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Missouri's 41 wineries renaissance

April 29, 2002
By: Sonia Valero
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - As the Spanish, Missourians have made of visiting wineries a social event. With 41 wineries statewide, Missourians can enjoy some spectacular views and a few good wines.

Missouri has a long history of grape growing and wine production, reaching back nearly 150 years. Missouri's wine production was interrupted by the Prohibition in the 1920's. This law forbade the consumption of alcohol, which was blamed by prohibitionists for crime, poverty and high death rates.

Nowadays Missouri's wine industry is enjoying a renaissance that began 30 years ago, and now shows marked increases in sales while winning national and international awards.

In Missouri, some argue that the approach to naming wines helps novice buyers.

French wines are named after the regions they come from like Haut-Medoc or Beaujolais -- regions few Missourians have visited that are thousands of miles away, across the Atlantic ocean.

On the other hand, wines produced in the United States, including Missouri, are named after the grape used to produce the wine as Concord.

More than the wines themselves, has been the commercial expansion of the wineries as tourist centers.

According to Missouri Department of Agriculture, Missouri's 29 registered wineries attract more than 2.5 million visitors each year.

In addition to tasting fine wines, visitors can enjoy the tours, specialty shops, bakeries, bed and breakfasts, fine restaurants and live entertainment.

According to Christine King, Public Relation at Les Bourgeois Vineyards -- a winery that overlooks the Missouri River -- people go to the wineries because it is a nice opportunity to get away from the cities and enjoy Missouri countryside.

"It is easy to get from town, it is not far but it seems that you are very far away," Kind said.

"The combination of the view and the wine just make for a perfect evening and that is why people come up."

She said that the number of wineries has grown over the last decade because of a greater interest from tourists.

King said she considers going to the wineries a growing hobby for Missourians, but not a new one.

For Patty Held, whose family owns Stone Hill Winery Herman, said that lately wineries have become more popular than before because she said winers are promoting their wineries more.

As other wineries, Stone Hill Winery Herman --the nation's second largest winery in the 1850s-- offers many other activities and services. They have a restaurant, organize wine contests and offers tours to their underground cellars.

Held said that because Missouri wine's quality has improved over the years and thanks to their picturesque locations, Missouri wineries provide a unique experience to their guests.

For Jim Andersen, head of the Grape and Wine program at the Missouri Department of Agriculture, wineries are a place where Missourians go with their friends and family.

"Lot of people are coming up and enjoying the beautiful country side and air. Also lot of activities are happening here and most of them are family entertainment," Andersen said.

Andersen said Missouri wine industry has been focusing on tourists and that wineries have developped an economic model because small businesses are popinp up and supporting Missouri wineries.

"These wineries are located in rural areas and when the winers shut up, bed and breakfast, antic shops and smalls hotels open up. So other services profit from it," Andersen said.

Andersen said Missouri has been in the wine business for over 155 years, although most people think for only the last 10 or 15 years.

He said the last decade people just start realizing about the quality of Missouri wines and want to try different styles of wines.

By making different styles and price wines, Andersen said Grape and Wine Program hopes to attract a lot of different clientele and that they would like to educate more young people about how to use wine.

"Right now nationally in the wine industry, our consumer bases are over 50, more educated, with a higher income that buy wine.

"We find out that people don't drink wine because they don't know how to pronounce it, how to serve it at the right temperatures, they are very intimidated by wine."

Andersen said the Grape and Wine Program is trying to make wine more acceptable in the Midwest, so people will get to enjoy it with their meals and socially.

In 2000, according to Missouri Division of Liquor Control, Missouri sold more than 450,000 gallons of wine produced in Missouri.