Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

A Spirited Day in the Country the Wineries and Scenery of St. James

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

A Spirited Day in the Country the Wineries and Scenery of St. James

Article excerpt

A WALK IN THE CLOUDS? Not quite, but only because there's no Keanu Reeves, a blessing in itself, and because the Ozark Highlands aren't quite that high. But the wineries here are family-owned and set amid rugged, rolling scenery.

The soil and topography here are ideal for Missouri's other wine region, just as 150 years ago the area was home to iron mining and forging around Maramec Spring Park, about six miles south of St. James. Combine a visit here with the winery tours, and you have a well-rounded day trip for the family. The Wineries

Each of the three wineries has won medals in competition. Each has a selection of sausages and cheeses, great fixin's for a picnic, complemented by the house specialties. But each has its own character, a reflection of its owners' personalities.

Our first stop was the old barn of the Ferrigno Winery. The owners, Dick and Susan Ferrigno, left St. Louis in 1976 to start the winery in a huge, rustic space. They've expanded the business to include tasting areas in a cellar, a courtyard and a covered deck, and welcome overnight guests in a three-bedroom bed-and-breakfast.

Ferrigno will pour a generous glass, chatting about the joys of rustic life, the frost in September that ruined some of the vines, old friends from St. Louis.

He interrupts the reverie as he pours a red called Starks Star, an experiment this year. "That one's nice and spicy," he said. "Can't you just taste it with a Cajun dish?"

And so it goes for each sample. Ferrigno offers lunches and dinners, with wine tastings, for groups of 30 or more. The atmosphere is rambling, rustic, cozy.

Not so at Heinrichshaus Winery, where owner Heinrich Grohe preaches and teaches wine. "Serious wine consumers" are his best customers, says Grohe, because he specializes in dry wines, "the only real wine there is."

Grohe is a native of Germany's Rhine valley, where he learned the art of wine making from his father.

At first it seems a tasting is not so much a pleasure as it is a platform for Grohe. He pours judiciously and injects a more serious tone to his comments. He'll expound on cuttings, soil, the virtues of the apprentice system, the process of making French hybrids and, his favorite, the unsweetening of the American palate.

"A palate is like a voice," he says. "Some (people) can sing; some can't. Some can taste; others can't. But that doesn't mean that you can't learn to sing in key. And you can learn to adjust your palate."

Just as you can hear the conviction in his voice, you can taste it in the wine. The passion for his craft shows in his thoughts and product. And he makes you a believer.

Heinrichshaus has a small terrace that overlooks the woods, perfect for a sausage, cheese and wine picnic.

Compared to the service and atmosphere at these two wineries, the St. …

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