Tuesday, September 30, 2014

7 Reasons to Visit Missouri Wineries this Fall

Summer may quickly be coming to an end, but that’s no reason to put away your wine chillers and picnic baskets. Fall is the perfect time to break out the sweaters, grab a group of friends, and venture out to Missouri Wine Country. If you haven’t visited a winery in autumn, you don’t know what you’re missing. Harvest, crush, fall festivals and so much more make fall a time to fall in love with Missouri wineries all over again. If I haven’t sold you on the idea of Missouri wineries in the fall yet, allow me to give you 7 solid reason to spend your autumn weekends sipping Missouri wines and watching the leaves change.

Have you ever wondered just how your robust glass of Norton or spicy bottle of Traminette came to be? The winemaking process starts in early fall with the harvesting of grapes from vineyards across the state. During this time of year vineyards are weighed down by large clusters of purple and green grapes. Green grapes usually ripen in late August to September, while red grapes usually need to stay on the vines until October. Harvest can be very time consuming and uses lots of manpower. Wineries that hand pick their grapes are always looking for help during harvest. This is your chance to make a first-hand impact on the Missouri wine industry. You’ll be able to enjoy a beautiful day in the vines, meet new people, taste the grapes that will one day be served at the wineries, and possibly be compensated with wine, food or even grapes of your own to take home. Jowler Creek Vineyard & Winery will have its last harvest of the year on Saturday, September 27th. Email info@jowlercreek.com to reserve your spot to help pick their Norton. Red Fox Winery & Vineyard will be announcing their harvest dates on Facebook as the grapes ripen. You can RSVP at (816) 392-0955. Expect to start picking at 7am and be served food and refreshments. Also, keep an eye on Edg-Clif Winery’s Facebook page for updates on their last harvest date which is likely to take place Saturday, September 27th. All grape pickers that help out at Edg-Clif are served lunch and offered special pricing on wine after the harvest is complete.

Harvest may be the first stop of winemaking in the fall, but it is certainly not the only reason to visit Missouri wineries.
2.    CRUSH
The second step of the winemaking process is known as crush, and it’s my favorite step. I know the idea of grape stomps may come to mind when talking about crush, but I prefer to pass on that messy situation. (Don’t worry. There will be grape stomp info further down my list for all you people who want to feel the grapes between your toes!) I recently took a drive out to Blumenhof Winery to witness their crush process first hand. It’s a really impressive operation that they have down to a science. While I was there, they crushed and pressed Valvin Muscat and Rayon D’or grapes, and I got to sample freshly pressed juice from each. The aroma of the Valvin Muscat grapes was intoxicating and filled the air. Each juice tasted sweet and almost like an apple cider. It’s amazing to think next year I may be drinking a bottle of wine that I saw go from grapes to juice before my eyes. Winemakers, Mark and Eric Blumenberg were eager to explain the process and answer any questions. Keep an eye on Blumenhof’s Facebook page for updates on when their next batch of grapes will be ready to be crushed and pressed. Don’t be afraid to ask winemakers to give you a behind the scenes look at the winemaking process. Most are happy to show off their hard work and give you a rundown of the procedure. 

Once you’ve harvested some grapes, crushed and pressed; now we just wait for the juice to ferment into amazing Missouri wines. However, there is still a ton of fun happenings to keep you coming back all autumn long!

Fall is full of some of the best winery events of the year, including possibly the largest of them all, Hermann Oktoberfest! For the entire month of October, you can make the trip to Hermann every weekend to take part in festivities taking place at all of the wineries. Stone Hill Winery will offer live music, wine & beer, and traditional German foods including a special Oktoberfest menu at the Vintage Restaurant. Stop by Lost Creek Vineyard for some pumpkin chunkin’, riding vineyard tours, and entertainment (not to mention one of the most picturesque vineyards in the state). Hermannhof Vineyards will be celebrating with wine, beer and brats as well as German music by the Loehnig Family. Bommarito Winery will be hosting Grilled Pizza Saturdays featuring Chef Mark serving fresh ingredients from St. Louis Italian District, “The Hill.” Röbller Vineyard Winery, OakGlen Winery, Adam Puchta Winery, and the entire town of Hermann will also be celebrating in the traditional German fashion. Everyone can be German during Hermann Oktoberfest. The food, music, and wine will have you polka dancing and PROST-ing before you know it! 

This may be one of the largest Missouri winery festivals of autumn, but there are many others taking place all around the state!

Festivals! Festivals! Festivals! There just aren’t enough weekends! You could spend nearly every weekend  of the month at winery festivals. Sounds like heaven doesn’t it? Let’s start with Les Bourgeois Vineyards Crush Festival on October 4th from 2-6pm at the A-frame. If you’re looking to dye your feet purple, you can take part in the grape stomp!  Primitive Soul will be providing live music as attendees take part in pumpkin painting, fishing and lots of games for the kids.

The following weekend, head to the Harvest Hootenanny Festival October 10-12 at Mark Twain Cave and Cave Hollow West Winery. This is a great one to take the whole family. There will be a petting zoo, arts & crafts, a fun run, and pumpkin carving to keep the kids entertained. The festival also includes a farmers market, craft beer festival, home brew competition, Tour-De-Hannibale Bike Ride, and live music. And yes, another GRAPE STOMP!
If you happen to be on the northwest side of the state, you may prefer to check out Jowler Creek Winery & Vineyard’s Fall Festival happening October 11th from 5-9pm. If you want to soak in all that fall has to offer, this is the place to be. Mulled wine and s’mores will be served around a bonfire. You can also take part in traditional fall games and enjoy jovial fall music and take in the brisk autumn air rolling in over their vineyard.
On October 18th, Crown Valley Winery will be hosting its first Pumpkin Chuckin and Smash Fest at the Crown Valley Brewery. Thirty teams will compete in pumpkin carving, chucking, pie eating, and slingshotting. Each team will receive a commemorative t-shirt, but only one team will be crowned the grand prize winner and gets to enjoy a Beer Dinner for eight at the Brewery and a Fall Basket from Crown Valley. Team registration is free, and this sounds like a smashing good time with friends!
Let’s say you spend that last weekend of October in Hermann for Oktoberfest. Now you may think you’re done with Missouri wineries for the year, but you’d be terrifyingly wrong.
Wineries may not come to mind when you’re making your Halloween plans, but how does spending an evening in a haunted winery that used to be an orphanage, a nursing home and a safety bunke? Watch Belvoir Winery’s Ghost Hunter’s episode, and then call to reserve your spot at their Halloween Massacreade on Friday, October 31st immediately. I can testify that this place has a truly eerie feel about it. Even before I heard the story about the ghosts of children that roam the halls, I felt something brush by my leg on that way to the restroom. During my wine tasting, I was informed that this is a normal occurrence in their halls. If you want to be scared this Halloween, this is the place to be. Live music will be supplied by 80’s rocker band, STRIKEBACK, and you’ll be able to watch outdoor screenings of classic Halloween and horror movies. Psychic and card readers will be on tap to hype up the spookiness. Sip on all of Belvoir’s tasty wines while enjoying a truly frightening Halloween party at one of Missouri’s most excitingly, spooky wineries!

Festivals and events can be a lot of fun, but sometimes you just want to unwind at a winery and enjoy the change of season. Feeling the cool autumn air, watching the leaves fall, and drinking your favorite Missouri wine can make for an ideal fall day. Throw in a bonfire, and it just might be perfect. Ladoga Ridge Winery will be putting on its “Fireside Fridays at Ladoga” starting September 21 through the entire month of October (except October 12). Bring a blanket and some chairs and circle up by the fire with a loved one. The winery will provide music, food and the bonfire of course.

If you really want to reflect on the transition of the seasons this fall, you may want to take part in Fall Yoga in Wine Country. Kathy Kessler of Haleyon Spa will be touring the Augusta Wine Country instructing yoga classes at various wineries. Beginners are welcome. The yoga class costs $16 and includes a complimentary wine tasting after class. Call 636-228-4110 to reserve your spot. Sessions include: 10:15-11:45AM  September 28 at Noboleis Vineyards, 9:30-11AM October 4 at Chandler Hill Vineyards, 10:15-11:45AM October 12 at Seven Stone Weingarten, 10:15-11:45AM October 18 at Augusta Winery, 10:15-11:45AM October 26 at Noboleis Vineyards, & 9:30-11AM November 1 at Montelle Winery.

Sometimes you don’t need yoga or a bonfire to get in touch with the fall season. Sometimes you just need that special autumn themed wine to make everything fall into place.
A new season calls for new wines! There’s just something about a limited edition wine that makes it taste so much better. One of my personal favorite autumn wines comes from Wenwood Farms Winery. While everything else has been eagerly awaiting pumpkin beers, I have my calendar marked for the release of Wenwood’s Pumpkin Pie Wine. It’s a delightfully sweet wine with all the right spices to transport you to a slice of grandma’s pumpkin pie. You’ll be able to sample and pick up a bottle at the Wenwood Harvest Home Festival on September 27th from 11AM-5PM. This really is a limited release. If you’re curious to try it, don’t wait!

Another Missouri fall wine favorite is St. James Winery’s Cranberry Wine. Its release date is set for October 1st when you should be able to find it in grocery stores across the state. Cranberry is an iconic fall flavor, and St. James does a great job of bottling that essence into a superb wine. It pairs very well with Thanksgiving turkey and can even be used to make a holiday cocktail.

This may be a little further into the future, but it may be worth marking your calendar for. Ste. Genevieve Winery’s release of their Christmas Plum Wine. But I suppose that could wait for another list…

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