Keeping warm with local wines

The chilly climate is perfect for intimate gatherings to taste native brews
Wednesday, December 10, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 12:27 p.m. CDT, Saturday, July 19, 2008

During the holiday season, wine may accompany a turkey dinner, be consumed fireside or even be wrapped and placed under the tree, and area wineries and retailers are planning events and specials to capitalize on this seasonal interest.

Businesses making and distributing wine attribute the sales increase they see each winter to cold weather, holidays and a change in diet.

“People drink a lot more wine in the winter,” said Paul Vernon, owner of Top Ten Wines. “And it’s a great time for the consumer because distributors offer close-outs. Then there’s a lot of inexpensive quality wine.”

Missouri wine enthusiasts have a variety of opportunities to enjoy native wines throughout the cold season.

One option for wine connoisseurs is Native Stone Winery and Bull Rock Brewery, located outside of Jefferson City. The winery is one of the state’s only such establishments run in conjunction with a microbrewery, a place where visitors can enjoy beer made on-site. On the Lewis and Clark Trail, the 300-acre estate includes a 19th century farmhouse with a tasting room, restaurant and gift shop.

Cara Stauffer, who owns Native Stone with her husband, Larry, says the business holds a variety of events during the winter months. Native Stone offers several barrel tasting dinners in January, where guests dine and meet the wine maker. Through February there’s a similar Brewer’s Dinner series, with the brewmaster in attendance. The dinners take place each Friday and are handled by reservations.

“At the dinners, we take the customers to the wine production facility and let them taste out of the barrels,” Stauffer said. “We like to keep it to 30 or 40 people so it’s intimate and we can talk to you and answer questions.”

Positioned on the Katy Trail between Columbia and Jefferson City, Thornhill Winery also provides a cold weather alternative for wine drinkers. Thornhill hosts karaoke and live music on the weekends, as well as a Christmas at the Winery event the first weekend of December. Guests at the winery will have opportunities to ride a horse-drawn carriage through Hartsburg or relax by a bonfire.

Diana Holland, co-owner of Thornhill, says the winery's atmosphere is equally inviting in the winter months. “Everyone that comes in here describes it as homey," she said. "We have a little chimney that really expands the life of our deck.”

Thornhill will also have barrel tastings through January and February. Les Bourgeois Winery in Rocheport also remains open through the winter. It has tasting room tours and a special winter menu.

Laura Royse, a manager at Les Bourgeois, says the view can be the biggest draw. “Our restaurant is all windows so it’s a great winter scene. You can see bald eagles flying by on the river,” she says. “It’s a great place to bring out-of-town guests.”

Many events centered around wine consumption occur in Columbia during the winter as well. Cherry St. Bistro and Wine Cellar, which offers an intimate environment with fine dining and a large wine selection, is planning events to fill expected holiday demand. “We’re having a wine tasting in early December,” said manager Sarah Cyr. “And we’ll be having a sparkling wine dinner and tasting Dec. 16.”

Top Ten Wines is offering several tastings throughout December, including some focused on the holidays. These are $10 for 10 wines, while there are also daily, free tastings at 5 p.m.

See a listing of Missouri's 47 wineries at

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