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.
Your one-night Vintner's Getaway package includes a tour of the Crown Valley Winery, wherein a friendly and knowledgeable tour guide will lead you through the behind-the-scenes areas of the 55-acre winery, taking you step by increasingly zigzagged step through the wine-making process. Along the way, you'll get an up-close look at the massive tanks, the wine-storing oak barrels, and the bottling line before sampling the creations in their final form. You'll also enjoy a separate tour of Crown Valley's champagne house, complete with tastings of its effervescent, fizzy-lifting drinks.
Chandler Hill Vineyards' rolling, verdant rows of chambourcin and vignoles grapes and placid lakeside views offer visitors a quiet place to get away from it all. Built on land once owned by freed slave Joseph Chandler, the winery still retains the essence of the past. The 5,000-square-foot, lodge-like tasting room stands on the site of Chandler's modest cabin. Century-old artifacts discovered during the excavation, including a shotgun and a Hoveround, remain on display, and stones from the original foundation have been carefully repurposed. As candles in a wrought-iron fixture flicker overhead, guests here sip wines from Missouri and the West Coast and chat by a glowing fire in a large stone fireplace.
In its A-List 2010 feature, St. Louis Magazine said, "We’re fans of many regional wineries, but there’s something about Chandler Hill that feels a little more sophisticated, a little extra tucked-away." Thanks to its lush vineyards, 4,500-square-foot deck for warm-weather relaxation, and events such as live music performances, the secluded spot was named the Most Fun Winery on Ladue News's 2012 Platinum List.
In his 2010 review, Riverfront Times reporter Ian Froeb revealed the origin of Ernesto's Winebar’s distinctive name. Instead of honoring a chef or long-lost relative, the name pays homage to the owners' love for Ernest Hemingway's simplistic style. Chef Stephanie Hay has risen to the challenge, translating the clean complexity of The Sun Also Rises or the masculine energy of Green Hills of Africa into a menu of tapas and hearty entrees. Diverse flavor profiles mimic Papa Hemingway’s wanderlust, corralling global flavors including chili lime, wasabi tobiko, and even red pepper sauce to create festive tapas such as the truffle-infused grilled cheese, which was named the best grilled cheese of 2010 by Riverfront Times.
The cheese-and-charcuterie menu details hearty repasts from all corners of the globe, with plates of smoky blue cheese from Oregon and salchichón white pork from Spain joining notes of green peppercorn, tomatillo, and even brown sugar for nods to Latin America and the Mediterranean. Ernesto's has also gone to great lengths to locate wine varietals from France, Germany, and Spain for pairing with large steaks and seafood entrees delicately sautéed in a wide array of wine sauces.
Ernesto's butter-hued walls appear to melt in the light from wall sconces and flickering red candles. Above lush hardwood paneling, several framed photographs offer a glimpse of Hemingway at his most virile––aggressively writing at his desk, and using a large steak as a body pillow. For a touch of warmth during fall weather, patrons can also retreat outdoors, where a mammoth brick fireplace casts rich glow on Ernesto's sleek cobblestone patio.