DescriptionWhen one thinks of American wine-producing states, California, Oregon and New York immediately come to mind. But Missouri? You bet. After all, it’s known for scenic river valleys, rich farmland and bucolic countryside; a winery seems to perfectly complete this pocket description.
The right combination of climate and terrain is necessary to successfully establish vineyards that will produce fine wine, and the east-central part of the state has both. The Missouri River Valley is an area characterized by hilly bluffs, thin soil and long, hot, sunny summers—all required conditions for growing grapes. Little-known fact: Missouri wines won eight gold medals at the 1873 Vienna World’s Fair.
German immigrants pouring into Missouri during the mid-19th century discovered that the valley was reminiscent of the Rhine River Valley back home, both in the lay of the land and the availability of river transportation. Augusta, founded in 1836 by a follower of Daniel Boone, acquired a distinct German character while prospering as a farming community and trading center.
In the 1870s the Missouri River changed its course, eliminating the need for the town’s boat landing but leaving behind hundreds of acres of fertile river bottom. Today Augusta is one of the towns along the Missouri Weinstrasse, or Wine Road (US 94) as well as a designated access point on the Katy Trail, the rails-to-trails conversion that stretches across north-central Missouri.
A nice fall day is perfect for an Augusta jaunt. It’s a 45-minute drive from St. Louis (take I-70 west to exit 228, then continue southwest on US 94). Once the highway narrows to two lanes you’re in the country, passing through rural scenery that’s bursting with new growth in spring, a thick, lush green in summer and vibrant with fall color. In spots the winding road tunnels through over-arching clumps of trees; in other places the countryside opens up and farmland takes over. In late summer the landscape is dominated by bountiful fields of corn and soybeans.
“Downtown” (reached via Church Road or Jackson Street off US 94) is delightfully compact, just a handful of streets with a backdrop of hills. A couple of shops are along Locust Street. Browse The Uptown Store's Stone Ledge Antiques for furniture and home accessories dating from the 1850s to 1950s.
Several wineries are just outside of town, including the Montelle Winery, about 1.5 miles east of Augusta just off US 94 (watch for the signed turnoff). It doesn’t offer tours, but there’s still a very good reason to stop here: Perched atop Osage Ridge, the facilities and estate vineyards are situated 400 feet above the Missouri Valley.
A shaded outdoor terrace offers magnificent views that are a lovely backdrop for a leisurely wine and cheese repast. For non-wine drinkers, the café in the tasting room has Starbucks coffee. Live music takes place most weekends, and from May to September set-menu “Sunset Dinners” are served (by reservation only) Friday and Saturday at 7. The tasting room is open Mon.-Thurs. 10-5:30, Fri. 10-9, Sat. 10-10, Sun. 11-6, May-Sept.; Mon.-Fri. 10-5:30, Sat. 10-6, Sun. 11-6, rest of year. Phone (636) 228-4464, ext. 23 or (888) 595-9463.
Visitor InfoGreater Augusta Chamber of Commerce P.O. Box 31 AUGUSTA, MO 63332. Phone:(636)228-4005