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.
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.
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.