By Tony Carosella
Wineries are a little bit like Las Vegas – most people go to them to get away from their “normal” lives, relax and have a good time. Wouldn’t that be a perfect reason to hold your next meeting or event at one? Missouri wineries are particularly suited to host memorable events. The wine regions in Missouri are organized into four areas: the Missouri River Wine Trail, Hermann Wine Trail, Route Du Vin and Ozark Mountain Region Trail. These grouping of trails have unique characteristics that enhance the adventure of visiting them.
Missouri – A World Leader in Wine (really)
Despite the fact that Missouri’s wineries are small in comparison to other national wineries, Missouri was once the largest producer of wine in America and the world. It once saved grape vines in Europe and California from a destructive parasite that threatened to exterminate many varieties of grapes. Immigrants from Germany, France, Switzerland, Austria and Italy spread throughout the newly formed state of Missouri in the 1820s to take advantage of the rich soils, expansive waterway connections, timber and abundant game.
In the 1830s, German immigrants began to look at land west of St. Louis on the Missouri River. In 1836, Hermann was founded and many early immigrants discovered that grape vines grew well in the hilly, rocky soil.
By the turn of the 20th century, Stone Hill Winery in Hermann was the third largest winery in the world, producing more than a million gallons a year. Italian immigrants in the St. James area were also establishing a community that was rich in the Old World Italian tradition of wine-making. Missouri had more than 100 wineries and the momentum to become one of the world’s most important wine producers. In 1920 Prohibition devastated almost all of America’s wineries and discouraged rebuilding the industry until the 1960s. Augusta became the United States’ first federally approved American Viticultural Area, gaining the status on June 20, 1980, eight months before Napa Valley in northern California.
The long history of Missouri wineries provides amazing discoveries for the event planner looking for a place to produce memorable events. The smallest wineries usually provide a patio for visitors to gather and sample bottles of the local vintage; and the largest have tasting rooms, restaurants, cellar tours, spas and on-site lodging. The wineries that cater to events have the experience to handle all the details a planner needs.
German Spoken Here
In the eastern half of the state, the Hermann Wine Trail, Route Du Vin and Augusta are excellent locations for winery adventures. The Hermann Wine Trail encompasses seven area wineries: Stone Hill, Hermannhof, Adam Puchta, OakGlenn, Bias, Bommarito and RÖbller. All of them have tasting rooms and patios where guests can relax and imbibe. Stone Hill, located in Hermann, has a unique cellar tour that culminates with a tasting in one of the large tasting rooms. Stone Hill’s Director of Public Relations and Partner, Patty Held-Uthlaut, mentions that “the cellar tours and tastings combined with a meeting have been very popular.” Stone Hill has an adjoining pavilion that can host up to 200 people for a meeting or conference. The pavilion is the location of several popular festivals in Hermann such as the Cajun Festival and the Kristkindl Markt. The Vintage Restaurant, specializing in German cuisine, is also part of the winery and can host smaller, more intimate meetings. Prices for the rooms are adjusted based on the attendance and variety of services used.
Hermannhof Winery is also located in Hermann and hosts popular festivals such as Oktoberfest and the Wurstfest. Hermannhof has been expanding over the last couple of years and has added The Inn at Hermannhof and Haus Wineries. Innkeeper Janet Hurst is excited about the new facilities that mirror the quaint German architecture and add modern amenities needed for all types of events. “We have 28 new suites that allow meeting attendees to stay on site. Meetings can be held in the Festhalle which is an expansive hall that comfortably seats 300, or the Fireplace Room, which seats 75.” Rates for the rooms are $2,000 in season for the Festhalle and $750 for the Fireplace Room. During the off-season, the Festhalle rents for $1,500 and the Fireplace Room for $500. Other meeting rooms and outdoor patios are also available. Most areas and suites are disabled accessible. The picturesque German architecture of the winery and Festhalle sets the tone of Old World charm that visitors will find throughout Hermann.
Augusta is located on the north bank of the Missouri River. Less than an hour’s ride from downtown St. Louis, it contains a collection of six fine wineries. Stretched along Highway 94 in St. Charles County, Montelle, Augusta, Balducci, Blumenhof, Sugar Creek, Bethlehem Valley and Mount Pleasant make up the group known as the Weinstrasse or Wine Road. The rolling hills make a scenic background for rows of grape vines and wineries perched on hilltops. The famous view from Mount Pleasant overlooking the Missouri River Valley attracts hundreds of visitors on sunny weekends. They can relax on the multi-tiered patio and hillside, enjoying live music and sipping some of the many vintages. Director of Operations Ralph Schrader highlights Mount Pleasant’s Terrace Room, which comfortably seats 300 and costs about $2,400 to rent. Many local B&Bs accommodate visitors desiring a longer stay.
The Route Du Vin, includes Chaumette, Crown Valley, Ste. Genevieve, Charleville and Cave wineries, which evoke scenes from the rustic French countryside. French-inspired meeting facilities relax attendees and promote creativity. Perched on a rolling hillside, a long greenway frames the French-style “post on a sill” manor house at Chaumette Winery. Event planners will be interested to know that the combination of fine dining, spacious meeting and banquet facilities, comfortable accommodations, an elegant spa and fine wine have turned Chaumette into a meeting destination. Event Sales Director Stacy Smith says Chaumette’s flexible staff can arrange the ballroom and the chapel gallery to serve 125 to 350 people. Saint Vincent’s-in-the-Vineyard, a restored chapel, can host 100 guests for weddings or ceremonies.
Also part of the Route Du Vin, Crown Valley Winery is another French-inspired winery. Event coordinator Kim Jordan notes that the Barrel Room is a popular meeting room that seats 60 and rents for $600 for four hours. Crown Valley has several spaces that double as meeting spaces such as the Tasting Room, the Veranda and the Pavilion. The Route Du Vin is the home of many fine B&Bs also rich in French tradition.
Up A Lazy River
Southwestern Missouri is where you’ll find the Ozark Mountain Region Trail of wineries. These wineries are all smaller, family-owned establishments and cater to smaller groups. Keltoi, OOVVDA, Le Cave, Whispering Oaks, White Rose and William Creek wineries make up the trail. White Rose is one winery that is also a Bed and Breakfast and restaurant. Owned by Jim and Jan O’Haro, the White Rose features a restaurant that seats 100 and a wine tasting parlor that seats 30. Their close proximity to Springfield and Branson has helped the interest in these smaller boutique wineries.
The Missouri River Wine Trail is located in western Missouri and members include Les Bourgeois, Native Stone, Summit Lake-Hartsburg and Summit Lake-Holts Summit. All four wineries are located on the meandering Missouri River, and Les Bourgeois has spectacular views. Rachel Mills, Les Bourgeois’ Marketing Director, notes that “the Winery has a farm location that has hosted as many as 5,000 people for a Renewable Energy Festival and other large crowds for local concerts.” The Bistro can host 240 seated, and double-level atrium windows provide diners with a river panorama that is amazing any day of the year. Les Bourgeois’ original tasting room still hosts parties and tastings in season. The multi-level tiered patio commands an equally stunning panorama as does the Bistro. Event planners will appreciate the Bistro’s facility, but for a more casual outdoor event, the A-Frame might also be a nice alternative.
Wineries in Missouri may be your first choice to visit and explore for a personal weekend getaway, but they could also be your first choice for an exciting alternative to a traditional meeting. With everything from the charming German influence of Hermann to the rustic French feel of the Route Du Vin and the lazy river towns of western Missouri, an event planner has a spectrum of wineries at which to host a unique event. MM&E
(Tony Carosella is a contributor from New Haven, Mo.)
Stacy Smith, Director of Events
24345 State Rte. WW
Ste. Genevieve, MO 63670
Crown Valley Winery
Kim Jordan, Event Coordinator
573-756-9463, ext. 102
23589 State Route WW
Ste. Genevieve, MO 63670
Hermannhof Winery & Vineyards
Janet Hurst, Innkeeper
573-486-5959, ext. 20
330 E. First St.
Hermann, MO 65041
Mount Pleasant Winery
Ralph Schrader, General Manager
636-482-9463, ext. 243
5634 High Street
Augusta, MO 63332
Stone Hill Winery
Patty Held-Uthlaut, Partner
1110 Stone Hill Highway
Hermann, MO 65041
Les Bourgeois Winery
Rachel Mills, Marketing Director
P.O. Box 118
14020 West Highway BB
Rocheport, MO 65279
White Rose Winery
Jan O’Haro, Owner
13001 Journey Road
Carthage, MO 64836