By Scott McCullough –
There were no crowds lining the street to see us off at 8 a.m. Saturday as we departed our home for the first stop on our Scenic Winery trek. My wife, Dorothy, and I decided (well, she decided; I’m just the driver) to begin at the farthest winery and work our way back.
But, our first stop was only a 10 minute drive; we had to fortify ourselves with some great pastries and hot coffee at BK’s Bakery in Jefferson City. Among their large variety of fresh, hand-made goodies, the flaky-pastry cinnamon roll and the caramel coated long-john, topped with crisp bacon, are standouts. Breakfast finished and extra coffee in hand, we headed south.
At 10 a.m., we arrived at Casa De Loco Winery just as they were opening. This winery advertises itself as “hard to find but hard to forget.” Casa is situated atop a bluff overlooking the Big Niangua River, eight miles west of Camdenton in the Lake of the Ozarks area. The tasting room serves Casa de Loco wines, plus selections from other wineries, made-to-order brick-oven pizza and other food items. Facilities include large decks at the edge of the precipice (live music most weekends) and large, modernized, stone guestrooms. Have your wedding, a reception and your honeymoon all at one location. We shared a breakfast pizza and one glass of sweet white wine before moving on.
What makes wine so popular? First off, and probably most importantly, it is a relaxing drink. If you want to kick back and enjoy some serene time with family and friends (older than 21 of course), wine is a good choice. Secondly, well, it’s darn good.
Since we were so close, we elected to take a tour of Bridal Cave, four miles west of Camdenton. A fascinating view of the Lake of the Ozarks fills the scene as you walk down the hillside to the cave’s entrance. Bridal Cave is world famous for its stalactite adorned Bridal Chapel inside the cave, where more than 2,500 couples from around the world have exchanged vows. After the one hour tour through the cave, it’s back on the road to our next winery.
After a 20 minute drive north, we pulled into the parking lot at Seven Springs Winery, just three miles off of Route 54 near Linn Creek. This operation has a large tasting room with an adjoining banquet room, a covered patio and an equally large open-air terrace decked out with umbrella covered tables. They serve Missouri wines, sangrias and micro-brews, plus a light menu of soups, sandwiches, cheese trays and bread with dipping oils. There is live music on weekends and a long event schedule. A shuttle service to local hotels is available (for a fee). The Lump Crab and Brie Quesadilla we chose for lunch went quite well with a glass of Traminette for her and dry Vignoles for me. A band was scheduled for 2 o’clock, so we stuck around for their first set. This was a good, relaxing stop before continuing our northward trek.
After a stop at the 110-store Osage Beach Premium Outlets for some shopping, it was just 15 minutes to Shawnee Bluff Winery (sister winery to Casa de Loco). A converted roadside motel, this quaint bluff-top winery has an impressive 14-mile panoramic view of the Lake of the Ozarks. After sampling their wines, Dorothy selected a glass of dry Pinot Grigio (her favorite grape), while I went for my favorite, a full bodied red called Barbera, which we sipped on the large deck. Tapas, brick-oven pizza and excellent Italian flat bread are on the menu, but we were still full from the Quesadilla. The original motel rooms have been updated; each has an unobstructed view of the lake, as well as access to the pool and hot tub.
Worried about all of that wine tasting and the amount of alcohol you are drinking? The secret is in the “tasting,” not drinking. Remember, it’s a tasting room, not a bar. A small sip is plenty to tell if you like a particular wine or not. If yes, buy one glass to enjoy on-site and a bottle (or more) to take home. Read this VisitMO article for some tasting guidelines: Tips for Tasting Wines and Enjoying Missouri’s Wineries.
Before going out to dinner we checked in at the Inn at Harbour Ridge Bed and Breakfast, a great overnight option in the lake area. After a soothing shower and a change of clothes, we headed to our favorite lake area restaurant: The Blue Heron, where the service is always excellent.
The Blue Heron is a fine dining, yet very casual restaurant. After a cocktail on the large patio at bluff’s edge, that shares that 14-mile lake view, we dined on their celebrated onion rings and the sautéed Dover sole, deboned at the table.
The next morning, we enjoyed a marvelous breakfast and relaxed on the patio with some coffee before heading out to Buffalo Creek Winery, a distance of just over an hour on country roads. This is one of those ‘in the middle of nowhere’ locations (just off Possum Trot Road), but it’s well worth finding. It is another bluff-top lakeside location, but with a difference; it has a commanding view of a not-commercialized area on the Osage Arm of the Lake of the Ozarks.
With two more scenic wineries to visit, we were on the road again. An hour and forty-five minutes later we stood at the tasting bar of Les Bourgeois Winery’s A-frame, 20 minutes west of Columbia. This is yet another bluff-top location, this time high above the Katy Trail, looking down upon an expanse of the Missouri River. Tasting and sales are inside the A-frame building, from which you can grab a picnic table on the multi-terraced lawn and large decks. We selected a bottle of off-dry red and sat back to enjoy the view. The fantastic Les Bourgeois Bistro Restaurant is adjacent.
Finally, less than an hour to our last stop for this trip: Canterbury Hill Winery & Restaurant in Holts Summit, just across the river from Jefferson City. Of course, Dorothy had to make a few stops in Columbia for some shopping (I’m just the driver, remember). The Hill (as the locals call it) occupies a large hilltop from which you can scan the Missouri River bottoms, with views of the twin bridges and the Capitol. In addition to wine under their own label (which are quite good), they have a selection of other U.S wines and beers (draft and bottle). The expansive three-level patio is a marvelous place to spend an afternoon or evening with friends. The full menu covers the gamut from sandwiches and salads to steaks; at lunch, try the fish tacos. After a bottle of Medieval Mist (a superb dry white, produced without oak) and a satisfying meal, we headed home. We were exhausted; luckily, it was just five miles to bed.
This is merely a sampling of what’s out there. Hit the road and find your favorite Missouri wineries and wines. Oh, and let us know what you find by posting your discoveries and photos on VisitMO’s Facebook page.
Please Note: It is against Missouri law to carry any outside beverages, of any kind, onto a winery’s property – leave your beer, wine (from other sources), soda and other beverages in the car.
This story comes from the Missouri Division of Tourism. The VisitMO.com team sent writer Scott McCullough out to create his personal “wine trail” of scenic wineries in central Missouri. This is the report he filed.