Napa Valley near St. Louis? Investor plotting $100M revamp to turn Augusta into national destination
By - PeddlerOfMisery
Residents of St Louis are always quick to question the ideas of a visionary. Just think if Joe Edwards would have listed to the naysayers we would not have a beautiful trolly in the loop.
Not going to lie, you had me in the first half.
Ding, ding, ding!
To those who impeach the quality of Missouri wine...you are correct, but I don’t think the problem is that we can’t make good wine but that we don’t because there’s a huge market for cheap sweet garbage and it’s easy and cheap to make.
I’ve had excellent wine made in Missouri. It’s nonsense that you need a Mediterranean climate to make good wine. We can, and hopefully we will, make more good wine. They do it in the Willamette valley, in central Germany, and in England. None of those places have a Mediterranean climate.
But this is beer country, and it’s hard to turn that around.
Edit- I meant the Columbia valley, although the Willamette isn’t really a pure example of Mediterranean climate.
You don't need a Mediterranean climate to make good wine but none of those places you listed freeze or bake like Missouri. The beer market is dominated by American light lagers but a brewery like Side Project is super successful. I think Missouri can make great wine but it's not the market holding it back. Our climate is harsh and our grow season isn't nearly as long as England or the pacific northwest. Someone just has to be dedicated to creating something special instead of chasing what's popular.
The Willamette valley and central Germany get pretty damn hot and cold.
Median temperature for June July and August is a good 5 degrees higher here than the Willamette. Also, summer there is very dry. Summer here is wet.
It’s harsher but the idea that we just can’t grow good grapes to make good wine isn’t true. I think the truth of the matter was come up a few times in this thread - we need to stop trying to do what other places do and figure out what we can do well.
The Midwestern inferiority complex is hard at work in holding us back, as usual.
Which MO wines do you recommend?
I'm disappointed at the lack of people suggesting vignoles -- they usually come on the sweeter side but there are some really good dry ones out there!
edit to add: from what I understand MO is one of the only places that can grow it, so thats why I bring it up
Norton, it's dope
If you like sweet, there are lots of choices.
Dry is harder. Norton is the state grape. However, it has an exotic favor for a dry red.
Assuming you like reds Norton is similar to merlot although I find it be dryer. chambourcin is more like Cabernet.
I can’t recall which vineyards actually have good ones, but I know I’ve had a handful of Missouri wines that were actually legitimately good wine. For years I regarded it all as a bad joke.
I blame this on the earlier settlers of MO. I am of mostly German heritage on one side. Those people (I mean the ones in my family and other similarly tenured immigrants) love Concord grape wine. St James makes one that basically tastes like grape juice. My mom loves that ish.
German wine traditionally is often sweeter than what most of us are used to, and in the 19th centuries that was actually hugely popular all over. But just as modern Budweiser is a exaggeratedly bland version of traditional German lager, progressively dumbed down further and further for increasingly middle of the road tastes to boost sales, so modern Missouri wines are the sweet redheaded bastard children of sweet German wine.
It’s shocking how many people drink this crap. It’s really wine for people that just don’t really like wine. Just as, I would argue, michelob ultra and bud select are beers for people that don’t really like beer...
People really be on here complaining about investments in the region
If it's bound to fail, and kill the local region's existing businesses, then yes, people should question it.
I live in the area. They've bought up practically the entire town of Augusta (St. Charles county) (and not just the wineries), Mid America Coaches, a company in Washington, MO (Franklin County) that makes hospital beds (that's a bit of a head scratcher), and just announced they are buying the vacant Emmaus Homes campus in Marthasville, MO (Warren County).
It's not going to bring anything but low-paying service jobs to the area. In fact, they'll probably bring in their own seasonal workers from out of state (they've made mention of housing them at the Emmaus Homes property).
I'll be surprised if they make a go of it. I'm skeptical. *edit, clarified Franklin County
I thought mid America coaches was a contracted bus line...?
I’m not sure what you mean, but I googled them and it’s just one location, between Washington and Union.
Ah the next lake of the Ozarks
To be frank, the wines in MO suck. The varietals suck, and aren't popular due to the sugar levels and acidity. Without significant investment into improving the viticulture and exploring new strains of more popular grape varietals, then I don't see there being any long term benefit to this plan. No one wants to travel here to buy wine, and it mainly serves as a social location. There's minimal movent of MO products outside local locations if you check wine-searcher. It seems like this investment strategy is backwards compared to the growth of other wine regions in the United States.
I've been thinking for a while it would be more commercially advantageous to just turn most of these grape varietals into brandy, as they're fairly well suited for it with the acidity and sugar levels.
If my extended family are any indication, there's a huge market for people who like shitty wine.
I go for fun, but just because it's local and used to have property there.
Not sure people are going to fly in for this.
Agreed. Augusta has nice views and it makes for a nice drive but outside of a handful of Nortons and Chardonels MO wine is too sweet. Tough to compete when we don't have a Mediterranean climate.
I think the secret to success would potentially be Rieslings, Gruner Veltliner, Aligote, Furmint, and Chardonnay for whites; and Pinot Noir, Tempranillo, Grenache, and Blaufränkisch for red. These are Vitis vinifera varietals, and would require grafting to a native rootstock like Vitis riparia or Vitis rupestris, both of which are native to MO, but this technique is used heavily in France, and is the predominant technique used now in
Current MO production is instead based on Vitis labrusca (Catawba and Niagara), Vitis aestivalis (Cynthiana and Norton), American Hybrids (Cayuga, Chardonel, and Traminette), and French-American Hybrids (Chambourcin, Seyval blanc, Vidal Blanc, and Vignoles) largely based on the advancements in MO grape viticulture dating back to the late 1800s/early 1900s.
Agreed, these Missouri wineries are German-heritage, and should mimic what is successfully grown in continental wine regions like most German wines.
There is definitely potential to produce good wine in Missouri. It does happen, just not very often.
That would be my thought as well. Climate and soil are very similar. Number of days of sun may differ. I don't think it's too far off from Mosel which produces great wine, and the Rheinland which makes sense due to the original settlers (non-native) being from that area.
The average high temperature in Mosel in July is 77. That's the hot month. Around here, that's a normal average for May. Heck, that's lower than the overnight low in July and August.
The Riesling in the US grows further north (Washington or Finger Lakes). We're not upstate New York. We're the same latitude as Madrid (give or take), but they have the Atlantic and Mediterranean to moderate their climate and keep the humidity away. We have Spain level heat, and a bunch of soggy, mold-inducing air. We're gonna burn up a lot of those grape varieties.
I think the way to get on the map is unique varietal(s).
Become the place for one particular type of wine. Just producing Chardonnay like everyone else does not make the area unique.
For Missouri, I think we have to figure out how to perfected our current grapes. A few of the top Nortons (e.g., Cross J) are starting to get there.
Went to Oktoberfest in 2017 and went through Austria as well. Loved the Gruner Veltliner that was just everywhere there.
"Without significant investment into improving the viticulture and exploring new strains of more popular grape varietals, then I don't see there being any long term benefit to this plan."
Agreed. However, the same was said about Napa before the 70s. And maybe that's part of Hoffman's plan. I don't think he's stupid, as he's been pretty successful with similar projects so far.
Most of the agri-tourism in Napa took off after the Judgement of Paris, and the significant leaps in winemaking techniques that took place in order to enhance the quality of the wine so it could compete on a global market with Old World Varietals.
In the Willamette Valley (OR) and Walla Walla (WA), old world producers really drove the wine growing regions by identifying cheap land that mimicked the soil compositions and climates that suited certain grape varietals.
In CA/OR/WA they found grapes that would survive well in the soil and climate, which sparked the growth of those regions. They didn't decide to just throw money at an area an hoped it would turn out.
In the case of Napa, grape vineyards were not that common until the second half of the 20th century. It wasn’t until a Napa winery won the award that you mentioned that people went ‘oh shit, you CAN grow quality grapes in Napa!’ So while people knew Cabernet Sauvignon and others would survive in Napa Valley, grapes from Napa were looked down upon relative to European counterparts until 1976. In fact, people thought the early Napa wine pioneers were foolhearty investing as much as they did into their operation.
So, yeah, there was a lot of risk taking and ‘hoping things would work out’ to get Napa where it is today.
If someone sold me on the idea of some sort of “Napa Valley but in the Midwest” and dumped me out in St. Charles County I’d want to fight someone
Surprise, it's just a NAPA Auto Parts store. Should've read the fine print.
Ah yes, what’s the Latin? Caveat et Hoosier?
Rudy and Don strike again! Those cooks!
Totally agree. All of these people arguing about the quality of Missouri wines are kind of missing the point. Have they ever been to semi-rural Missouri in the summer? There’s a reason why most of our outdoor fun involves jumping into a lake or a river.
Look, it will be beautiful. It might even be a fun place to visit if you like golf. But will it be good wine? No. We need to stop forgetting that wine is an agricultural product. You can't grow pineapple in Alaska because of weather difference. Vidalia onions need the specific soil of Vidalia Georgia in order to get as sweet as they do. Why we pretend those same things don't apply to grapes that make good wine is simply beyond me. That said, if I could buy a bottle for like $5 and not be judged for drinking it straight from the bottle overlooking the beautiful forests and hills of Missouri, I'd love it. But when they're charging me $40 for a bottle of grape flavored vodka, I get "snobby".
I’m a sommelier who recently moved to the area and have explored some of the newly established AVA’s. My biggest issue is what you’re saying- all these people trying to grow vitis vinifera instead of indigenous vitis labrusca. Cabernet , Chardonnay and merlot like these areas too much and what I mean by that is these noble grapes need a proper struggle in order to be good wine grapes. Having said all that vitis labrusca grapes are just not as good in general compared to noble grapes. Even still all these people are trying to force a round peg into a square hole. It’s just never gonna be viable
> newly established AVA’s
Those be fighting words in Augusta. First AVA is Augusta.
The other species of grapes have simply not been perfected by humans as long.
Well to be fair I’ve found some fairly decent Norton in the Shawnee AVA which is fairly new as far as AVA’s go.
Good for them. Bad for local area residents who enjoy the more intimate locations.
This will be great progress for the region an for Augusta. Hoffman's are from the area and dedicated to seeing the Missouri Wine Country prosper. Most people think of St. James (very sweet) wines when they think of Missouri wines. There is a lot of depth and quality to our native grapes in the hands of quality vintners. There are also a lot of vineyards that have sub-par winemakers. The consistency of the approach Hoffman is taking and the impact it will have from St. Charles to Jefferson City cannot be understated. Missouri has a deep history of wine making, of global significance, and bring together the first AVA in the United States is a big step forward for regional tourism beyond "We have an arch, the very best zoo, and Forest Park."
I'm all for investment, go ahead - sounds awesome to me!
I am zero for any type of tax subsidy, government handout to build it, etc.
But if it is there money - go right ahead! Sounds like a great idea, and hope it works!
I have a few friends who live in the Augusta area. Some see it as a huge plus, others feel like it's almost a form of gentrification. I can see both sides. If I lived out there I would hate what it would do to the area and traffic. Most people who live there either moved there for seclusion or were born there and it's the way of life they know.
Everybody is talking about what our summer weather does to grapes, but I'm thinking about what it does to tourists.
Seems like a perfectly good waste of $100 million.
Whelp. That's one way to get rural hospitals.
Now why wouldn’t someone rather go to St. Charles County, rather than all the way to Napa or Sonoma? Cool summers? Check. Cool cliffside beach views? Check. Cool vibe? Check—if you like meth.
Not hatin on STL— just being real.
Napa getting to popular/crowded. It's much more expensive. A "Midwest Napa" would be cheaper and attainable for less wealthy folks who might be interested in wine.
Okay, sure. No offense to anybody here. I certainly have spent my share of time around the wineries of Augusta, Hermann, etc. Always nice, affordable fun. But I certainly would not travel more than two hours for the honor.
It's 100% beautiful countryside though.
There are no cliff side beach views in Napa valley. Also, Napa, Sonoma, and especially calaveras are all in serious jeopardy from the aggregate mining industry. (Actually went to grad school in Oregon with one of the leading researchers on the impact of aggregate mining on the California wine industry, who was writing his dissertation on the impacts at the time.)
Oh, but so many gorgeous views on the way to these places!