Not too many people are aware of this but Missouri was once the largest wine producing state in the country. That was before many people had traveled west and started to grow the grape crops in California. We still have a large wine growing area and many fine wineries scattered throughout the state. Our own Missouri Norton has received excellent reviews and many awards through the years. But I’ve often wondered why Missouri doesn’t have many distilleries unlike its fairly close neighbors Kentucky and Tennessee. Kentucky is famous for its bourbon and Tennessee for its charcoal-mellowed whiskey. We do have one large distillery here by the name of McCormack in a place called Westin, Missouri. McCormack produces some of its own brands of whiskey and bourbon, but mostly just makes distilled spirits that are mixed into other brands.
Maybe we’ll never know the real reason that hard liquor making hasn’t caught on here in Missouri. We certainly have the water and the terrain, but we seem content to produce a lot of wine and have the world’s biggest brewery in St. Louis.
But now all of that may be changing. Recently a law was passed that now allows the area wineries to make hard liquor like Brandy, eau de vie, grappa, and schnapps. These are all spirits that are distilled from fruits rather than from grains like whiskey, scotch, and vodka.
Montelle Winery near Augusta, Missouri is one of the first wineries in the area to start producing the new varieties of brandy, which include apple, cherry, and peach. The fruits that are used are selected for their increased sugar content and the flavor that they add to the brandy. So far there are no plans to produce the pear brandy that is becoming so popular now. You know where a glass bottle is placed over the pear buds and the pear actually grows inside of the bottle. But if the drink continues to rise in popularity I’m sure some winery in the area will start making it.
I’m sure that a number of supermarkets and liquor stores in the St. Louis area will carry the brandies and they can be enjoyed at home right out of the bottle in a snifter to savor the aroma of the fruit, or as a mixer in your favorite cocktail. But I think that the best way to enjoy them is to take a nice Sunday drive out along Highway 94 to Augusta and check them out for yourself. Then you can also sample some of the excellent Nortons and whites that Montelle has. The last time I was out there it was slow in the afternoon and the owner took the time to explain to me how different sun, rain, and soil conditions can affect the taste of the wine. Then he let me taste them. It was a very pleasant way to spend an afternoon.