Unbeknownst to many visitors of the “Show Me” state is Missouri’s wine country, our own little Napa Valley of the South. When German immigrants began settling the area in the early nineteenth century, they brought their experience in the growing of grapes and perfecting of wine.
Turns out Missouri soil is just right for growing none other than grapes. While several varieties thrive throughout the Ozarks, the Norton grows especially well in Missouri’s climate and has been named the official state grape. Who knew? Amazingly, Missouri isn’t recognized quite as it should be in the wine-making world. With world-class wines at your fingertips (or the stem of your glass), no trip to the “Live Entertainment Capital of the World” would be complete without a stop at at least one of the wineries Branson has to offer. So for a more grown-up getaway, take a drive off the beaten path and relax in the comfort of the Ozarks while toasting some of Branson’s, and the country’s, finest wines.
Your first stop should be at Missouri’s oldest and largest winery, Stone Hill Winery. Like many of the Ozarks’ wine operations, Stone Hill Winery was founded by German immigrants in Hermann, Missouri. Established in 1847, the winery won numerous awards around the globe until, sadly, Prohibition shut its doors in 1920. Stone Hill wines were gone but not forgotten. Thankfully, Jim and Betty Held resumed wine-making at Stone Hill Winery in 1965.
Stone Hill has grown to seven vineyards, six of which are located around the Hermann Viticultural Appellation (basically, a federally recognized grape growing area). Eleven varieties are grown on their properties, while they also source grapes from independent grape growers throughout Missouri. When you have a bottle of Stone Hill, you know you are tasting the best of what Missouri wine country has to offer.
In 1986, they saw the potential of opening an operation in Branson and thousands of tourists flock to the winery daily. Tours are free and offer more than just a tasting room. Visitors are led throughout the entire operation, learning the history of Missouri wine and witnessing the process of bottling Stone Hill’s Spumante wines from start to finish. But don’t worry, there’s tasting too. Six different rooms are dedicated to just that. Come thirsty.
Not far behind Stone Hill, historically speaking, is Mount Pleasant Winery founded in 1859 in Augusta. Twelve varieties of grapes are grown on the vineyard’s seventy-eight acres. George and Frederick Muench found the river valley reminded them of their home in Germany. The cellars they built in 1881 are still used today to age Mount Pleasant’s Estate wines and Augusta Ports. When Prohibition came, Mount Pleasant fell to the same fate of other area operations, with its vineyards burned to the roots. But Mount Pleasant was returned to its former glory in 1966 when it was bought by Lucian Dressel and his wife, Eva. In 2008, they spread their love of wine with the opening of Mount Pleasant Winery in Branson.
Many of the wines offered at Mount Pleasant Winery are free to taste. For a small fee, wine enthusiasts (and all the wanna-be’s) can try the Estate wines, which are only sold at the winery. To really round out your experience at Mount Pleasant Winery, take the fifteen-dollar Wine 101 class. “Students” learn about wine and food pairings, along with the five S’s of wine – see, swirl, sip, sniff, and savor. We’ll bet you didn’t know the glass you choose can have an effect on the aroma and taste of the wine. Okay, maybe you knew that already, but you’ll surely come out of Mount Pleasant Winery learning something new.
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