Wine country isn’t limited to California and Europe’s countryside. It’s also found in between the row crop fields, pastures and timberland of Missouri.
This fall, while corn and soybeans make their way from fields to grain bins, grapes are harvested from the vine. However, you’re not likely to see grape harvest, as it happens at night when sugar levels are stable.
The story of Missouri viticulture is not a new one. Wine has a rich history in the state. In fact, some of the first wineries in Missouri are almost as old as the state itself.
Ever since the 1840s, Missouri wineries have been producing award-winning wines for the world to enjoy. Some of these first vineyards in the state are still around today. Before prohibition, Missouri was one of the top wine-producing states in the country.
Today, the state is home to more than 125 wineries and is proud to have Norton as its official state grape, which makes an excellent dry red wine. The wine and grape industry is a vital segment of agriculture in Missouri.
The $3.2 billion industry supports more than 28,000 jobs and carries on the traditions of many winemakers who placed their roots here many years ago. Because of the nature of growing grapes, the rewards of the decisions that viticulturists make now may not be seen for another generation.
As grape harvest in Missouri wraps up, it’s an excellent time to recognize the hard work being done year-round by the Missouri Wine and Grape Board to serve and promote our wineries. That mission is carried out by a team of dedicated people who are housed within the Missouri Department of Agriculture.
In the country
If you were around our office on the weekends before the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s likely that a member of the Missouri wines team was either loading up or unloading from a weekend event.
Our staff, led by Dr. Peter Hofherr along with marketing executive director Jim Anderson, work many hours promoting wine and encouraging people to visit Missouri’s vineyards and wineries. The Missouri wines team does everything from appearing at events, creating educational material and helping pair our favorite foods with a Missouri wine.
They’re also the workhorses behind the Missouri Winery Visitors Program, which encourages consumers to explore Missouri’s wineries and offers rewards for each visit. Annually, the Missouri wine team helps encourage and educate the more than 825,000 wine lovers who visit these small businesses across the state.
Telling the story of Missouri agriculture is best done when people get to see firsthand the care and work that agriculturalists put into their operations. Visiting a vineyard or winery is an experience like no other because you get to experience Missouri wines right next to the vines raising the next crop. In fact, a trip to the winery might actually be one of the oldest forms of agritourism known to man.
Like many agriculturalists, Missouri viticulturists are always looking to the future. So does the Missouri Wine and Grape Board, ensuring there will always be a market and audience for the grapes and wines. At the department, we serve, promote and protect Missouri agriculture — from cows and sows to vines and wines.
To learn more about the Missouri Wine and Grape Board, visit missouriwine.org.
Chinn is the director of the Missouri Department of Agriculture and a hog producer from Clarence, Mo.