Pictures: Christian G.E.Schiller with Charles Dressel, President, at Mount Pleasant Winery in Missouri
Mount Pleasant Winery, in Augusta, is one of the oldest wineries of Missouri. George Muench, who came to the area with his brother, Frederick, from Germany, founded Mount Pleasant Winery in 1859. Built from the wood and abundant limestone of the area, the winery and cellars were completed in 1881.
I visited Mount Pleasant Winery recently with fellow participants of the Drink Local Wine Conference 2011 in Missouri. DrinkLocalWine.com – which is about is about spotlighting wine made in the 47 States of the US that are not one of the big three: California, Washington State, and Oregon - held its third annual conference on April 1-3, 2011, in St. Louis, Missouri. I have provided an overview about the Drink Local Wine Conference 2011 in Missouri here. One of the highlights of the conference was the DLW 2011 Missouri Twitter Taste-off; 20 wineries participated with 2 wines each. I have provided a general overview about the wine producing State of Missouri here. Missouri is relying heavily on French American hybrid grapes; I have written about it here. Interestingly, the first American AVA was the Augusta AVA in Missouri; see here. This is the first of the final three postings about 3 Missouri winemakers: Montelle Winery, Mount Pleasant Winery and Sugar Creek Vineyards and Winery.
Wine Producer Missouri
Missouri produces top-flight wine, although it does so with few European (vitis vinifera) grapes – such as Chardonnay or Merlot - in sight. Missouri’s more than 100 wineries specialize in French-American hybrid grapes and native American grapes like Vidal Blanc, Seyval Blanc, and Norton - the latter one being the most prominent Missouri-grown variety. The State’s climate is harsh and humid and vinifera grapes have a hard time to thrive under these conditions, although recently there has been more interest in planting vinifera grape varieties.
Picture: Map of Missouri
Missouri’s wine history dates to the 1830s, when German immigrants established Hermann and the Missouri River as one of the main viticulture areas in the US, growing the American grapes that they found there when they arrived, including Norton. 50 years later, more wine was produced in Missouri than in any other State in the US. But then came Prohibition and brought Missouri’s wine industry to a halt. However, Missouri’s wine industry came back, starting in the 1960, in particular after French American hybrid grapes became available. Indeed, the Augusta AVA in Missouri is the first AVA (gaining the status on June 20, 1980, eight months before the Napa Valley AVA).
Today, Missouri has more than 1,400 acres planted in grapes and more than 100 wineries. Missouri is again a serious wine producer, relying heavily on French American Hybrids when it comes to quality wines. However, overall, Missouri has become a small player, accounting for less than 0.5% of total production in the US.
Mount Pleasant Winery
Mount Pleasant Winery was founded in 1859 by George Muench and his brother, Frederick, from Germany. The original cellars were completed in 1881 and were built from the wood and abundant limestone in the area. When Prohibition hit in 1920, the winery was forced to close and all of the vines were removed. In 1966, the winery was reopened; it was one of only two wineries in the State at that time. In 1980, the Augusta Appellation was created and became America’s first AVA.
Pictures: Mount Pleasant Winery in Missouri with Founder George Muench (top picture)
Today, Mount Pleasant is the largest grower of grapes in the Augusta AVA with over 60,000 vines on 85 acres with 16 diffferent gape varieties. These include Chardonnay and the Bordeaux varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, but these vinifera grapes account for just a fraction of the total, not exceeding 5,000 vines. Mount Pleasant Winery relies heavily on French American hybrid grapes, including Vidal Blanc, Seyval Blanc, Rayon d'Or, Vignoles, St. Vincent, Chambourcin, Couderc, Chardonnel and Cynthiana, as the other wineries in Missouri I visited.
Mount Pleasant produces a variety of red and white table wines, with semi-dry, dry, and sweet styles. It also produces fortified wine (using the "port wine" designation) and sparkling wine.
Pictures: The Wines of Mount Pleasant Winery
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