The St. James area of Missouri, which is part of the Ozark Highlands, is a region affectionately known as the “Little Italy” of the Ozarks. This name is derived from an Italian settlement here over 100 years ago, where many of the immigrants first planted grapes in the district. Since that first planting of grapes, the St. James area has been producing wonderful wine via the wineries that are scattered amongst the region. If you are ever to pass through, any of them are a treat to experience. You will find that all of Missouri, including St. James, produces fantastic, award-winning wines at reasonable prices.
Heinrichshaus Vineyard and Winery, 18500 St Rt U, St. James, MO 65559,
Heinrichshaus is owned by Heinrich Grohe. Grohe, born and raised in Germany, specializes in making dry wines. Most of their fares are produced from French hybrids and Native American grapes. While I have never tasted anything this winery has produced that I haven’t loved, there are two that keep me coming back for more. The first is the Vidal Blanc that retails about $9 a bottle. It’s a fruity wine that has the most pleasant sweet-acidic harmony, but no unpleasant aftertaste. The second is the Cynthiana for about $14 per bottle which is a deep dry red that is aged in oak and has a bold, rich flavor. If you plan on visiting, it’s a good idea to call for their hours, but it is a trip that does not disappoint.
Meramec Vineyards, 600 St Rd B, St. James, MO 65559,
While Meramec Vineyards is open until 5PM every day, I recommend going for lunch. The Meramec’s Bistro d’Vine serves the most delicious lunch that perfectly goes with your wine or grape juice and the prices are spectacular. However, if wine is your primary concern, tasting plates are available just about any time of the day. While they produce great wines from their French-American hybrid grapes, I feel that this vineyard’s expertise lies primarily in their wines made from Native American grapes. They have three excellent specimens of wine that tickle my taste buds. Oftentimes it’s hard for me to leave without buying all three! The first is what they call the Sweet Cat, which is actually their name for their Pink Catawba. At $9 a bottle, it makes the perfect dessert wine or a nice stand-alone to sip on a long weekend. The second is Silvio’s Red, which is a blend of a Norton and a grape called a Stark Star (which is a cross between a Norton and a Catawba). The result is a fruity red that has a slight sweetness that doesn’t over power the wonderful flavor for about $10 a bottle. Lastly, the charm of Meramec Vineyards is their New World Red which is a blend of Concord and Catawba grapes. It has won multiple awards, including the 2006 Gold Medal at the Missouri State Wine Competition, which makes its $8 a bottle price tag a steal.
St. James Winery, 540 Sidney St., St. James, MO 65559,
St. James Winery is probably the most recognizable of all the area’s wineries in popularity. Owned by the Hofherr family, they produce an impressive 150,000 + cases annually and have been featured in “Wine Enthusiast” and “Bon Appetit.” The school house depicted on some of their labels is actually an old school that borders their vineyards that was originally used to school Italian immigrant children. Again, it is hard to pick a favorite from their selection, but two of their wines always leave me wanting more. The first is their Velvet Red that was actually one of the first wines served at the winery in 1970 when it first opened. This sweet wine will only set you back about $7 per bottle and has won many awards including the 2006 Silver at the Florida State Fair. My other pick is the $8 a bottle Friendship School White that is made from both European hybrid and American grapes. The flavor is reminiscent of a Riesling to me and the hint of lemon makes it very refreshing.
Also, there are some other smaller wineries in the area that are worth a visit as well. Both the Ferrigno Winery and the 4M Vineyard and Rosati Winery are family-owned wineries that are open to the public in the St. James region. While they usually don’t produce as much wine as some of their bigger counterparts, they produce some wonderful and unique products.
When most people think of wine in the United States, a natural thought usually turns to the Napa Valley in California or even the many wineries nestled along the Great Lakes region in the north. With the excellent grapes that are being grown in St. James and the tasty wines that are being made from them, Missouri may one day be considered the Mecca of domestic wine production in the United States.