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 Valley Winery, nestled on a small hill amid prolific vineyards and rolling greenery, beckons for passersby to peruse its flourishing grounds and sample its inimitably crafted libations. Couples and especially friendly strangers stroll along hand in hand on a 30-minute guided tour, gleaning tidbits on the winemaking process. After the tour fills ear canals with interesting facts about adult grape juices, visitors gather at the wood-ensconced, naturally lit tasting room or on the outside patio overlooking the verdant estate to sample splashes of vino. Swill tastes of Crown Valley’s Estate and Museum Collection before departing with three flavorful bottles of wine, which can be popped open during special occasions such as family get-togethers or graduation from Rubik’s Cube University.
The Vino Gallery—located in a renovated police substation in the Central West End—houses an impressive selection of small-production and artisan wines, beers, and other libations amid an ever-evolving collection of local art. The staff guides visitors to the tasting bar or the outdoor patio, allowing guests to sample selections and avoid pouring wines they don’t like into a roommate’s humidifier. Rachael Buehrer, wine enthusiast and educator, and coowner Alex Head, promote informed wine consumption with complimentary tastings after 5 p.m., Monday–Friday, and all day on Saturday. One-hour wine classes lend imbibers further wine expertise, and the wine-of-the-month club helps customers branch out from go-to varietals.
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!