Missouri Wine Overview

Missouri’s wine history stretches back several hundred years, when Native Americans were using grapes grown in the wild to make wine. When European settlers reached the area in the 1820s, Missouri’s wine industry began a period of tremendous growth that didn’t taper off until Prohibition 100 years later.

Many of Missouri’s early settlers were from Germany, and they chose an area about an hour west of St. Louis that reminded them of their homeland. This area, in and around the present-day town of Hermann, is one of the best locations in the entire Midwest for growing grapes. Even today, the Hermann area is recognized as the heart of Missouri Wine Country, although the state boasts several thriving grape-growing and wine producing areas.

In fact, the entire state is quite conducive for grape growing. Missouri offers long, warm summers and comparatively mild winters. Numerous varieties of grapes are grown here, but none more closely associated with Missouri than the Norton grape.

The Norton grape, also called Cynthiana, is a native American grape. It’s one of about 50 American grapes, but only a small handful of these American grapes contain enough natural sugars to be processed into acceptable wines. Yes, a number of native American grapes are used to make sweet-style wines, but the Norton grape produces a dry table wine with character and depth.

This dark red wine has proven to be a popular choice among wine consumers. Wineries in several states produce Nortons with grapes grown in their local area, but the style is particularly popular in Missouri and Virginia. Missouri’s wineries will almost always feature a Norton-style wine among their offerings, and it is a “must try” should you visit the state.

As of 2012, there were nearly 120 wineries in Missouri. The state’s wine industry has never been healthier, with the possible exception of just before Prohibition. Wine travel is big business in Missouri, and the official Missouri wine site, while a little clunky and cumbersome to navigate, provides a good overview of all the state’s wineries and an up-to-date events listing. Any time of the year is a great time to visit Missouri’s wineries and wine trails, although fall is particularly popular given the spectacular fall foliage. Personally, we prefer late fall for a visit, just before winter sets in. Temperatures are crisp but still reasonably mild, and the tasting rooms have thinned out a bit. Regardless of when you choose to visit, you are assured of experiencing a unique and historic wine-producing state and tasting some truly excellent vintages.

Missouri’s wine history stretches back several hundred years, when Native Americans were using grapes grown in the wild to make wine.

Missouri Wine Trails

Missouri is another state that has recognized the importance of designating official wine trails and promoting them to wine travelers. Currently, Missouri has five wine trails, strategically located in four distinct areas of the state.

The Hermann Wine Trail is about an hour due west of St. Louis, in the area most travelers associate with Missouri Wine Country. About an hour south of St. Louis, you’ll find the historic French-influenced town of Ste. Genevieve, just off Interstate 55 and hugging the Mississippi River. Both of these trails are great day-trips from St. Louis if you just want to visit 2-3 wineries.

Two trails are located in central Missouri, the Missouri River Wine Trail and the Missouri Weinstrasse. Farther south and southwest is the Ozark Mountain Wine Trail, centered around the southwest Missouri towns of Springfield and Joplin.

Missouri had America’s first wine trail. And, as of 2012, there were almost 120 wineries in Missouri.

Let’s take a closer look at each of Missouri’s wine trails …

Immerse yourself in German culture by visiting the Hermann Wine Trail in Missouri’s traditional wine country about an hour west of St. Louis. The scenery here is just gorgeous, the byproduct of the Missouri River, which meanders through the area on its way to the Mississippi. Seven wineries are clustered here, centered around the historic town of Hermann, a popular overnight destination for those exploring the wine trail.

One of Missouri’s oldest and best known wineries is located here, Stone Hill Winery Other than its highly respected wines, Stone Hill is probably best known for the underground cellars at their Hermann facility, reputed to be the largest in North America and the focal point of tours of their operation.

This is Missouri’s largest wine-producing area, accounting for a third of the state’s wine output. The Hermann Wine Trail is also one of Missouri’s most popular tourist attractions, with family-friendly events on numerous weekends throughout the year. While this trail is a doable day-trip from St. Louis, we recommend an overnight stay in Hermann. The town is very enjoyable to explore on foot, and the German cuisine served at restaurants is not to be missed!

About an hour south of St. Louis off Interstate 55 is the Route du Vin Wine Trail, also known as Ste. Genevieve Missouri’s wine trail. Ste. Genevieve is an historic French-influenced town alongside the Mississippi River that is highly popular among wine travelers and day-trippers from St. Louis and the surrounding area.

The six wineries on the Route du Vin Wine Trail are all just minutes from the center of Ste. Genevieve. You’ll notice a distinct French Colonial feel to Ste. Genevieve, a small but vibrant town that’s easy to explore on foot. There’s quite a few bed-and-breakfasts and other accommodations here, so staying the night and exploring the trail over two days is a good choice. You’ll also find several antique shops and specialty merchants dotted throughout Ste. Genevieve.

The Missouri River Wine Trail is one of Missouri’s newer wine trails and links seven central Missouri wineries near the Missouri River. The wine trail capitalizes on its location not far from Interstate 70, the main east-west thoroughfare through the state. Three of the wineries are north of I-70, quite near Columbia. Columbia is a vibrant college town, home of the University of Missouri. Within 30 minutes to the south is Missouri’s capital, Jefferson City, where you’ll find four wineries just minutes from one another.

Even closer to St. Louis than the Hermann Wine Trail is the Missouri Weinstrasse, which consists of four wineries along the Missouri River and accessed via Routes 40 and 94. You’re only about 40 minutes from downtown St. Louis here, just beyond the farthest western suburbs of the city. The four wineries are all near the small town of Augusta, which can be reached via Route 40.

Finally, in the southwest section of Missouri is the Ozark Mountain Wine Trail. The area is south of Lake of the Ozarks, centered around Springfield, Missouri, and accessible via Interstate 44.

This, too, is a scenic part of Missouri, heavily forested and slightly higher in elevation. Late October brings a spectacular bonanza of fall color, making it an ideal time to visit. Nine wineries are on the Ozark Mountain Wine Trail, all within about a 30-minute drive from Springfield.

Also included on the trail is the Cooper Run Distillery, south of Springfield in Walnut Shade. Cooper Run is one of the emerging trend of micro distilleries that produce their own small batch hard liquors. The distillery is known for their aged golden rum and a traditional moonshine they describe as “top shelf moonshine.” Moonshine is liquor that isn’t aged — it comes right from the still. If a distillery were to age moonshine in specific types of wooden barrels, the end result in a few years would be a batch of bourbon!

From this area, you’re only about 90 minutes from Arkansas Wine Country, which you can learn about on our Arkansas wine page. You can certainly do all or most of both areas over the course of three days.

Travelogue: Missouri Wine: Hermann and Ste. Genevieve

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