Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Wineries Are on the Rise; Missouri, with More Than 100 Wineries, Working to Tout Local Grapes

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Wineries Are on the Rise; Missouri, with More Than 100 Wineries, Working to Tout Local Grapes

Article excerpt

Shellie Gamel was a bank manager. Her husband, Matt, a salesman.

Then they got bitten by the wine bug.

While living in Washington, Mo., after college, the couple started visiting wineries in Hermann and Augusta, where they fell in love with wine and the possibility of producing it themselves. Some day, they thought, theyd make a go of it.

So in 2006 they planted 600 vines on their property west of the Mississippi River, in Friedheim, and just last month, after years of juggling jobs and a growing family, the winery opened its doors.

Their Apple Creek Vineyard and Winery, perched on a river bluff, is Missouris newest. But it has plenty of company. Over the past 10 years, the number of wineries in the state and the country has shot up as more Americans, like the Gamels, decide to embrace a life in wine.

In 2000 the US boasted 2,688 wineries, and by 2010 that had risen to 7,626. In Missouri during the same period, the number more than tripled, from 31 to 108. Most of these wineries, according to University of Missouri research, are small, and many are in emerging wine regions.

Its been phenomenal, said Cary Greene, chief operating officer of Wine America, Washington-based wine trade association. It feeds on itself. The reason theres growth in wineries is that theres a growing consumer base, and the reason theres a growing consumer base is that there are more wineries.

The forces behind that cycle go beyond the changing American palate, which has shifted away from beer in recent years: Barriers to entry have lowered, states have passed laws allowing more on- site purchasing of wine, and more newly formed groups have launched initiatives to capture the economic impact of winery-related tourism.

An even greater factor, perhaps, is the apparent desire to change professional course.

I think its part of the zeitgeist of our age, explained Fabio Chaddad, an agricultural economist at the University of Missouri who is studying the growth of the industry and ways to sustain it. Folks are wanting a better way of life, theyre trying a rural lifestyle, giving up 9-to-5 jobs to do something they love.

But idealism may not be enough to help these new wineries survive, so Chaddad is taking a critical look at what they need to do to succeed.

Funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Chaddad has spent two years tracking the industrys growth and surveying wine makers. The next phase of his research will look at how wineries can stay afloat and what the economic implications are.

We are looking at potential vectors of development, Chaddad explained, especially in rural areas.

In Missouri, Chaddad calculates, wineries have an economic impact of about $1.6 billion, thanks to a multiplier effect, as wineries tend to cluster in areas, luring tourists who patronize hotels, restaurants and festivals.

Were talking about Hermann, the Ozarks. This is not only generating jobs its generating them in rural areas where theyre desperately needed, Chaddad added. To realize the economic impact in rural areas, we need these wineries to survive and grow.

For Missouri producers, and others in emerging wine regions, the key to their individual successes rests with the region at large and acquainting consumers with lesser-known grapes, such as Missouris Norton and chardonel varietals.

If we can get to where we have national recognition, it can really propel all these little wineries, said Charles Dressel, president of Mount Pleasant Winery. …

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