Augusta, Missouri

Photo: Augusta Winery

Some people celebrate Columbus Day, the day when Christopher Columbus arrived in the Americas in October 1492. Others prefer to call it Indigenous Peoples’ Day, Native American Day (both to commemorate the culture and the history of Native Americans who were already here) or Discoverer’s Day (when the Polynesians arrived in Hawaii). You don’t have a strong preference. You’re just excited that you don’t have to work today.

Even if you’re not celebrating, the holiday is a great excuse for an adventure. You don’t have to go far. It can even be a day trip. The gorgeous fall weather—the crisp air, the clear blue sky, and the bright sunshine—practically demands that you stay outside. The colorful ashes, hickories, maples, and oaks mean you don’t want to go inside anyway.

You’ve been curious about Missouri wine since you learned that the Midwest state grows grapes. German immigrants established the first wineries here in the 19th century. It grew into the second-largest wine-producing state before Prohibition forced the vineyards to shut down. The industry was eventually revived in the 1970s. Augusta became the first federally approved American Viticultural Area (AVA)—even before California’s Napa Valley—in 1980. Missouri wines have been winning awards ever since.

Augusta Winery, in a small town 35 minutes west of St. Louis, is one of those award winners. The winery was founded in 1988 by a third-generation winemaker. He brought 100-year-old vines back to life, cultivated grapes that grow well in a continental (rather than a maritime) climate, and started producing small quantities of wine. The winery offers two tastings, a core and a premium, in the tasting room. You select the latter, and then start swirling and sipping your way through five estate-bottled wines. A La Fleur Sauvage rosé. Seyval Blanc and Vignoles whites. Cuvée Prestige and Norton reds. The wines are fragrant, complex, and delicious.

The tasting is just the beginning, though. After sampling the wines, you move outside to the wine and beer garden. Wrought-iron chairs and tables, and a gurgling fountain sit on the terrace; it’s covered with a 10-foot grape arbor. Locally made cheese and sausage, thin-crust pizza, and craft beer are served in addition to glasses and bottles of wine. While other wineries, breweries, antique shops, and the Katy Trail—the longest rails-to-trails project in the country—are also in quaint Augusta. It seems like you should have made this a long weekend instead of a day trip.

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