Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Treasures of the Northeast

There are plenty of winery trails in Missouri for the adventurous wine-lover to explore.  I really wanted to highlight some wineries that are not an official trail, but have a lot to offer. If you're going for quantity, you are going to be disappointed, but the quality will make up for it, I promise. Northeast Missouri is made of stunning countrysides, lavish lakes, some top-notch Missouri wineries, and so much more.  If you are looking to to venture beyond your usual stomping grounds, this could be for you.

Allow me to start in the north and work my way down. I spent one year of my life in Kirksville while attending college at Truman State University. Talk about small-town feel! Everything thing seems to move a little slower in Kirksville. There's no hustle and bustle of a large city, and people seem to take life one step at a time. It's a great town to relax and free your mind. Thousand Hill State Park is one of the highlights of Kirksville featuring hiking, fishing, swimming, and an abundance of wildlife.

We camped here during our last trip up north and had a positive experience. The campsites were clean, secluded and the restroom were pristine. When you head south from the park down Highway 63, you can stop by Jacob's Vineyard & Winery.

Unlike most Missouri Wineries, this one isn't only about making great wine. The Pruett Family started their business to help their son, Jacob who has Down's Syndrome. We had the pleasure of meeting most of the family, as well as Jacob, on our first visit; it truly is a family affair. They are hoping to use  their winery as a start for a charity to help other children like Jacob learn farming and homemaking skills. They offer free tastings, have a large outdoor patio area with a view of their vines, and every year they have an 'I Love Lucy' themed grape stomping party!

(Indian Creek Winery is currently closed until further notice. Once it opens, we'll head back out, review it, and add it to this blog!)

Directly south of Kirksville, you'll find yourself in the historical town of Macon. It's easy to drive right through this town and not even notice all the gems it has to offer. Plan on having lunch here and make your first stop the The Smoke House.

This is a small, family-run food truck, serving up some of the best smoked barbecue you'll find in the area. We greatly enjoyed their pulled pork and smoked brisket with fries and coleslaw, and we also heard great things about their smoked turkey. They are in the process of constructing a building to move in to, but for the time being order your food to go and eat it at West Winery, just a couple blocks away.

West Winery has one of the most beautiful, trendy tasting rooms I have ever stepped foot into. While tasting their long list of impressive wines, you can overlook their wine-making facility. Wine tastings are free and include a loaded list of Missouri varietals, with a very impressive selection of Chambourcin wines (try every single one). If you're lucky, you might get to see Chris West, the winemaker and owner making his rounds, stopping in at one of his 3 locations; Jackson Stables is located in Kirksville, and his Mark Twain Cave location is in Hannibal.

Moving further south and east, you'll come upon the fabulous town of Hannibal. History and tourist attractions are practically on every corner. You could spend your whole weekend here just taking in all the sites and becoming an expert on Mark Twain. We do suggest you go on a cave tour while visiting, and if you have time take in a show or visit the wax museum.

After you take your cave tour you'll be able to walk across the street to Cave Hollow West Winery. This winery features most of the same wines that were served at West Winery, but they also exclusively serve their Mark Twain Cave Series wines. Enjoy your free tasting and have a picnic on their lawn.

The last stop is just south of Hannibal in Frankfort. This winery could quite possibly be the smallest in the state, but that does not mean you should skip it! Claymalnay Vineyard & Winery is a family-ran winery that started in 2004 with 500 Vignoles grape vines.

The couple who own this winery are extremely hospitable, and we even got to meet 2 of the 3 children the winery is named after. Their tastings are free, and all of their wines are very pleasant. We were really impressed with their Norton. Come out and have a bottle, take in the view of the hillside and vines, and enjoy the entertainment. While we were visiting, they had a DJ come out to spin vinyl records! They try to bring out live music every weekend, so bring your picnic basket and make an evening of it.

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