Written by Klaire Howerton
Posted by Mark Ruda
Missouri’s Winemaking Heritage at Stone Hill Winery
The state of Missouri encompasses a great many heritages within its borders. One of the very first battles of the Civil War was held here, for example. Ice cream cones were invented at the World Fair in St. Louis. The vigilante clan known as the Baldknobbers was formed right in Branson. A little known of heritage in Missouri, however, is the state’s history of winemaking. Business venues such as Stone Hill Winery located in Branson, New Florence and Hermann, Missouri, take pride in carrying on this unique Show Me State heritage.
Winemaking in Missouri really took off in the 19th century. German immigrants to the state are responsible for founding the wine industry – in fact, the state’s wine corridor came to be called Missouri’s “Rhineland” thanks to their efforts. Italian immigrants also jumped onto the winemaking band wagon and by the 1880s, Missouri produced more wine by volume than any other state in the nation. Missouri’s winemaking heritage also includes being the first area to receive federal recognition as an American Viticultural Area.
Missouri’s geographical region is perfectly suited to growing grapes, which are the main ingredient in wines. Hot summers, good sun exposure and the famous rocky Ozarks soil all combine to make great grape growing conditions. A moderate and fairly consistent average temperature makes it possible to naturally cellar wine as well. The most popular variety of Missouri grapes grown is the Cynthiana/Norton variety. There are currently more than 1,600 acres planted in grapes within the Show Me State.
Stone Hill Winery, with locations in Branson, New Florence and the original location in Hermann Missouri, was first established in 1847. It quickly grew to be the second largest winery in the United States. The wines produced at Stone Hill were world famous, procuring gold medals in several world fairs including the fair in Vienna in 1873 and Philadelphia in 1876. By the early 1900s, Stone Hill Winery was dispersing over a million gallons of wine annually. The arrival of Prohibition, however, brought the winemaking to a screeching halt and the cellars that had once been used for aging fine wines now grew mushrooms.
In 1965, Jim and Betty held, along with their four children, purchased the winery and set about restoring it to its former glory. They painstakingly repaired all of the grand building and vaulted cellars and brought Stone Hill Winery back to life. Today, Stone Hill Winery is the oldest and most awarded winery in Missouri, and has been added to the National Register of Historic Places. Visitors are encouraged to tour the winery, sample the fine wines in the tasting room and dine in the Vintage Restaurant, which is located in the restored carriage house and horse barn. The New Florence location of Stone Hill Winery features the company’s bottle fermented sparkling wine operation, and visitors have the opportunity to taste and purchase wines in the gift shop. At the Branson branch of Stone Hill, guests can participate in a fun and educational tour of the sparkling wine and cream sherry production, watch a video about the process of producing wine, sample from six different tasting rooms and browse the gift shop. For a truly unique look at Missouri’s winemaking heritage, Stone Hill Winery is the place to go.