It has been said that wine isn't about brand or cost, it's about stories and memories. The Lake of the Ozarks area in Central Missouri has its own stories and memories, thanks to four local wineries: Casa de Loco Winery, Eichenberg Winery, Grey Bear Winery and Vineyard and Seven Springs Winery. Each has its own unique sights, sounds, smells and tastes to excite the senses and create lasting memories of a relaxing outing or a romantic adventure.
Seven Springs Winery
A winding road leads to Seven Springs Winery, sitting on 160 acres near Linn Creek in the Ozark foothills. Seven Springs' scenic setting is an added treat for those visiting the property to taste the top-notch wines and sample the fine cuisine.
"Our view is magnificent," said Nancy Kellstrom, the winery's events coordinator. "People come away from Seven Springs just shaking their heads at our gorgeous, gorgeous view. The Missouri foothills are a spectacular green in both the spring and summer, and burst with vibrant colors in the fall. We always say, come for the wine, stay for the atmosphere and remember the view."
The view is stunning, but as Kellstrom said, the wine is the reason for the visit and Seven Springs has 11 varieties available. Some of the most popular wines include Seven's Red Heaven (a sweet red), Muscato Sparkling, Norton (a full-bodied red), Chardonel and Vignoles.
Fine wine complements food, and Seven Springs keeps that in mind. Its bistro menu includes suggested wine pairings, appetizers, light fare (Lump Crab and Brie Quesadillas or Seared Ahi Tuna Firecracker Lollipops), Panini sandwiches, soups, salads and wraps.
Depending on the weather, diners may enjoy inside or outside dining areas. On Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, diners are treated to the sounds of "Sax on the Beach," a multi-talented musical duo.
The winery is open Sunday through Thursday 11 a.m.-7 p.m. and is open Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m.-9 p.m. For more information about Seven Springs Winery, call at 573-317-0100 or visit SevenSpringsWinery.com.
Casa de Loco Winery
When it comes to stories, Casa de Loco might have one of the more unique winery yarns around.
This property, a National Historic Landmark, began as a posh fishing resort under the ownership of industrialist Hugo Urbauer in the late '20s and early '30s. Urbauer's rumored guests included 1930s movie stars Clark Gable and Jean Harlow, and President Harry S. Truman. The location's colorful history thread doesn't get cut short there, because the grounds were also the site of the Mozark Health Care Facility — a home for mentally ill patients.
Today, however, Casa de Loco's hallmark is its quaint charm. The estate, located on a bluff near Camdenton, features a beautiful 300-person Grand Hall, a large stone terrace and an overlook of the Niangua River. And with the addition of an outdoor brick pizza oven, Casa de Loco has the added appeal of a mini-pizzeria. Visitors to the winery also have the option of staying in the luxurious rooms that are a part of its on-site lodging facility.
"Casa de Loco was born out of a love of wine and a love of people," said owner Larry Owens. "This winery has all of the above — nature gave us a great spot and history gave us a great story. We only came along and provided the rest."
History, lodging, food and charm are important, but wine is the most important reason to visit a winery. Casa de Loco is aware of this and offers 13 varieties of wine and spirits, including the popular Group Therapy Champagne, the Call Me a Cab Cabernet, Bella Dolce, Casa Cooler and Kone Port.
Casa de Loco Winery is open daily, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. To find out more about Casa de Loco Winery, call 573-377-4269 or go online at CasaDeLocoWinery.com.
Grey Bear Winery and Vineyard
The first thing that greets guests to the Grey Bear Vineyard and Winery in Stover is the uncommon deltec design of the winery and the bold, backwoods feel of the surrounding area.
The deltec (a building designed with round open spaces) design of the winery is a distinct feature, but isn't the only fun attribute of the Stover, Mo., winery and vineyard.
Grey Bear's rugged Southwest theme pulls the visitor in to a cozy space in which to enjoy all 15 of the vineyard's wines. Among the most popular are Chicks & Tiggers (a soft sweet blush), Pride of the Osage (a chocolate cherry cabernet), Trail of Tears (a semi-sweet Norton) and Bear Claw (a dry, chocolate cabernet).
The Black Canyon Ale House Brewery & Restaurant also is located over the winery, providing great food and microbrews complete with a 360-degree view of the picturesque vineyard.
For the outdoorsman, Grey Bear also offers a 150-acre ranch area available for hunting and fishing rentals. This ranch, complete with two rustic cabins for rent, has roughly 120 acres of woodlands. The land has turkey tracks and whitetail antler sheds galore, so it's the ideal spot for a hunter's weekend getaway.
The winery is open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and Sunday from noon-4 p.m. On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday visits to Grey Bear are scheduled by appointment only. For more information about Grey Bear, call 573-377-4269 or visit GreyBearVineyards.com.
Family and old German traditions are an important part of the Eichenberg Winery's legacy. Winery owner Roger Luetjen's fond memories of spending summers at his grandparent's vineyard led him to build the Eichenberg Winery in Cole Camp when he became a grandfather.
Eichenberg Winery was the site of a blacksmith shop in the early 1900s, which is appropriate because Luetjen forged his business with family love, care and a small-town sensibility. This shows in a family portrait that warmly welcomes patrons to the wine-tasting bar.
"This winery has a home-town feeling to it," said Luetjen. "It's easy-going, laid-back and a lot of fun to stop in and visit. The atmosphere and the people are very welcoming. It's very German and family-oriented here at Eichenberg and that shows in everything we do."
The German family heritage especially shines through in three acres of German-style grapes, the basis of Eichenberg's wine selection. The selection includes nine wines, including Norton (a full-bodied red), Weiswein (a medium-bodied white), Seyval (a light semi-sweet white), Rosawein (a sweet blush) and Liebersaft (a light sweet white).
The Eichenberg Winery is open Friday from 3:30-7 p.m., Saturday from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. and Sunday 1-5 p.m. For more information about Eichenberg Winery, call 660-668-3511 or visit EichenbergWinery.com.
Many lake-area hotels and resorts have "Sip and Stay" winery packages available, allowing visitors to combine great wine with an equally wonderful lodging experience. For more about wine tastings, lodging, dining, shopping, events and attractions throughout the Lake area, contact the Lake of the Ozarks Convention & Visitor Bureau at 800-FUN-LAKE (386-5253) or visit the Lake of the Ozarks Convention and Visitor Bureau's website, FunLake.com.
Editor’s note: The Rolla Daily News urges day trippers to travel with a designated driver when traveling to and from multiple wineries. Please drink responsibly.