There’s an amazing little wine country tucked away in Missouri, just along the river, between Columbia and St. Louis.
The main hub of the area is Hermann: a quaint Germanic town, founded in some vague ‘back in the day.’ Within you’ll find wines that are tricky to come by elsewhere, but worth seeking out if you appreciate rich reds and fruity whites, both complex but easy to drink.
A big part of why the wines are seldom exported outside Missouri is a collection of laws still on the books from the prohibition era. Prohibition was crazy for the Midwest, and all the wineries, run by families for generations, found themselves shut down, even while their West Coast counterparts were able to continue operating as wine purveyors for the regional missions and clergy. Many of these laws have either yet to be struck down, or have only been half-assed in their striking, resulting in a Missouri wine country that is fabulous, but incredibly regional (and as a result, cheap — most bottles are under $20, with an average of something like $10-12).
My two favorite wines from the area — which are why I take all my friends to Hermann, when they visit the Midwest — are the Norton and the Vignoles grapes.
The former is a rich red, which is round in the middle and has a great nose, much like a pure Argentine Malbec, but without the pepper at the end that marks its southern counterpart. The latter is a light but complex white, with a really authoritative combination of pear and grape, but without becoming overly floral or perfumey.
You’ll also find the requisite German chocolate shops in the area, and myriad little bed and breakfasts that are charming and quite reasonably priced. Take the time to walk through downtown Hermann (it doesn’t take long) and you’ll find a lot of little antique shops and other treasures that round out a day of wine tasting quite nicely.
I always know what to expect when I go to someplace like Napa — it’ll be a nice, above-average, well-curated experience. We all know the places that are famous there, and which wines are the right wines to take home.
Hermann, though — and places like it, speckled across the US, in small towns you’ve never heard of — is full of wonderful surprises and wildcards. It’s the home of some of my least favorite wines, but also the home of some of my absolute favorites out of all the wines in the world. There’s something to be said for that kind of craftsmanship, despite the laws that keep them hidden away from the world at large.