Wine Travel: Americas First Wine Trail

America's fascinating wine making history is rooted in the efforts of European immigrants, who brought their skills to America throughout the 1800's. Long before California and other west coast wine producing states were settled, other areas of the country were busy producing wines from native grape vines growing in the wild. In the 1830's, a group of German immigrants settled in the Missouri river valley, about an hour west of St. Louis near the present historic town of Hermann, Missouri.

Hermann's founding fathers and town leaders noted the prolific growth of wild grapes in the nearby hillsides, and encouraged new immigrants to grow grapes by providing low cost land grants. Having brought their wine making skills from Germany, settlers gladly began tending grape vines and producing wine. Within a few years, the area around Hermann became known for wine production, and America's very first wine district was born.

Ever since then, wine making in one form or another has continued in this picturesque Missouri river valley location. Complete with historic villages and temperate climate, the Hermann Wine Trail has become an up and coming destination for wine travel. Stretching from New Haven, MO on the east to the historic village of Hermann on the west, the area is now home to seven wineries encompassing a mere 20 miles.

Missouri has long been known for deep, rich red wines typically produced from traditional grape varieties such as Norton and Chambourcin. Wineries in this area use these native grapes to develop award winning varietes of Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignons, and Burgundy styles. But these wineries aren't all about reds, as winemakers on this wine trail also produce clean and delightfully crisp styles like rieslings and chardonels.

A visit to the central Missouri wine trail usually begins with a visit to St. Louis. From St. Louis, travel west on Interstate 44 to Missouri Highway 100, continuing on Highway 100 twenty miles to the town of New Haven. This charming village is the eastern edge of the wine trail and is home to historic Robller Vineyard and Winery, which offers a spectacular view of the Missouri river valley.

Just west of New Haven and on your way toward Hermann is the Bommarito Almond Tree Winery, a family owned estate winery producing a savory award winning port, among other offerings. A few miles west is Bias Vineyards and Winery, situated on a 64 acre farm and featuring a microbrewery and winery, only the 2nd such operation in the United States. Be sure to try Bias' River Blush Rouge, an easy drinking friendly blush.

As you reach the Hermann area, you'll discover four thriving wineries offering the chance to try Missouri wine. Stone Hill, Oakglenn, Adam Puchta, and Hermannhof wineries all offer wine tasting, winery tours, and scenic views. Take time to savor the offerings at each. Among those we particularly enjoyed were Oakglenn's spicy Chambourcin and Stone Hill's Vidal Blanc. Stone Hill and Hermannhof are other must stops, not only for their fine wines but also for their historic settings.

The picturesque town of Hermann, Mo marks the western end of this roughly 20 mile wine trail. A perfect place for an overnight stay, the German and Swiss roots of Hermann are evident in the historic architecture, specialty shops, and restaurants. Hermann is also known for its proximity to the Katy Bike Trail and annual events like the Hermann Wurst Fest and many wine related events.

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About The Author, Jimhofman
Jim Hofman is an author specializing in wine travel, and is the owner of several websites devoted to the enjoyment of wine. For the complete travelogue of this wine trail, including specific recommendations, you're invited to join the Wine Trails USA free newsletter, published bi-weekly.