Travis Zimpfer

St. Louis (KMOX) – We heard it through the grapevine that Missouri’s wine industry is doing exceptionally well, even in the down market . . . or maybe it’s because of the down market.

“I think some folks are . . . embracing our heritage and seeing that this is rich soil, and we have the ability to grow grapes very well here in Missouri,” Danene Beedle, marketing director for the Missouri Wine and Grape Board, says.

And Missouri’s had a rich, yet complicated, history with wine. Before Prohibition was established in 1919, Missouri was valuable wine country, producing the most wine in the United States other than New York. Missouri also played an important role in saving the French wine industry, arguably the most illustrious in the world, in the 1870’s. But when the Volstead Act was passed and making alcohol became illegal, Missouri’s vines were ripped out of the ground.

But in 1965, the Stone Hill Winery in Hermann, at one point the third largest winery in the world, was re-established, kick-starting a sector of the state’s economy that today has nearly 100 wineries (30 of which have opened in the last three years), produces almost a million gallons of wine each year and has a $1.6 billion impact on the state.

“We’re seeing a lot of growth in the Ste. Genevieve region and in Cape Girardeau and down in the South,” Beedle says. Those new areas combined with traditional wine hotspots in Missouri, like Hermann, Augusta and St. James are propelling the new market.

Beedle also believes Missouri’s newfound interest in the drink have led to this success and satiated the thirst of laymen and connoiseurs alike.

“We’ve won national and international awards with our wines,” she says. “We’re seeing that as far as production, we’re ranking about eighth or ninth in the nation in wine production.”

And Missouri’s got some competition; the rest of the country isn’t lagging behind.

“There’s just been an interest in wine nationally,” Beedle says. “We’re seeing people in Texas and people in Virginia and people in Ohio, they’re really getting it out there and increasing their wine industries, as well.

“Missouri is taking the lead and getting out in front of some of the other states and really becoming the regional leader.”

Beedle thinks the state will be able to cultivate that lead and take on major players (like California) in the future.

“We’re seeing a lot of people that have interest in Missouri wines,” she says. “They want to take it from something they do more as a hobby, perhaps, into more of a business, or maybe they want to make a completely different destination.”

Copyright KMOX 2011

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