n the fall season, when the weather cooperates, people head for wineries in large numbers. Sunday was an example when the weather was perfect for visiting wineries.

It can be a family outing or just a drive to enjoy Missouri’s fall colors; traffic on roads leading to wineries is robust.

Franklin County, especially the north section, is located on one of the nine winery trails in the state. With 125 wineries in the state, we still haven’t reached the saturation level. There have been four new wineries established in Missouri in the past year, according to Danene Beedle, who is the marketing director for the Missouri Wine and Grape Board. She said the Kansas City area is experiencing considerable growth in wineries. Southern Missouri also is a growth area for wineries.

In production, the St. James Winery is tops in the state. No. 2 is Stone Hill in Hermann, followed by Les Bourgeois near Columbia. Mount Pleasant at Augusta is in the top six wineries in producing wine. So on our winery trail, two of the top two producers are located — at Hermann and Augusta.

ur winery trail is fortunate to be near St. Louis. We have no studies to prove it, but most of the visitors to wineries in this area come from St. Louis city and county. St. Charles County residents also come out in large numbers to visit wineries in this area.

No study has been made since 2009, but there were just over 14,000 people employed by wineries in the state. That was an independent study, which usually is made every five years. Our guess is that there may be 15,000 people employed by wineries and the 393 vineyards in the state at this time. It’s a growing industry in Missouri and dates back to the late 18th and early 19th centuries in the state. By the 1880s, Missouri was a leading producer of grapes. Prohibition halted the production of grapes. It was in the early 1960s that wineries appeared again on the scene in this area.

hat 2009 study said the economic impact of the wine and grape industry in Missouri was $1.6 billion annually. Among other states, Missouri ranked eighth in the country in wine production. California, of course, was No. 1 with New York state No. 2.

A trend we have noticed in the last 25 years, or more, is the availability of food now sold at wineries. We remember the day when wineries just had a few snacks for sale. The large ones now offer a pretty good dining experience, chiefly lunch-type food. Also, the rental of wineries for special events seems to be on the upswing.

It is common to see parents and/or grandparents with children at wineries. That’s always been the situation at some wineries. Family picnics will be found at some wineries.

The growth of wineries in southwestern St. Charles County, and in Warren County, has been healthy. We remember when there were only a few. Vineyards along Highway 94 now are a common sight. The same is true in the Hermann area.

Another thing that has exploded at wineries is music on weekends. The wineries are a rich ground for musicians.

Missouri wines have improved over the years. National and international awards have been won by Missouri wineries.

Missouri wineries have been “making better wines,” Beedle said.

The weather does play an important part in the number of visitors at wineries. However, our Missouri wineries are a year-round operation. The combination of the state’s colorful fall days, our hills and valleys, and wineries is hard to beat anywhere — not only in this country, but in many other countries.