The old mulberry tree at the top of Noboleis Vineyards—the same creature that graces the estate's wine labels—symbolizes the endurance of Robert and Lou Ann Nolan in pursuing their dream to own a vineyard. After purchasing a 74-acre expanse of Augusta farmland in 2005, the Nolans planted their first grapes: chambourcin, traminette, norton, and vignoles. Initial growth indicated high yields, but a late frost in 2007 claimed most of the chambourcin crop. Adversity struck again in 2011, when a tornado tore through part of the vineyards and lifted sections of roof off of the winery.
But between these setbacks, the Nolans built a steady string of accomplishments. Their first vintages claimed multiple awards at the 2010 Missouri Governor's Cup, and what had started as plain farmland grew into an estate encompassing an onsite winery, tasting room, cafe, and wine shop. The Nolans now lead tours and host tastings so that visitors can get an up-close look at how Noboleis's wines—such as the barrel-fermented vidal blanc—are produced without tickling the grapes. The indoor and outdoor grounds also regularly host events that range from weddings to live music performances.
Crown Ridge Tiger Sanctuary, a USDA–approved big-cat rescue facility, plays motherly host to a roaring family composed of five tigers and a lone lioness with a sultry swagger. Adopting philanthropists can align with their striped or unstriped spirit animal, choosing from noble felines such as the elder Mohan—a white male tiger with blue eyes, a pink nose, and a natural screen presence—or Raja—the relentlessly caring mother of sisters Gracie and Thor.
Located in the idyllic Ozark Highlands, Meramec Vineyards offers visitors a full experience of drinking, eating, shopping, and learning. Its small, cozy eatery, Bistro d'Vine, is open for lunch daily and serves a menu of fresh, seasonal bistro fare, such as quiche with baby greens ($7.35), pork tenderloin with fresh fruit, cheese, and caramelized onions ($7.45), and salmon served over a greek salad ($9.95). Meramec also has bottled wine ($8.95–$23.95) available for purchase for sipping or for christening cruise ships. There's a wine to suit all occasions, including Celebration White ($9.95) for clambakes, New World Red ($8.95) for Thanksgiving feasts, and a pumpkin-flavored Harvest Moon ($10.95) for scaring already skittish Ichabod Cranes. Guests can commemorate their time at Meramec with non-liquid souvenirs from the gift shop, such as gourmet food, wine openers, or a local artist's rendering of you buying his painting.
Saint Louis Cellars opened in November 2007 and is the newest, hippest wine store in town bringing a myriad of fab offerings with its friendly atmosphere, cool labels, and wine tastings. In addition to selling wines ‘by the taste’—Cool, Rich, Bubbly, Sweet, etc.—Cellars has the best selection for the perfect gifts!
When Lindsey Schaefer moved back to St. Louis, she noticed that something had changed. Microbreweries were popping up everywhere, and she pleasantly found more and more craft beers inside local stores. So, Lindsey created the STL Brewery Hop as a celebration of the city's best brews.
On weekends, a tour bus takes up to 20 passengers to local breweries, where guides speak to the history and operations of each business. They hand out samples, too, of course. A typical hop might sample the Cast Iron Oatmeal Brown of the 4 Hands Brewing Company or Urban Chestnut beer.
Plates of queso fundido overflow with cheese and chorizo at tables around Chihuahua's Mexican Restaurant, where diners sip five types of refreshing margaritas. In the kitchen, cooks flip sizzling shrimp to include in savory quesadillas, or wrap jumbo shrimp in bacon to fill Juarez fajitas packed with bell peppers and onions.