I know, I know… when you think of wine country or distilleries, Missouri probably isn’t the first place you had in your head. But dang, y’all—it seriously might need to be. You see, Visit Missouri and the official state wine board invited me to tour around the state with them. And let’s just say the entire trip absolutely knocked my socks off. Not even kidding. With 130 wineries and 55 distilleries, Missouri’s got at least 185 reasons you need to visit. Keep reading and learn a little more about the best of the best Missouri wine and spirits hot spots!
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Where to Stay When You Visit
When touring Missouri wine country, The Elms Hotel & Spa in Excelsior Springs is where it’s at. An internationally famous hotel, “this place has everything” (à la SNL’s Stefon)—luxury amenities, a restaurant, a cafe, a gorgeous outdoor pool, an indoor grotto and spa… even ghosts and paranormal tours.
My room was down some long lonesome hallway far, far away from the rest of my group, but it kind of added to the whole experience. I’d later find out that it—along with the Presidential Suite—were the only two rooms of their kind in the whole hotel. So I guess I really did get full VIP treatment during my stay.
Vox Vineyards, Home of Thee Missouri Wine—The Norton
I’m just going to be honest and say that—by no means—am I a wine expert. I mainly just like what I like, and—boy—do I ever like to drink it. So a stop at Vox Vineyards was a true learning experience for me, and I did not regret it one little bit. I even bought my most expensive bottle of wine ever here (which likely isn’t saying much for all you connoisseurs out there).
The Norton (or Cynthiana) is actually the most prominent Missouri wine varietal making up almost 18% of all grapes grown in the state. And the Terravox Norton is absolutely delicious. It’s officially described as a full-bodied red with spice, vanilla, and chocolate notes, and fruity flavors of berries, cherries, and currants. I may or may not have also purchased a Vignoles and a Rosé here, too…
Pro tip: Ask for a tour and you might get to see all their vineyard maps, which was a pretty cool add.
J. Rieger & Co. Distillery, Sliding Right Into The Good Stuff
J. Rieger & Co. has actually been around since the late 1800s. It [temporarily] met its demise during the Prohibition, but was resurrected in 2014. They’re mainly known for their Kansas City Whiskey (which I bought a bottle of), but they also craft this fun little Missouri specialty—Caffé Amaro (another bottle purchased). What they’ve done is taken the digestif Amaro, mixed it with a Kansas-City-based coffee roast, and let it sit in a Whiskey barrel for a bit. Yum, amiright?
Add a vodka and a gin into the mix and you’ve basically got a smorgasbord of Missourian liquors all in one place. Take a tour with your friendly “spirit guides,” have a tasting, spend some time in their downstairs speakeasy, and then take a ride down their slide. Which is pretty much the best part of the whole experience after a little alcohol consumption.
It’s worth a mention that this is also where I learned the terms “devil’s sweat” and “angel’s share,” which I kind of took to. It’s the liquor that leaks through the barrel slats. Fun, huh?
Fountain City Winery, Super Unique (& Tasty) Missouri Wine
You’ll find Fountain City Winery hidden in Kansas City’s West Bottoms District. And what a special little gem it is. Here, you’ll find tasty treats like the Lady and Blackbird Merlot, described as “playful, dynamic, friendly,” and the Trumpeter Chardonnay, “smooth harmonic, inviting.”
But my all-time favs included the the Splash of Gold peach wine (“sunny, uninhibited, fun”) and the Laughing Stone plum wine (“uncommon, gregarious, sweet”). In fact, I liked them so much, I paid an amount we shan’t speak of to have a case of each delivered to DC. It’s the most I’ve ever paid for an alcohol delivery, but I’m quite certain I’ll be drinking all of it, so… I’d like to consider it an investment… in my mental and emotional well-being.
Mean Mule Distilling Co., The Full Southwest Agave Vibe
Mean Mule Distilling Co.’s specialty lies in the production of agave spirits. Nope—it’s technically not tequila. Because, to be labeled tequila, it has to be produced in a specific region. Kinda like champagne. So… agave spirits it is. It really makes no difference to me, though, because it’s every bit as delicious as tequila.
Mean Mule serves up a mean agave flight and—not to be outdone—some serious mocktails. And adding to the experience is the venue itself, which truly is a viiibe—comfortable chairs, an easy southwest style, and a snuggly distillery pup to make you feel at home. A great place to add to your “spirited exploration” of Missouri, and a solid palette cleanser between wines and whiskeys.
KC Wineworks, Home To Wine Slushies, Canned Sangria & More
Not to be outdone by Vox Vineyard’s Norton is KC Wineworks Vignoles. Vignoles make up almost 16% of Missouri’s overall wine production and KC Wineworks’ is simply gorgeous. (Aaand another bottle bought.) Of course, KC Wineworks makes plenty of other types of wine (lots of Chambourcins), but what I found to be particularly notable about them is some of their more creative off-shoot products.
They had wine slushy road sodas, canned sangria (which was pretty marvelous), and even ciders. And don’t underestimate the sangria because that can has its alcohol content bolded at a treacherous 6.5%. “Treacherous” because it’s their Crossroads White Wine, with strawberry, raspberry, pear, and prickly pear, and it goes down easy. Job well done, KC Wineworks!
Don’t Underestimate Missouri Wine and Spirits
Look, I’m not saying don’t bother with Napa and Bordeaux. I’m just saying broaden your horizons a little; expand that mindset. There are a thousand reasons to visit Kansas City, Missouri. While you’re there, you may as well explore some of these downtown hotspots. And go further afield into Missouri wine country, too. If you want to find the best that every state has to offer, this might be Missouri’s. Plus another 180 spots.