Start your vino adventure on the Excelsior Springs Trolley Tour
Kansas Citians love day trips to surrounding small towns or urban settings; quick getaways so special that you might want to book a weekend stay. Make Missouri wineries your trip default and you’ll discover wines that are as varied as they are delicious.
But with more than 130 wineries in the Show-Me State, where do you begin?
Willow Springs Mercantile (locals call it the Merc) in historic downtown Excelsior Springs, with the largest selection of Missouri wines in the country, is a fine place to start—or add to your love affair with local wines (shopthemercantile.com).
But it’s not just the inventory that makes this bistro and wine store the ideal gateway to Missouri grapes; owners Jim and Daphne Bowman open minds as well as bottles. “We’re used to seeing that look of surprise when people get their first taste of these spectacular wines,” says Daphne.
Tour a trio of wineries
But for a real vino adventure Daphne suggests the Excelsior Springs Wine Trolley Tour that stops at three nearby vineyards. On this all-day excursion you’ll sample several varieties and meet winemakers and experts who’ll share their passion for the craft.
The trolley departs from the Merc after a brunch of quiche, salad, and dessert paired with Missouri wines. You’ll make good use of the souvenir six-bottle wine tote that comes with the tour.
On the fence about Missouri wines? Fence Stile will change your mind
In the decade since establishing Fence Stile Vineyards & Winery, owner and winemaker Shriti Plimpton has expanded from pouring wine in a tasting room to hosting five-course wine dinners, walk in the vines tours, and live music on the patio where a firepit keeps things toasty on cooler evenings. Her late husband, William Plimpton, carved caves out of the rolling hills; the 54-degree rooms store wine barrels and hold tastings during summer’s heat.
While there, sample Fence Stile’s offerings that range from sparkling wines to port aged in J. Rieger & Company bourbon barrels. Take memories with you, but leave something behind: bring a padlock (or buy one there) to add to the locks of love wall.
Gezellig at Van Till
Cliff and Debbie Van Till have created a true destination at their winery, which includes farm-to-table dining, a tasting room, and wine garden.
Swirl, sniff and taste six different varieties with encouragement from wine shop manager Stephen O’Brien. But the tantalizing aroma of pizza coming from the wood-fired oven might divert your attention. There are over 25 options available, including chicken with a jalapeño-raspberry sauce. Stephen will suggest wines to pair with any dish, whether it’s pizza, a fresh salad from vegetables grown on the farm, or cheesecake.
By now you may be in sensory bliss, what the Van Tills call gezellig, a Dutch word meaning “a warm and fuzzy feeling.” Before you leave for the final stop, make plans to return for a more leisurely evening when the pizzas keep coming as the sunset turns your glass and outlook a rosy hue.
Four Horses and a Dog or BYO
Just reading the descriptions of available wines prove that the two couples who started this vineyard in 2008 are having fun. Their Original Cin is a Chambourcin that’s “seriously spicy and sexy,” while the Vignoles Reserve has a “dry sense of humor but is the life of the party.”
Taste six wines here, or you might be tempted to try the frosty red sangria topped with sugared grapes. Or save it for a return trip. Their calendar lists live music, yoga in the vines, and suggests a picnic on the patio. And yes, pooches are welcome.
Pro tips before you go
Before heading to Excelsior Springs visit the superb Missouri Wine website for information about the robust industry’s history and varietals, food-and-wine pairings for everything from grilled meats to chocolate, and interactive map showing individual wineries and wine trails. And sign up for the Missouri Wine MVP program to earn rewards every time you visit a participating winery.
If you’re thirsty for more Missouri wines, the 13th Annual Excelsior Springs Wine Festival on June 15 offers more than 100 wines from 20 local wineries. There’s also live music, food vendors and arts and crafts. Tickets are $25 and usually sell out. Find details and purchase tickets here.