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Take Us to School: Learning About Missouri Wines and Defiance Ridge Winery

Missouri wines have come a long way since the early days of sweet, sweet wine.  As an educator, I am going to share with you the history of Missouri wines and our new personal favorite winery near us, Defiance Ridge Winery.  I'll share their menu and our favorite pairings, all a part of #WinePairingWeekend hosted this week by Culinary Adventures. 

Missouri Wine History

As early as 1837 German settlers established the town of Hermann, Missouri.  The earth was similar to wine country in Germany and they felt right at home. Nearly 60 wineries were established within ten years producing 10,000 gallons of wine per year.

In 1870, France experienced a pest issue called phylloxera that destroyed nearly all of the country's vines.  An entomologist, C.V. Riley, discovered that Missouri's native grapes were resistant to the pest.  Missouri winemakers sent millions of phylloxera-resistant rootstock to France, virtually saving the French wine industry.

The 1890s had Italian immigrants settling in St. James, Missouri.  It was around this time that Missouri wines began winning international awards.

With Prohibition came a near-fatal blow to the Missouri wine industry.  Vineyards were destroyed and wineries closed.  As Missouri was the second-highest-producing wine industry in the nation, this crippled the winemakers.  Only a few vineyards survived as they were for religious purposes.  Even today, the amount of wine produced annually is less than what was being produced before Prohibition.  

Today the rejuvenation of the Missouri wine industry by two families dedicated to bringing wine back to Missouri. Through their leadership, the Missouri Wine and Grape Board was formed.  This was funded by a new tax on wine and a state viticulturist was hired to oversee the restoration process.  Augusta, Missouri became the first American Viticultural Area (AVA) in 1980.  Since then St. James, Hermann, the southwest Missouri Ozark mountains, and Loess Hills have been named AVAs.

The Wine and Grape industry generates $3.2 billion for Missouri with $1 billion in wages, 28,000 jobs, and about a million wine tourists per year.

Defiance Ridge Vineyards

Nestled in the hills of Missouri with views of the Missouri River Valley is the sweet winery of Defiance Ridge Vineyards.  I was taken to this beautiful historic farmhouse for a gathering of girlfriends and book lovers to celebrate the end of our latest read.  I loved it so much that I wanted my husband to experience this winery, too.  So we took a little road trip to do a wine tasting!

The beautifully landscaped terrace, with vineyards growing Missouri grapes and flowers blooming all around the back porch and seating area, is a delightful place to have lunch with friends.  So delightful that 80 brides chose to have this vineyard as the venue for their upcoming wedding.

This is an open-seating restaurant, operating on a first-come, first-served basis. Many of the vegetables and fruits are grown on-site, making this a vineyard-to-table establishment.  Dinner is served once a week on Thursdays.  Live music is offered every weekend.  We chose to have a cheese board with the Twig and Twine Pinot Noir Black Label.  This wine comes from the vineyard of Jerry Bieze and is made especially for Defiance Ridge.  Deep cherry notes, some smokiness, and smooth tannins made this a great choice with our Quark, brie, and white cheddar. The Quark's creaminess sits in opposition to the underlying funk, which is complimented by the cherry and smoke from the wine.  Delicious.

I hope we met our objectives of learning about Missouri wine history and a wonderful vineyard called Defiance Ridge.  Come to Missouri and try out some of our wines.  You won't be disappointed.

Want to be Taken to School this month? Check out these amazing posts by other Wine Pairing Weekend bloggers:

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  1. Another state from which I have never had a wine! Thanks for sharing, Terri. Not sure I can get my hands on a bottle from MO, but I will try.


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