Guest Blogger Ron-What I Didn't Know About Missouri Wines

Every year my wife and I try to plan a fall trip to some place we have not been before. The choice this year was an RV trip to Branson, Missouri. Branson is infamous for its broad range of entertainment shows that one can attend and enjoy. We also like to find out more about a particular state's wine industry. For example, I did not know that the area just west of St Louis overlooking the Missouri River is officially recognized as America's first wine district. Missouri is also home to over 90 different wineries, comprising an industry that is on the rise.

In the 1830's, some of the first settlers to the Missouri River Valley were German immigrants from the Rhine River Valley. They were looking to settle down and become crop farmers. They were dismayed to find the plots they staked were not the optimum for accomplishing what they wanted to do. Instead, the idea of starting vineyards and producing fine wines became the goal. One such vineyard, Stone Hill Winery, was so successful that it won the first of eight gold medals at the Vienna World Fair in 1870. The wine industry in Missouri was off and running and building a reputation of producing some of the best wines in the world.

The hub of the wine industry in the eighteen hundreds became centered on the town of Hermann, Missouri, first settled in 1837. The city of Hermann takes its name from Hermann the Cherusker, who beat back three Roman legions in the Battle of Teutoburger in 9 AD. To Germans, he is a symbol of strength. Historical Hermann is one of those places you visit where "time has seemed to stand still". It is full of quaint, red brick buildings, several personalized bed and breakfast inns and numerous other shops and museums. The town has all the amenities to make a visit there a great experience. Hermann is the heart of Missouri wine country with its wineries producing nearly 70,000 gallons of wine per year, 1/3 of the state total.

Aside from the Hermann area, there are four other areas of note worth your time to visit. In the central part of the state west of Hermann near Fulton, Missouri and accessed by Interstate 70 is the Missouri River wine area. In the southeastern part of the state near Chaffe and Cape Vardeau is another wine growing area (Route Du Vin) that can be accessed by Interstate 55. The wine growing area near Springfield (Ozark Mountain) in the southwestern part of the state is accessed using Interstate 44. Finally, the area just west and adjacent to St Louis is called the Missouri Weinstrasse Tour and is located south of I-70 and north of I-44.

There is a broad array of events often planned within these wine growing zones. Wine tasting, winery openings, wine and dinner theatres, wine release parties, and winery anniversary celebrations abound. I also discovered that most of these events feature "live entertainment" to make the discovery tours even more enjoyable. As in many other places in the country, the October Fest celebrations always seem to cap off a great wine growing season, making a Missouri October wine tour extra special. Because of Prohibition in the 1920's, the Missouri wine industry nearly disappeared, but since the early 1960's the industry is once again flourishing.

In 2009, Stone Hill Winery received the Governor's Cup Award. That competition featured over 220 different Missouri wines. Gold medals awarded totaled 42 with 54 Silver and 64 Bronze medals also awarded. The most important grapes are the Norton, Chancellor Noir, Cayuga, Catawba, Niagara and Concord. New French hybrids that are also gaining in reputation include Vidal, Seyval, Vigroles and Chardonel.

Missouri is often affectionately called "The Show Me State". My investigation of Missouri's Wine Country ended up "showing me" that they have carved out a nice niche in wine producing. Remember, store your wine properly, serve it at the right temperature and enjoy it immensely.

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