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Missouri wines: A serious contender

Missouri wines: A serious contender

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by Dr. Elinor Garely, editor in chief of

Missouri First

Did you know that Missouri was the first state to take the wine industry seriously? Although Native Americans have been cultivating grapes since the beginning of time, the wine industry in America is relatively new and can be tracked to German migration to Missouri. The first wine from locally cultivated grapes was introduced in 1846 and two years later the local wineries produced 1000 gallons. By 1855, 500 acres of vineyard were in production and wine was shipped to St. Louis and other nearby locales. The next immigration wave brought Italians to the state and they contributed their expertise to the industry. By the mid-19th century this state was producing more wines (by volume), than any other state in the USA.

Missouri was the first state recognized as a federally designated American Viticulturally Area (currently there are four in the state) and Clayton Byers, the founder of Montelle Vineyards (1970) was a wine visionary. Currently the property is owned by Tony Koovumiian who notes that his wines are successful because of the terroir, microclimate and history resulting in wines that are, “fresh, fragrant, focused and well-balanced,” and unique – due to the artistry of the winemaker.

Missouri River and Hermann

The industry started along the Missouri River in the town of Hermann. One of the first wineries was Stone Hill (1847) and it became the second largest in the nation (and the third largest in the world). They shipped a million barrels of wine by the beginning of the 20th century and it won awards in Vienna (1873) and Philadelphia (1876).

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