|Drink in the splendor of fall at the many charming wineries that cluster along the Missouri River just west of St. Louis|
|Published: Sep/Oct 2002
|By Deborah Reinhardt|
|Under a brilliant blue sky, amid hills the color of gold and ripe apples, a robust chorus of Proud to Be An American swirls around the guitar player sitting in a white gazebo. Its another Saturday afternoon in Missouris wine country, about an hour west of St. Louis, and the living is easy.
Beginning in Defiance and ending in Hermann, Missouri Highway 94 often follows the Missouri River and ambles past numerous wineries, farms, orchards, charming towns and historic sites. The first section of the road around Augusta is known as Missouris Weinstrasse (German for wine road), which is home to several wineries. The route leads to even more wineries in Hermann. The journey is especially lovely in autumn with the added attraction of spectacular fall color.
In all, 10 of the states wineries cluster along the Missouri River banks like grapes on a vine. Certified in 1979 as Americas first Viticulture Area by the federal government, the Weinstrasses vineyards and those further west along the river thrive on hills formed by the Ice Age. The states largest winery, Stone Hill in Hermann, is at the end of this easy drive.
Tastings and trails
Take Highway 94 west from U.S. Highway 61 to Defiance. Stop at Sugar Creek Winery located on the Katy Trail State Park, a 225-mile rails-to-trail project thats popular with cyclists and hikers. Its a steep climb up Sugar Creeks hill, but the views, pleasant wineslike La Rustica whiteand live music in the gazebo through October are worth the trip.
Follow Highway 94 to state Route F and find an interesting patch of history, Daniel Boone Home and Boone Campus of Lindenwood University. Tour the pioneers home and re-created 19th-century village.
Return to Highway 94 and continue a few miles to Augusta, a town that looks over the Missouri River Valley. Founded in 1836 by Leonard Harold, a Daniel Boone follower, four wineries Augusta, Montelle, Mount Pleasant, and the new Louis P. Balducci Vineyardsoffer tastings, tours and great picnic sites. Montelle Winery hosts Music on the Terrace, a series of live concerts, in September.
Work up a thirst for Augusta wines by picking apples at Centennial Farms and Orchards. Take a hayride to the orchard thats laden with varieties such as Red Delicious, Empire and Jonagold. For a stronger sweet tooth, pick up some homemade fudge at Salt River Candy.
Continue west on the Weinstrasse and youll discover two quaint towns, Dutzow and Marthasville. Distinctive German flavorings spark the wine and ambiance at Blumenhof Vineyards in Dutzow. The winery, located on the Katy Trail, is popular with cyclists, who enjoy the relaxed atmosphere.
On your way to Marthasville, take the side road that leads to the Daniel Boone Grave and Monument, although its not certain Boone is buried there. The French Village of La Charrette near the banks of Charrette Creek, was founded in 1766 on the current site of Marthasville. This French village grew into an American town and a railroad stop. The 21st Annual Deutsch Country Days (A Living History Weekend), held at Luxenhaus Farm Oct. 19 and 20, re-creates early German life in Missouri and features costumed artisans, music and an antique sorghum press driven by Missouri mules.
When German immigrants settled in Hermann in the early 1837, they had to be reminded of the Rhine River Valley. Today, this village offers award-winning wines, excellent German food and historic homes.
To get to Hermann from Highway 94, take state Route 19, crossing the Missouri River. Festivals and the states oldest and largest winery, Stone Hill, are the main attractions for Hermann. On a hill that overlooks town, Stone Hill commands respect. The winery, founded in 1847 is large, but its reputation for producing excellent wineslike Norton, a wonderful redis equally impressive. Stone Hill offers tours of its vaulted cellars and tastings. Select a chilled bottle, purchase sausage, crackers and cheese from the tasting room and head for a spot on the hill for a perfect picnic. Or enjoy a superb meal at the winerys restaurant, Vintage 1847.
The biggest festival of the year, Octoberfest, turns this normally quiet town into a crowded, busy fun center on weekends. To enjoy the towns charm and peak fall color, consider visiting during the week.
Downtown, the Hermanhof Winery dates to 1852 and offers homemade sausages created in the onsite smokehouse. The courtyard is a pleasant location to sample wine and sausage. Its an easy walk from Hermanhof to some of Hermanns craft and antique shops. The German School has displays on 19th-century life and also hosts exhibits, such as the annual gingerbread contests. Deutschheim State Historic Site is Missouris museum of 19th-century German-American immigration, history and culture.
Adam Puchta Winery located just outside the citys limits has been in the Puchta family for six generations. Sample some of the award-winning wines, cheeses and sausages.
And the OakGlenn Vineyards and Winery Conference Center is perched high on the bluffs overlooking the Missouri River, with acres of vineyards gently sloping toward the river. The winery offers 13 varieties of wine.
Missouris Weinstrasse in fall is an easy day trip thats hard to beat. Its not unusual to see several limousines carrying revelers on the twisty road. However you explore this scenic drive, youre sure to enjoy everything it offers.
|Deborah Reinhardt is managing editor of AAA Midwest Traveler.|