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.
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.
To help visitors navigate its staggering list of more than 200 international wines, Robust Wine Bar & Caf? implements the Robust Factor?a system that categorizes quaffs by aspects such as flavor profile strength, dryness or sweetness, and tannins. These bottles are then grouped into eight categories ranging from "bubbles" and "crisp" to "sweet," and yes, "robust." It's this attention to detail that's helped earn the European eatery accolades such as a Sauce Magazine Reader's Poll award for Favorite Wine Bar in 2012 and a pair of OpenTable Diner's Choice awards.
And yet Robust's owners realize that wine, much like an actor playing Spartacus, isn't always meant to stand alone. Each of the cafe's three St. Louis-area locations pairs its bottles with a spread of charcuterie and shareable plates. Artisan cheeses from the Midwest and the Mediterranean are served alongside morsels of Spanish chorizo and dry-aged, salt-cured beef. Meanwhile, chefs craft internationally inspired bites such as house-cured salmon semi-crudo, herbed pork tenderloin, and shrimp and grits. On some nights, glasses clink and forks scrape plates in tune with live music performances?one of the many types of events hosted at the neighborhood retreat.
?St. Louis is the fourth-most-haunted city in America,? the tour guide said on a tour covered by Narratively. "But your tour guide is No. 1.? That guide is David Riordan, a renaissance man who's been a commodities trader, lawyer, and Spanish real-estate seller, and now-owner of Riordan Tours. It was his time in Spain that inspired him to become a tour guide. He practiced his storytelling on the English-language radio station he bought and then began leading homespun tours through the small, picturesque town of Frigiliana.
But when the Spanish economy soured, he moved back to his native St. Louis. Now he draws on his natural talent for yarn spinning and leads groups to tourist attractions and haunted corners of the 250-year-old metropolis. Along the ghost tour, David unravels chilling yarns about events that inspired The Exorcist, the St. Louis Fire, the cholera epidemic, and spirits that still roam the streets, asking people which bus they should catch to get to the afterlife. The less spooky city tours explore the UNESCO World Heritage site Cahokia Mounds, as well as the Cardinal's Busch Stadium and the Gateway Arch.
David also puts his storytelling skills to use at his Unveiled: History & Hauntings of St Louis shows. Accompanied by a folk guitarist, he regales crowds with tales of the city's history. "I can talk about anything," he told the Riverfront Times. "It's not just ghosts and spirits, [it's] the brewery, steamboats, gangsters."
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!