5 Readers' Choice Favorite Wineries to explore next
The arithmetic seems simple: grow the grapes, press them, ferment and bottle the result. Set up a few patio tables. Print some brochures. Whip up snacks. Build it, and they will come. But the vintner’s task list doesn’t end at making world-class wine. Crafting the experience – that artful combination of rustic tranquility and urbane getaway – is what sets the standouts apart from the simply satisfactory. We raise our glasses to these five wineries who, among more than 100 across Missouri, have earned the praise of our readers for their ability to put a tall pour of the country inside of a bottle. So tear out (just this once) the map of our wine tour and pop it in the glove box – you’ve got driving to do.
Chandler Hill Vineyards
Chandler Hill’s first press was only in 2011, but its winemaking has been as fecund as the gentle foothills on which it sits. Winemaker and vineyard manager Tom Murphy has wasted no time establishing an impressive catalog of whites, reds and even a port here and there. Native Missouri varietals stand beside heavy-hitters imported from the West Coast, some even mingling inside the barrel, like the winery’s bold Norton-cabernet, slated to debut this summer. The vineyard’s whites shine the most, though, especially the dry vignoles, which blooms with a strong grapefruit nose, tart palate and sweet finish.
You’d be remiss in skipping over the restaurant menu. The King Buck Burger, brushed with house-made barbecue sauce, goes down well with the tannic, refined 2012 merlot. Order an artisan cheese plate – bedecked with bleu cheese, cheddar and brie – and conclude on a decadent note with Murph’s Vignoles White Port, an ambrosial vineyard specialty.
Chaumette Vineyards & Winery
The 2013 unoaked chardonel is one excuse to head to Chaumette this summer, but there are plenty more reasons why this Ste. Genevieve winery is a crowd pleaser. For $5 you can taste six of the winery’s 12 wines in the tasting room. Choose a bottle of your favorite and enjoy it in the air-conditioned dining room, or take it to the patio or covered veranda. Chaumette permits you to bring in your picnic spread, but try Grapevine Grill. The restaurant showcases uber-local ingredients prepared by executive chef Adam Lambay. Come on a Thursday or Sunday for family-style dining.
A visit to Chaumette isn’t complete without walking the picturesque, hilly grounds. Check out St. Vincent’s in-the-Vineyard chapel at the top of the hill, then saunter down to the barn for a short trail hike to neighbor winery-microbrewery Charleville. If hiking, eating and drinking wine tires you out, Chaumette has you covered with a spa that offers everything: soothing facials and massages, manis, pedis and even an outdoor pool. Best of all, you don’t have to make it a day trip. Stay overnight in one of the posh villas for a top-flight getaway that won’t require a flight to Napa Valley.
Augusta Winery may dominate the valley, but its younger sibling rules the mountain above. Montelle Winery, perched 400 feet above the Missouri River on the Osage Ridge, was purchased by Augusta’s Tony Kooyumjian in 1998. But the wines it produces are its own, and there are plenty.
Step up to Montelle’s bar and enjoy complimentary tastings of nearly 20 different wines, such as the not-so-sweet vignoles or La Rosee, which sees its return to the Montelle portfolio this summer. Sweeter palates can opt for the best-selling Himmelswein, with notes of crisp green apple. Looking for something a bit stronger? Be bold and ask for a glass of the distilled spirits, potent yet curiously fruity sippers that pack a wallop.
Once you’ve found your favorite, head over to the counter at the Klondike Cafe, where made-to-order sandwiches, salads, wraps and pizzas are available. If you really want to see Montelle at its best, make reservations for a three-course Sunset Dinner on Friday or Saturday night. There’s no better view than can be found on Montelle’s deck, sharing a bottle while the sinking sun sets Missouri wine country aglow for miles.
Mount Pleasant Estates
When you want a lesson in Missouri wine history, Mount Pleasant Estates is the place to start. It’s the oldest winery in Augusta and the first designated wine appellation in the U.S. Moreover, the winery has been in the hands of only two families since it was established in 1859, shut down during Prohibition and resurrected by the Dressel family in 1967.
Among the five wines to include in your $6 tasting, opt for the Villagio, an off-dry white fragrant with peaches. While the Norton has long been a Mount Pleasant stalwart, we enjoyed the Beaujolais-like St. Vincent, added to the winery’s portfolio just last year.
Hungry? The winery doesn’t permit outside food on the property, but you can sup and sip on a deck overlooking the Missouri River Valley at its eatery, Appellation Café. The mesquite-smoked turkey melt, served with a spunky, loose-set red pepper marmalade, is stellar. Before you head out, grab a bottle of Tawny port, a great hostess gift to express some Made-in-MO pride.
A young arrival among Missouri wineries, family-owned Noboleis is nestled on 84 acres of rolling hills in Augusta. Its tasting program is only in its fourth year, but Noboleis is the place to go when you’re looking for a casual wine session. Samples are free, so sip away to find your favorite among its 16-strong wine portfolio. Off-dry red Steepleview and semi-sweet vignoles are the best-sellers, but we’re partial to the oaky, buttery, double-fermented Baril de Blanc, made in the style of a chardonnay.
Outside food is permitted, but in case you didn’t pack a picnic, order a cheese and salume platter, a goat cheese Margherita pizza or a roast beef panini with horseradish brie served aside a berry-studded kale salad. Spend the afternoon under the shade of a large, airy tent while you admire the vineyard and the ancient mulberry tree that lends its silhouette to every Noboleis bottle label.
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