Bob Curttright knew that wine tasted better when it's enjoyed in a scenic setting. That's why he set out on a search for the perfect setting before opening his winery, Whiskey Run Creek. He found the setting he dreamed of in a century-old barn owned by Julius Bergmann and moved the historic structure?which was built from oak and walnut beams without a single nail?more than 18 miles to a creekside property.
Now owned by Ron and Sherry Heskett, they fill visitors' glasses with wine made from Nebraska-grown ingredients. In addition to varietals, such as Chambourcin and Edelweiss, their winery produces seasonal fruit wines made with apples and cherries from local farms. Guests can relax with their wine on an expansive deck or explore renovated brick caves built in 1866.
Sharing its space with a convenience store, Riverridge Mart and Grill serves freshly prepared classic diner dishes like homemade biscuits and gravy ($1.89/one; $3.69/two) in an unassuming environment, which includes laminate booths and mismatched chairs. A traditional breakfast menu features dishes such as three-egg omelets ($5.49–$5.99) and two-egg breakfast burritos ($3.89), which enhance mornings marred by a restless night spent trapped in a fold-up bed. Angus beef burgers and meaty sandwiches comprise the diner's succinct lunch menu. A gravy-laden chicken-fried-steak sandwich ($5.99) or bacon cheeseburger ($6.49) stops hunger pangs and diverts high-energy hands from their preferred pastime of finishing other people's crossword puzzles.
Granite City Food & Brewery, a casual family restaurant founded by hospitality experts, has an on-site brewery and a menu stuffed with more steak, seafood, pasta, flatbread pizza, burger, and sandwich options than Abe Lincoln had dollar bills stuffed in his top hat. Gourmet pub-grub appetizers and many other generously portioned dishes are listed alongside the beers that bring out their flavors. The intoxicating taste of the inebriated vodka mussels ($12.99) is suggested alongside Northern Light––a light creamy beer––and the juicy, tender meatiness of a 14-ounce New York strip ($25.99) is advised along with Brother Benedict’s bock––a brownish German-style lager. Others among Granite City Food & Brewery's six specialty brews are the Irish-style Broad Axe stout, known for its nose of roasted chocolate and coffee notes, and Duke Of Wellington, an IPA with muscle-bound malt character and a deep-seated dislike of Napoleon.
Bottle12 Wine Bar's knowledgeable libation lecturers escort imbibers through an array of flavorful varietals. Assemble a band of wine-minded merrymakers or finally make use of at-home cloning kits to populate a Classes with Glasses course, which politely introduces pupils to three diverse wines. Each 90-minute class touches on essential vino factoids such as typical traits of specific regions, how to make effective food pairings, and more accurate methods of plotting future bottle purchases. Each pupil can complement leggy swigs with an expertly paired appetizer, chosen by the lecturer from the bar’s gourmet menu. Students enamored of a particular vintage need not adopt a glass-half-empty worldview, as additional pours of wine, beer, food, or merchandise are available for purchase. Tutorials are capped at 16 people or 32 sentient corks.
Hands dig into the springtime earth, heaving up tufts of Missouri dirt cooled by the nearby waters of historic Jowler Creek. The year is 2004 and Colleen and Jason Gerke are trying their hands at winemaking, planting 250 norton grapevines in the ground near their home. Today, the 7-acre plot of land houses more than 3,000 vines, protected by insect-consuming chickens, rodent-hunting hawks and owls, and weed-noshing sheep who graze at carefully managed intervals. The sustainable vineyard sprouts grapes used to concoct nine award-winning wines?from dry to sweet?which are crafted with solar-powered devices. Jowler Creek Vineyard and Winery regularly hosts tours for up to 30 people, where patrons spend approximately 90 minutes observing the crash-diet techniques grapes undergo before squeezing into Jowler Creek's trademark baby blue sealed bottles.