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Archive for April, 2009

Over the next few weeks we’re going to enjoy two scenic drives in the State of Missouri. We’ll start off in the Capital of Jefferson City and follow the Missouri Rhineland to St. Charles near St. Louis. We’ll pass through several historic German villages and visit a bunch of wineries along the road. From St. Charles we’ll hop on the Interstate and skirt St. Louis to the Village of Leasburg. Here we’ll wander into the Ozark Mountains for a completely different kind of scenic drive. So let’s pack our camping gear and picnic backpacks and get on the road.

The Missouri Rhineland is famous for its family owned wineries. Missouri’s wine industry dates back to the middle 1800s when German immigrants began planting vineyards along the Missouri River. By 1856, Missouri wineries were producing 100,000 gallons of wine per year and that production rose to almost 2,000,000 gallons by 1890. At that time, Missouri was the biggest wine producing state in the Country. By 1900 Stone Hill Winery in Hermann was the third largest in the world. Many of its wines won gold medals at World’s Fairs from St. Louis to Vienna.

Just before prohibition took effect, Missouri had over 100 active wineries. During prohibition only one winery, St. Stanislaus Novitiate in St. Louis, was allowed to continue producing sacramental wine. Missouri’s wine industry remained dead until 1965 when Stone Hill Winery reopened its doors. Today the wine industry is healthy as over 70 wineries are operating in Missouri.

The most commonly grown grape in Missouri today is the Norton, a red grape often known as “the Cabernet of the Ozarks”. Other common varieties include the Native American Concord and Catawba and French-American Hybrid varieties like Vignoles and Chambourcin. Until recently it was commonly believed that Missouri’s winters were too cold to grow vinifera grapes but recently some wineries have been experimenting with varieties like Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Since wine making is so important to this part of Missouri, it makes sense for us to begin our visit at Summit Lake Winery near Jefferson City. Summit Lake Winery opened in 2002 and offers an excellent selection of wines made from Native American and French Hybrid grapes. They have an outdoor terrace that offers beautiful views of the Missouri River and Jefferson City below. In the winter, you can sip any of their great wines while sitting around their warm fireplace.I hope you have a chance to visit Summit Lake Winery and when you do, remember your wine carriers so you can bring home some of their great wines and please tell them that The Pennsylvania Wanderer sent you.

In the next part of our trip to Missouri we’ll visit the State Capital of Jefferson City. This historic city offers many indoor and outdoor attractions. We’ll visit the State Capital, the Runge Conservation Nature Center and the Governor’s Mansion. We’ll see you again soon and until then I wish you happy and safe travels.

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