The news of Washington native David Hoffmann’s plan to invest around $100 million to create a 700-acre winery and vineyard destination, including a hotel, a five-star restaurant, a nine-hole par-3 golf course and other attractions, was welcomed by the Greater Augusta Chamber of Commerce. Chamber President JoAnn Milster said the group is already in talks with Hoffmann’s team to add and update information about Hoffmann’s properties in its annual tourism brochure.
To date, Hoffmann’s company has purchased the 90-plus-acre Balducci Winery and Vineyards, the 53-acre Knoernschild Vineyards and is in talks to purchase two additional properties in late January or February.
“From the chamber’s point of view, we’re excited to have someone coming in who wants to put money into revitalizing the area,” Milster told The Missourian. “And to promote the brand of the first AVA (grape-growing region designation) in the country. … We have that distinction that Napa does not.”
The 15-square-mile area at Augusta was the first in the country to be federally designated an American Viticultural Area (AVA) in 1980. Today 252 areas hold the title, including Hermann and the Ozark Highlands in Missouri.
Augusta was founded in 1836 by settlers who followed Daniel Boone to the area. It was incorporated in 1855 and was primarily an agriculture community, growing grain, livestock and grapes for wine. According to Milster, the Augusta Wine Co. was one of the first co-ops in the U.S.
Hoffmann previously said he hopes to renovate the building on Walnut Street in the style of how it would have looked in the 1860s and build a depot for trolleys and horse and buggy rides. He has previously done historic renovation and revitalization work in downtowns in Naples, Florida, Avon, Colorado, and Winnetka, Illinois.
“I think (the development) has to maintain the historical integrity,” Milster said. “We don’t want to lose that nostalgic, Norman Rockwell feel to the town because that is part of its charm, and from what I’ve seen in other developments (Hoffmann) doesn’t destroy that. ... I’m sensitive to the residents’ concerns that they don’t want to live in a tourist trap, but I don’t think that’s what this is going to be. He seems to want to do the right thing for the community.”
News of a developer and multimillion-dollar investment sounded familiar to some in the Rhineland area. In 2005, developer Jim Dierberg of St. Louis announced he’d acquired and revived the Hermannhof Winery, planned a living history farm and a renovation of a former MFA Inc. grain elevator into the Tin Mill Brewing Co., among other investments.
Tammy Bruckerhoff, director of economic development and tourism for Hermann, is a lifelong resident of the Gasconade County town and said while some locals were concerned that development would change the character of the town, most now appreciate what it does for the community and the jobs it provides. She said Hermann is excited for the neighboring destination Hoffmann envisions.
“We can be like Napa and Sonoma and work together to promote each other and become a destination not just for Missouri and Illinois, not just for the United States, but from all over the world,” Bruckerhoff said. “If they had chosen another state, then it might be competition, but now what I see is where we can complement each other.”