Winery Tours On Americas First Wine Trail

America's long and storied 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.

These early settlers noted how the topography and climate of the river valley resembled their European home areas of Germany and Switzerland. In particular, various grape varieties were growing wild on hillsides surrounding Hermann, prompting founding fathers and town leaders to encourage further cultivation and ultimately, wine making. After a few short years, the prolific grape crop merged with the settler's wine making skills, and America's first wine district was born.

After Prohibition, wine making became viable again, and since the 1960's over 75 wineries have opened in Missouri. Situated on a 20 mile stretch, this wine district just over an hour from St. Louis boasts historic villages and seven wineries. Those who enjoy wine trails and wine travel are drawn here for a variety of reasons, not the least of which are award winning wines and spectacular scenery.

Missouri is particularly noted for its red wines, particularly those produced from Norton and Chambourcin grapes that are native to the area. Many award winning versions of Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon proudly call Missouri home. Numerous white wines are also produced, many harkening back to the German and Swiss heritage. Clean and delightfully crisp rieslings are prominent offerings from area wineries, along with specialty blends like chardonel.

Most visitors to this area embark on their journey from St. Louis. From the city, it's only 75 minutes at most to the wine district via Interstate 44 and Highway 100. The first stop on the eastern end of the wine trail is the town of New Haven, MO, home of historic Robller Vineyard and Winery. Robller offers an absolutely spectacular view of the valley, along with several varieties of wine you'll want to try and take home from their friendly tasting room.

Traveling west from New Haven, you'll encounter the Bommarito Almond Tree Winery, a family owned estate winery. Try their award winning port and other offerings. Further west, you'll find a unique winery and microbrewery combination, Bias Vineyards and Winery. Only the second such operation in the U.S., Bias produces a blush wine we especially enjoyed, River Blush Rouge.

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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