Definitions

Missouri_Rhineland

Missouri Rhineland

The Missouri Rhineland is a geographical area of Missouri that extends from west of St. Louis and slightly east of Jefferson City, located mostly in the Missouri River Valley. The soils of the Missouri River Valley and surrounding areas are mainly rocky residual soils, which are excellent for viticulture (growing of grapes/vineyards) though poor for most agricultural purposes. These soils were left after the carbonate (mainly limestone) bedrock weathered away to impurities of clayey soil and chert fragments. Farther to the north, glacial deposits and wind-deposited loess, a silty soil also associated with the glaciers, are intermingled with the residual soils.

While the soil could support other crops, the steep slopes of these areas were better used by vineyards. Settlements date to 1801. Dutzow, the first permanent German settlement in Missouri, was founded in 1832 by Baron von Bock. German settlers established the first wineries in the mid-19th century, and later Italian immigrants also entered the industry, especially near Rolla in Phelps County.

Vineyards succeeded so well that before Prohibition, Missouri was the second-largest wine-producing state in the nation. Prohibition ruined the industry and not until the 1960s did local winemakers start to rebuild it, part of a movement in states across the country.

An area around Augusta, Missouri was designated by the federal government as the first American Viticultural Area (AVA) in 1980, and one around Hermann was designated an AVA in 1983. Much of the region of the Missouri Rhineland from Augusta to Jefferson City along the Missouri River is part of the larger Ozark Mountain AVA. Winning national tasting awards, the state's wine industry contributes to both the agricultural and tourist economies.

History

Naturalist Gottfried Duden, a German attorney, settled on the north side of the Missouri River along Lake Creek in 1824. He was investigating the possibilities of settlement in the area by his countrymen. In 1827 he returned to Germany, which he felt was overpopulated. There in 1829 he published Bericht uber eine Reise nach den westlichen Staaten Nordamerikas ("Journal of a trip to the western states of North America"), extolling the attractions of Missouri.

Led by Friedrich Muench and Paul Follenius of the Giessen Emigration Society, German settlers arrived in the area in 1834. Friedrich Muench became known for his expertise in the cultivation of grapes and wine making. Muench was a prominent writer and lecturer and wrote a number of books. He frequently wrote under the name of "Far West." His book "American Grape Culture" was published in 1859. On the former farm of Friedrich Muench stands a stone barn with his name in the keystone. Letters written by Muench and Follen to friends and relatives in Germany brought more of their countrymen to the Missouri valley.

In 1836 the German Settlement Society began to look for a place to build a German community insulated from the increasing diversity of nationalities found in many American settlements. They chose to settle in Hermann, and the first settlers arrived in 1837. The soil on the hillsides surrounding the settlement was not appropriate for many forms of agriculture. Hermann’s trustees decided to sell tracts of land with the agreement that they be planted as vineyards.

The Weinstrasse

The area along Route 94 between Defiance and Marthasville has so many wineries that the highway has been nicknamed the Missouri Weinstrasse (wine road). It runs parallel to much of the KATY Trail, built in former railway right-of-way. This area has the highest concentration of wineries in the state. Many of these sit high up on bluffs above the river.

For a short while during the Civil War, Missouri ranked as the number one producer of wine. Prior to Prohibition, Missouri was the United States' second largest producer of wine. In 1920, Missouri had more than 100 wineries. Because of Prohibition, all wineries were shut down with one exception; Saint Stanislaus Seminary in Florissant was allowed to continue making sacramental wine.

Prohibition lasted until 1933 and ruined the Missouri wine industry. Vineyards were either pulled up and used for other purposes or left untended. Winery facilities were converted to serve other purposes or left to decay.

Some wineries began producing again after Prohibition ended, but serious production did not begin until the 1960s and 1970s. This was when small winemakers began building in many different areas of the United States. Augusta, Missouri was designated the first American Viticultural Area (AVA) in the United States in 1980 and Hermann, Missouri was designated an AVA in 1983. As of 2005, 64 wineries were operating in Missouri. Wines produced here have won some national awards.

See also

External links

  • "Missouri's Rhineland - Old World Tradition in a New World Setting", Gallagher's Travels
  • "Historic Hermann, MO, Heart of Missouri Wine Country", Hermann, Missouri Website, accessed 20 Jun 2008
  • "History of Washington", Washington Historical Society, 2004, accessed 20 Jun 2008
  • German American History Sources, Northwest Missouri State University Library, accessed 20 Jun 2008

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