Wineries join up to form Mississippi River Hills Wine Trail
The Mississippi River Hills Wine Trail might be the best kept secret in Southeast Missouri, but the wineries that offer fine wine and food along the trail are looking to change that.
"We're working on getting the word out," said Lea Anne Casteel, co-owner of the Hunter Valley Winery near Cape Girardeau. "By working together, the name of the wine trail and the wineries will become better known."
The spirit of working together is a quality shared by the wine trail's six member wineries. Bonnie Hemman, co-owner of the Hemman Winery in Brazeau, Mo., said that bodes well for the future of the wine trail.
"It's a co-op thing between us," Hemman said. "I'll direct a visitor on the trail to another winery if I know they have something we don't, and the others will do the same. With everyone working together to make the trail a success, I know we're going to continue to grow."
Founded in 2012, the Mississippi River Hills Wine Trail passes through some of Southeast Missouri's most attractive countryside. It stretches for 40 miles, from the center of Perry County southward through northern Cape Girardeau County. In addition to the Hunter Valley and Hemman wineries, there are four other wineries on the trail that provide relaxing venues for connoisseurs to partake in their choice of wine: the Apple Creek Vineyard and Winery in Friedheim, the Rothbrick Winery in Jackson, The Barrens Winery in Perryville and the Tower Rock Vineyard & Winery in Altenburg.
Hemman, who also serves as the president of the wine trail, said the idea came from a casual conversation she had with Julie Huber, co-owner of The Barrens Winery.
"We thought it was a good idea to get people familiar with the winery experience in this part of the state," Hemman said. "But there was a lot of paperwork involved. The state said we had to set up as a separate business, and the six wineries joined together to create a limited-liability company. Each of us are equal owners of the wine trail."
According to Huber, who is the wine trail's treasurer, it's been a case of so far, so good.
"We're starting to become self-sustaining." Huber said. "There's been times when the wineries had to collect dues for funds, but not lately."
In November, the wine trail sponsored its inaugural event, "A Taste of the Holidays," which brought almost 225 visitors to the trail for wine paired with a holiday treat ranging from cheese fondue to desserts. The next event, "A Taste of Chocolate" in February, drew nearly 175 visitors who sampled wine paired with a unique chocolate treat. Upcoming events are "A Taste of Bar-B-Que" scheduled for July, followed by another holiday-themed event later in the year.
"We're looking to add more events for 2014," Hemman said. "We all run our own businesses and it's hard to find the time to do the things we'd like to do, but we're working on it."
Lorri Rothert, co-owner of the Rothbrick Winery, said the wine trail's member wineries will continue to work with each other.
"It's beneficial to all of us to draw more people to the experience," she said. "I think it promotes a friendly competition during our events."
Rothert added that being a destination on the wine trail involves extra planning and work, but she feels it's worth it.
"It's a labor of love for my husband and me," she said.
For additional information about the Mississippi River Hills Wine Trail and its member wineries, visit mississippiriverhillswinetrail.com.
1930 County Road 401, Friedheim, MO
2851 N. Highway 51, Perryville, MO
13022 Route C, Brazeau, MO
762 Route V, Cape Girardeau, MO
420 Peckew Trail, Jackson, MO
10769 Route A, Altenburg, MO