Rocheport winery set to expand its facilities

Les Bourgeois wants to raze its hotel and build a new winery.
Wednesday, March 3, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 2:09 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 17, 2008

Don’t call Curtis Bourgeois to reserve a room at the hotel in Rocheport — there’s no vacancy.

Bourgeois, part-owner of Les Bourgeois Vineyards in Rocheport, is storing nearly all his inventory in the rooms of the rundown hotel adjacent to Les Bourgeois’ tasting room and gift shop.

Soon, though, Bourgeois hopes to have a new facility to store and produce his spirits. Thanks to the Boone County Commission’s action last night, he’ll be able to do just that.

Bourgeois plans to build a 12,000-square-foot addition to the family business. To do so, the Bourgeois family first had to present a rezoning request to both the Boone County Planning and Zoning Commission and the county commission. Both groups unanimously passed the request, which changed the property from a C-G (general commercial) zoning to a M-LP (planned industrial) zoning. The new structure will adjoin the north side of the 10,000-square-foot tasting room and gift shop.

Bourgeois said the addition, which he estimates will cost between $600,000 and $750,000, comes at the right time for the company, which has operated in Rocheport since 1986.

The company acquired the site of the addition in 1989, and some renovations were done in 1991. Bourgeois said the family then bought the hotel in 1996, but it went out of business in 1997.

“We’ve grown considerably,” Bourgeois said. “We’ve been up there trying to make it a working winery, when it was (originally) just a junked-out restaurant, gift shop and hotel. Our space was originally too big, but now it’s getting to be too small.”

The addition will expand the tasting room and gift shop, improve wine-production facilities and increase storage space for inventory.

Bourgeois said the hotel is less than ideal for wine storage. Climate control is one problem. And while wine barrels usually are stacked vertically, low ceilings in the hotel don’t allow that.

“We’ve had to retrofit everything,” Bourgeois said of the old facilities. “The new space will be much more effective. It will actually be built for a winery.”

Bourgeois said more storage will also mean more production.

“We’ll have more tank space and in making more storage, we’ll be making more wine,” he said.

The project will also make the winery better looking, Bourgeois said. He said that he plans to demolish the hotel.

“The motel is getting mowed down,” Bourgeois said. “When it was built, I doubt they thought it would be a winery someday.”

The winery’s facilities were last renovated in 1991, two years after Les Bourgeois took over the property. Bourgeois hopes a nicer-looking business will lure more customers from Interstate 70.

“I-70 is kind of the brass ring we’ve never pulled before,” Bourgeois said. “We’ll have more to offer the I-70 traffic. It’s all about agri-tourism.”

I-70, however, might eventually become a concern. The Missouri Department of Transportation is looking at strategies for widening the highway across Missouri and at the possibility of building a new bridge that could affect the Bourgeois property.

Bourgeois, however, predicts the new winery building will have paid for itself by the time the state gets to work on the interstate.

“If we could get 10 years out of that building,” Bourgeois said of the new addition, “we’ll call it good. That’s not the best-case scenario — we’d like 20 years. But I think that 10 years is pretty early for (the transportation department) to get anything finished.”

Bourgeois concedes something should be done about the traffic on the interstate.

“I can’t tell you how bad it is,” he said. “I feel for MoDOT, man.”

Karen Miller, Boone County southern district commissioner, spoke highly of the proposed addition at Tuesday’s commission meeting.

“This is a nice plan,” Miller said. “I think it will really clean up that whole area.”

Bourgeois is excited about the addition, although he is unsure when the building will be complete. He notes that the construction marks a milestone for his family’s business.

“We will have a sharper scene, and we’ll make better wine for a cheaper cost,” he said. “We’re raising the bar quite a bit for the whole company. We’ve been dreaming about this for a long time.”

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