As a writer, part of my job is to use my imagination and think creatively. A few weeks ago, after several back-to-back assignments that involved technical and business writing, my creative well was running dry. My husband suggested a weekend getaway to Historic Missouri Wine County in Saint Charles County in search of some rest and, hopefully, inspiration.
Historic Missouri Wine County is among the oldest and most award-winning in the nation. Its rolling hills, picturesque landscapes and beautiful historic buildings were reawakening my sense of wonder before we had even left our driveway.
It was a pleasant summer afternoon when we pulled off the interstate onto Highway 94, and rolled the windows down to feel the invigorating breeze. The sky was a clear, brilliant blue. Lush forests gave way to sun-drenched hillsides. Cyclists waved as they pedaled along the Katy Trail. Fresh air is good for the soul—wine, too.
Our first stop was Chandler Hill Vineyards, where we made our way through verdant fields of Vignoles, Norton and Chambourcin grapes up to the winery’s elegant terrace to meet CEO Chuck Gillentine. He shared that the vineyard just recently won, among other medals, the C.V. Riley Award for Best Norton in Missouri. After one sip of refreshing flavor rushed over my taste buds, I understood why. It’s so good they even made a homemade jam out of this delicious port. Lucky for me, the jam was for sale in the restaurant’s shop and I shamelessly bought three jars to take home.
While the wine alone was enough to make me linger, the aroma wafting from the restaurant set my stomach to grumbling. Gourmet salads and fresh sandwiches caught my eye on the lunch menu, but when Chuck explained how they make a barbecue sauce from their King Buck wine blend, I was done for. A burger topped with barbecue sauce and caramelized onion is as much brain food as wine is.
While the wine alone was enough to make me linger, the aroma wafting from the restaurant set my stomach to grumbling.
A few miles down the road, resting on an inviting hillside, is Sugar Creek Winery, which is owned by Ken and Becky Miller. The winding paths and twinkling lights that surround the turn-of-the-century Victorian home where the winery is located instantly charmed me. Outside on the porch, I was afforded a breathtaking, panoramic view of the Missouri River Valley. Inside the tasting parlor, Becky asked what type of wine I would like to try.
“Surprise me,” I said. As she poured a semi-dry LaRustica white wine, she explained that “the key is to get the taste of the juice from the fruit.” A fan of sweeter wines, I was delighted with the fruity blend of Chardonel and Traminette grapes. She definitely knew what she was talking about.
Becky poured herself a glass as well and shared a bit of the winery’s story as she took us on a tour around the property. She and her husband purchased the winery when they were in, what she describes as, a “mid-life madness.” They run the winery together with their son, who spent time in California’s wine country learning the ins and outs of wine making. We got a peek at the enormous stainless steel vats and wine barrels, where the real magic happens, before exploring one of the pavilions with a stunning view of the vineyards on the back side of the property. From the crisp and juicy wines to the captivating countryside, it’s clear the Millers have poured a lot of love and devotion into making this winery something special. The intimate and romantic ambience tells a story. It’s more than just a wine tasting, it’s an experience.
Outside on the porch, I was afforded a breathtaking, panoramic view of the Missouri River Valley.
I had picked up more than port-flavored jam at the wineries we visited, and I had recaptured my creativity somewhere between glasses of red and white. Back home, when my husband sees a look of frustration on my face as I stare at a blank document on my computer screen, he uncorks a bottle that we purchased on our trip and reminds me to take it easy on myself. A break—with or without a bottle—is necessary every once in a while. And if that doesn’t seem to be helping, we’ll always have Saint Charles.
Dine, play, sip, and stay in Historic Missouri Wine Country!