Missouri wines continue to gain respect among oenophiles, and some of the best are made by wineries in and around St. Charles County. Here are just a few of the places producing top-flight wines in our own backyard:
Mount Pleasant Estates
Mount Pleasant is the oldest winery in Augusta. It was first established in 1859 by brothers George and Frederick Muench, German immigrants who chose the location because its rolling hills reminded them of home. They built the winery's cellars in 1881 with wood and limestone from the surrounding area, and they're still used to age the winery's estate-bottled wines and ports.
The winery closed during Prohibition but got a second life in 1966, when Lucian and Eva Dressel bought it and replanted the vineyards. They, in turn, sold Mount Pleasant to their nephew, Chuck Dressel, in 1992. Mount Pleasant grows 12 grape varietals on 78 acres. A second Mount Pleasant location opened in Branson in 2008.
The winery is especially known for its ports, which it has been making since the 19th century. Currently, the winery offers three versions: Tawny, Vintage and a White Port that makes a rare appearance. These are made primarily with norton grapes, as well as a varietal the winery refers to as ‘Muench’ grapes. Named after the winery's founders, it's an experimental varietal they have never been able to fully identify. According to Chuck Dressel, "It makes a terrible wine but an outstanding port."
-- 5634 High Street, Augusta, Mo., 636-482-9463, mountpleasant.com
Blumenhof Vineyard and Winery
Blumenhof was established in 1979 by father-and-son duo James and Mark Blumenberg. The winery's name translates to ‘court of flowers,’ which was the moniker of the family's original farm in Germany. They began by growing grapes for Clayton Byers, the original owner of Montelle Vineyards and Winery, then segued into making their own wines in the mid-1980s. Blumenhof has received many industry kudos for its wines. The popular Original Cyn, a dry, barrel-aged red made with cynthiana grapes, has received multiple awards, including a silver medal at the 2012 Tasters Guild International Wine Competition. Blumenhof also has had much success with wine made from valvin muscat, a very floral, fruit-forward wine grape developed by Cornell University. The winery won the coveted Missouri Governor's Cup in 2011 for its 2010 Valvin Muscat offering. We're told Blumenhof currently is working up some magic with Missouri-grown cabernet sauvignon grapes, so stay tuned.
--13699 S. Highway 94, Dutzow, Mo., 636-932-4405, blumenhof.com
Chandler Hill Vineyards
Chandler Hill was named after Joseph Chandler, a freed slave who was deeded the land where the vineyard now stands. In fact, the winery's tasting room and cabin are situated on the site where Chandler's cabin once stood, and some artifacts from his life that were uncovered during construction of the current facility are on display there. The winery itself started up in 2008, bringing in custom crush wines from the West Coast. The Chandler Hills vineyards were planted in 2009, and the winery began turning out its own product in 2011, utilizing the 5.5 acres of chambourcin, vignoles and norton grapes, as well as some varietals from other vineyards. Chadler Hill remains known for its quality West Coast wines and for Missouri vinos like its Chambourcin Rose.
--596 Defiance Road, Defiance, Mo., 636-798-2675, chandlerhillvineyards.com
Augusta Winery was founded in 1988 by Tony Kooyumjian, a third-generation grape grower who became interested in making wine during his tenure as a commercial airline pilot. During his career, Kooyumijian was able to visit many western European wine meccas and sample their wares. He then decided to give wine-making a go, first in St. Charles and then in Augusta. He eventually left the cockpit to focus full-time on wine in 2001. Augusta wines have won multiple Governor's Cups for Best Missouri Wine, in addition to other accolades; and it's especially known for estate-bottled wines made from grapes grown and harvested from its own vineyards. Style-wise, Kooyumjian says Augusta tends toward a more Old World style, aged a bit longer in the barrel. Most recently, the winery won Best of Class and Gold for its 2010 Chambourcin and 2012 Chardonel at this year's Pacific Rim Wine Competition.
--5601 High Street, Augusta, Mo., 636-228-4301, augustawinery.com
Montelle Vineyards and Winery
Montelle was founded in 1970 by Clayton Byers and purchased in 1998 by current owner Tony Kooyumjian, who also owns nearby Augusta Winery. In contrast to his Augusta offerings, Kooyumjian says Montelle wines tend more toward the New World style, a bit more lush and fruit-forward, similar to wines from areas like California, Australia and South America. Montelle wines continually garner accolades: Its 2010 Dry Vignoles took Gold and Best Buy at the 2011 Midwest Wine Review by the Beverage Tasting Institute, and its River Country White took Gold at the 2011 Mid-American Wine Competition. In addition to wines, Montelle also produces spirits. It has the distinction of being the first winery in Missouri with a distillery, and produces four types of brandy from its grapes, which are highly regarded in the industry. Montelle's apple and peach brandies have received multiple Best of Class and Gold awards at the annual Missouri Wine Competition.
--201 Montelle Drive at Highway 94, Augusta, Mo., 636-228-4464, montelle.com