Nestled among the rolling hillsides of the Missouri River, in a countryside reminiscent of Germany's Rhine Valley, is the little town of Hermann. Perched prominently on one of these hills, with a commanding view of the village, is Stone Hill Winery.
Established in 1847, Stone Hill grew to be the second largest winery in the United States. The wines were world renowned, winning gold medals in eight world's fairs, including Vienna in 1873 and Philadelphia in 1876. By the turn of the century, the winery was shipping 1,250,000 gallons of wine per year.
"Unfortunately, the advent of Prohibition in 1920 destroyed the wine industry in Missouri, and the winery's spectacular arched, underground cellars (the largest series of vaulted cellars in America) were used for growing mushrooms."
In 1965, with their four small children in tow, Jim and Betty Held bought the winery and began the long process of restoring its picturesque buildings and vaulted underground cellars, which had fallen into disrepair after Prohibition. Today, Stone Hill is Missouri's oldest and most awarded winery. In 2011, Stone Hill produced 260,000 gallons of wine, using state-of-the-art equipment and the latest technology.
Stone Hill's award-winning winemaking team of David Johnson, Shaun Turnbull and Tavis Harris produces wines that are receiving international acclaim, winning more than 3,700 awards since 1993, including seven Missouri Governor's Cups since 1994--continuously ranking Stone Hill among the nation's top award winners. Stone Hill achieved national prominence when it was named Missouri's "Small Business of the Year" in 1982 and featured on the Today Show in 1994 and in Nation's Business Weekly in 1995. National recognition continued in 2001 with features on Discover America and The Early Show on CBS. For the Helds, this recognition has been gratifying but only incidental to their primary task: producing and marketing the finest wines that can be made and putting Hermann back on the map as a world-class wine-producing area.
Using French-American hybrid grapes such as Vidal, Chardonel and Vignoles, Stone Hill makes sophisticated wines that compare favorably to popular varietals such as Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Norton, the pride of Stone Hill, has been dominating national and international wine competitions, proving that Missouri can produce a big, full-bodied red of world-class stature. Today, Missouri continues to reclaim its viticulture, and Stone Hill is in the winery that will lead the state to attain its former status as one of the world's best wine regions.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Stone Hill Winery welcomes visitors with open arms.
Tour guides usher visitors through the ancient arched cellars, the modern, state-of-the-art production facility and a beautiful wine-tasting room and spacious gift shop. Next to the winery is the restored carriage house and horse barn, which houses the Vintage Restaurant, specializing in contemporary world cuisine, including German specialties, paired with Stone Hill's award-winning wines.
There are two other Stone Hill Winery locations. The New Florence facility, at the junction of I-70 and Highway 19, houses the company's bottle-fermented sparkling wine operation, where visitors may sample and purchase wines in the gift shop. The Branson facility features a fun, guided tour of the sparkling wine and cream sherry production, a video viewing room, six tasting rooms and a large gift shop.