As the weather warms up, the urge to get out and explore grows stronger. We propose a tour of five Franklin County wineries, guaranteed to put a smile on your face and a spring in your step. You can do the entire tour in one big loop (with a designated driver) or you can visit one or two wineries at a time on different trips.
All the wineries have an outside area, so you can take advantage of this great spring weather by sitting on the patio and enjoying the view while sipping your wine.
Bias Winery, established in 1980, is the oldest winery in Franklin County. In 1998, then-owner Jim Bias added Gruhlke's Microbrewery to the winery, making it the first winery -microbrewery in the state of Missouri and the second in the country. For the past 11 years, Bias has been owned by Kirk and Carol Grass, friends of Jim and the late Norma Bias. They have carried on the casual, warm, family-friendly atmosphere.
The winery is outside of Berger, perched high on a bluff facing the Missouri River bottoms. The outdoor seating area has been expanded and offers a stunning view. Visitors are welcome to roam the 64 acres, including nine acres of vineyard, and pet the two winery cats.
Complimentary tram rides are offered during festivals, which include Maifest, a barbecue cook-off in June, dog days washer tournament in August, chili cook-off in September, Octoberfest, Halloween hayride, tree-trimming party in December, and more. Bias is also on the Hermann Wine Trail (www.hermannwinetrail.com), which sponsors five major trail events each year.
The gift shop features locally made glassware, t-shirts and other items.
Bias Winery, 3166 Highway B, Berger, 63014; 800-905-2427; www.biaswinery.com. Open year round.
Röbller Vineyard Winery in New Haven is also on the Hermann Wine Trail, and celebrates the five annual trail events as well as their own festivals, including Summerfest in June, Reggae Sunsplash in August, Tunes and Balloons in September, plus Maifest and Octoberfest celebrations.
Or perhaps you prefer to avoid the crowds of festival weekends and just enjoy the peaceful views from the veranda with your family and friends on a low-key weekday visit. Either way, you'll find a warm welcome from Robert and Lois Mueller, winery founders, and their son, Jerry, who has returned to Missouri to join his parents at the winery. The two winery dogs are also on hand as official greeters.
The Muellers found this scenic location on a country drive in 1987. They planted the vineyard, built the winery, and in 1991, they poured their first vintage. Today the original small tasting room has expanded into a large meeting/dining space, with a gift shop offering a range of products made in Missouri and elsewhere. The expansive, shaded veranda is popular year round with guests. The view over the vineyard at sunset is memorable.
Their wine list is well established and the wines have won numerous awards, including the prestigious Missouri Governor's Cup.
Röbller Vineyard Winery, 275 Robller Vineyard Road, New Haven, 63068; 573-237-3986; www.robllerwines.com. Open year round.
Between Berger and New Haven, south of Highway 100 along Highway VV, you'll find two charming, small wineries, well worth the drive on scenic country roads: Bommarito Estate Winery and Kuenzel Valley Winery.
Bommarito Estate Almond Tree Winery is a small, family-owned winery that focuses on making a limited number of wines well, with a focus on dry and semi-sweet wines.
Nick Bommarito bought the property in 1994, planted grapes, and opened the winery in 2000. His daughter, Cathleen (Cathy) Bommarito-Manley, assisted him with winemaking since 1998, then took over the winemaking duties in 2007 to free Nick to focus on the viticulture side of the business.
"We produce about one hundred cases of each variety," says Cathy, a certified sommelier, "and we sell out every year." Their wines include Chambourcin, Norton, a dry Vidal-VIgnoles blend, and a sweet and fruity rose. The solera white port is a fortified wine in a dry, aperitif style, while the Norton port, their specialty, is more traditional.
The almond tree in the winery name comes from the almond trees planted on the property in the early years. Their pink blossoms in the spring provide a beautiful setting for picnics on the patio.
Bommarito Estate Almond Tree Winery, 3718 Grant School Road, New Haven, 63068; 573-237-5158; www.bommaritoestatewinery.com. Open Saturday and Sunday or by appointment.
Kuenzel Valley Winery is the new kid on the block, opening in July 2013. Situated on a farm amid the rolling hills of Franklin County, the winery offers visitors a glimpse into a pastoral way of life. On every visit, you'll see changes as the fledgling winery continues to evolve. In addition, the four-bedroom farmhouse is open as a B&B.
Tony and Renee Kuenzel are passionate about the winery business, and the family is involved. Son Anthony provides live keyboard music and vocals most weekends, and son Armand runs the website. Their two dogs form the welcoming committee as guests arrive at the former grainery building that is now the blue-roofed winery.
Their specialty is Mint Tea Wine. Served over ice with fresh mint leaves, it is a summer knockout.
Kuenzel Valley Winery, 4455 Kohl City Road, New Haven, 63038; 573-237-2034; www.kuenzelvalleywinery.com. Open Saturday and Sunday, April through October, and by appointment.
St. Jordan Creek Winery is just off Highway 50 between Union and Beaufort. Opened in 2011, the winery has built a steady following with its varied wine selection, live music most Saturdays, special events and classes, and handmade gift items in the shop. The wine is only available at the winery, so, "You have to come here to taste and buy," says Lucas Johnson.
Lucas, age 29, is the winemaker and is also likely to be the person who greets you and leads your wine tasting. His mother, Prudence Fink Johnson, helps with the winemaking and also creates many of the unique gift items in the shop, from handmade wine charms to kiln-melted wine bottle serving platters. His dad, Nels Johnson, oversees the vineyards.
St. Jordan Creek runs through the property and gives the winery its name. The tasting room and the patio with pergola can be rented for weddings and other private events.
Creativity Uncorked is the name of the popular "paint and sip" classes led by local artist, Barbara Brunjes Purschke. The vineyard wagon tours with onboard wine tastings are also popular.
Their wine list includes dry, sweet and semi-sweet wines. A hit year round is the traditional sangria, made fresh to order with their King's Norton wine. You can buy it by the pitcherful at the winery, or you can buy a bottle of King's Norton and get the recipe to make the sangria at home.
St. Jordan Creek Winery, 2829 Highway 50, Beaufort, 63013; 636-584-8001; www.stjordancreek.com. Open Saturdays and Sundays.
Whichever winery you choose to visit, you'll encounter a warm welcome and authentic experience. There are plenty of B&Bs, restaurants, specialty shops and antiques markets in the area to round out your weekend getaway.