investments to bring it back to its former charm and glory.
Since then, Hoffmann has invested over $125 million into Augusta and the surrounding area. With the revitalization of the downtown area, restoration of historic buildings and wineries, a wine trolley system, and a luxury river yacht, Augusta, Mo., population 270, may soon be the must-visit destination in the Midwest.
Chris Armstrong, CMO of Hoffmann Family of Companies, says the town’s charm and history led the Hoffmans to make the investment. “Missouri produces many of the same wines as France and California and has received gold [medals] in national competitions, scoring 95 points and above by the Beverage Rating Institute.”
The key to Missouri’s distinctive wines is the local environment. The state’s harsher climate allows it to produce unique varietals and sought-after pairings. You’ll find crisp, German-style wines like Chambourcin, Seyval blanc, Vignoles, Chardonel, and Edelweiss, along with French-American hybrid’s such as Couderc noir, Seyval blanc, and Vidal blanc.
Picturesque Autumn Charm
Now is the time to visit Missouri wine country. From September to early November, the hilly Midwest wine regions show their fall colors on the grapevines and in the forests.
The Katy Trail — America’s longest stretch of recreational rail trail — sits at the foot of downtown Augusta. Visitors can rent bikes and explore the path or stop at any of the 17 wineries alongside it. Montelle Winery in the heart of Augusta offers a massive outdoor patio, allowing guests to take in the views of the fall foliage while enjoying their wine. Many of the area’s wineries allow carry-in food, so enjoy a picnic lunch as you refill your glass.
The Missouri Wine and Grape Board estimates that Missouri’s wineries receive close to a million visitors annually. That number is set to increase in the coming years as rising tasting fees continue to discourage average consumers from visiting other prominent wine regions.
The 2023 Direct to Consumer Wine Report, published in August, showed the average price of a bottle of wine from Napa Valley rose by $17 last year, making the average price of a Napa wine $108. In Napa County, the cost of a standard tasting, the winery’s most basic offering, averaged $81. In neighboring Sonoma County, the average price of a bottle of wine was $57, with a tasting average of $38.
Contrast that with Augusta, Mo. Bottles at the Montelle Winery average $21, with tasting fees ranging from $10 to $20, with the latter including a souvenir logo wine glass. Beyond tasting fees, the cost of dining and lodging accommodations in small-town wine country creates a more accessible experience for wine enthusiasts.
Midwest and Beyond
Like Missouri, much of the Midwest boasts wine trails passing through quaint towns and showcasing their state’s robust wine culture. Nestled close to big cities, these destination wine towns make for easy day trips or weekend getaways.
Ohio’s Lake Erie trail takes advantage of the lake country climate, making the area from Toledo to Buffalo a prime spot for raising vineyards and producing wine. Rieslings and Chardonnays benefit from the cooler temperatures, and you can’t beat the lakeside views.
Wisconsin’s Door County Wine Trail hosts eight wineries, attracting visitors to the “Cape Cod of the Midwest,” with an established wine scene that offers traditional varietals and sweet fruit wines.
The Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois is a must for both wine lovers and adventurers. Tourists can take a break from hiking the Garden of the Gods to enjoy the 11 wineries that dot the area. Stop at Alto Vineyards, one of Illinois’ oldest and most acclaimed wineries, to try their estate-grown Chambourcin paired with wood-fired pizza baked on-site.
A rebrand has never tasted so good. Start viewing the Midwest area not as flyover states but as wine lovers’ states.
This article was produced by Delish Knowledge and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.
Alex Caspero | Wealth of Geeks undefined