Biking and Vineyards: A Trip Through Missouri Wine Country
Wine Tasting on the Katy Trail
If you've never visited Missouri, you'd be surprised to know that wineries abound in this Midwestern state. Although Missouri is part of the Great Plains, it isn't completely flat. The southern portion sits in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains. When early German settlers first found the hilly land nestled along the Missouri Riverbed it reminded them of their homeland. They knew it was ideal for wine making. Today the St Louis area boasts several dozen independent wineries.
One of the best ways to explore the wineries in my state is by bike on the fabulous Katy Trail. I've found that biking in wine country is the perfect way to blend two things I love - long bike rides through gorgeous scenery and relaxing with a glass of wine.
Long Trails, Gorgeous Views - A Glimpse of the Katy Trail
It's hard to surpass the beauty of the Katy Trail.
For a good portion of the way the shaded trail follows the meandering Missouri river. As you ride through the river valley you'll see the river on one side and craggy majestic bluffs of limestone on the other.
The section of the Katy Trail that winds through wine country is the same route traveled by explorers Lewis and Clark on their venture to the west.
The Katy Trail
Rails to Trails
The Katy Trail is a bike rider's dream trail. It's a 225 mile path that follows the Missouri river across the entire state of Missouri (well, almost. It ends 52 miles from the border). There are 25 trailheads along the way.
The path was constructed on the site of the old Missouri, Kansas, Texas railroad line (MKT) as part of the Rails to Trails System. Hence the name KT or Katy trail.
For the most part, this crushed limestone trail is quite flat, as a matter of fact the grade never is more than 5%.
We began our wine tour in Defiance a small town 45 miles west of St Louis.
The Wine Tour Begins
Defiance has six wineries to explore. They have free or low cost wine tasting. If you travel in October, the best month for weather, you'll find many wineries have live music.
If you'd like to rent a bike, there's a bike shop right in the town near the trail.
This is where we hop on the trail and begin our ride to the wine town of Augusta.
It's an easy 6 1//2 mile ride through the trees.
Here I am ready for my ride, and no, It may look that way, but I haven't had a glass of wine yet.
Notice how flat and shady the trail is? It's just perfect for any style bike. I have a hybrid but many road bikers use this trail too.
What's so great about this trail is you'll run out before it does. You can ride for 200 miles if you should desire.
Another thing about the trail that's especially nice is that everyone you pass will wave and say hello. That's just how it's done on the Katy Trail.
A Trail with a History
The section of the Katy Trail that winds through the wine country of Missouri is a very famous one, steeped in history. As you ride the winding path next to the Missouri river, you realize that the scenery is still much the same as what Lewis and Clark viewed on their journey west.
Daniel Boone, the consummate frontiersman moved to this section of the country to escape the urban life. He lived out his final years right where we begin our journey in the town of Defiance.
As you ride the trail, you realize Daniel Boone walked this very riverbank.
Along the Path
You won't see the vineyards from the trail because the path is down by the river valley. The vineyards are all on the steep hillsides beyond the limestone cliffs.
You will see wild grapes hanging from the grapevine covered trees. This October the vines were full of wild grapes.
You can't miss Augusta. The trail head has a large parking lot and plenty of room for bikes.
Every weekend in the fall the parking lot is full of bikes.
From here you'll need to bike up some steep hills, but it's worth it. It's really worth it. There are two wineries in town,only a mile from the trailhead. There are more to visit right outside of town as well.
If you don't wish to take the hills, there's a nice brewery right on the trail head. It's easy to reach and great outdoor views. The brewery offers free water for bikers and a restroom.
Time for a Toast
Augusta has several wineries, two are located right in the old town.
Wine tasting is free or offered for a nominal fee at most of the wineries in Augusta.
Many wineries have live music May through October and offer winery tours as well.
Before the Civil War, Missouri was the number one wine producing state in the country. In the 1860s, Missouri wine growers helped the French overcome the Great French Wine Blight by sending rootstock for grafting.
Mount Pleasant Winery
It's definitely worth it to take the ride up the hill. The views are just spectacular. Here's the view from the patio of the Mount Pleasant Winery. There's a large outdoor seating area with great views and live entertainment.
Wine tasting at Mount Pleasant costs $5.00 for 6 samples of wine. The sample sizes were quite large. You can also take a free wine tour or grab lunch and enjoy it on the patio.
The Augusta Winery has complimentary sampling of 7 varieties. They offer live music, free wine tours and a restaurant with a limited menu.
Tips for Biking the Wine Trail
Of course you'll want to pack the usual gear such as water bottle, helmet, sunscreen and camera. Here are a few other things to think about:
- Prepare for Flat Tires The path is constructed of crushed limestone. It can be hard on road bike tires, (recommend tire 25mm or wider tire) so be prepared. Just remember to bring emergency tubes and tools. You don't want to get caught with a flat miles from a trailhead.
- Bring a lightweight backpack You'll want to have a way to carry your wine purchases.
- Protect your eyes The trail is really dusty and depending on the time of year, buggy too. Bring along something to protect your eyes, sunglasses or riding goggles are great.
- Wet wipes for clean up One thing I didn't have was a way to clean up before heading into the winery. Since the trail kicks up so much dust, it would have been nice to get some of it off before walking into the wineries.
Handy items for your trip
It's always a good idea to have bike tools on hand. You never know when they'll come in handy.
Have a spare tube with you on your ride as insurance.
Have some protection for your eyes. Certain times of the year the bugs can be thick near the river.
This can be stashed in your bike bag and pulled out to carry back your wine purchases.
The Return Trip
After a long relaxing visit to the town of Augusta, it's time to ride back to the starting point. The trip down the steep hills to the trailhead is exhilarating. Back on the trail again.
I hope you'll be able to ride in wine country if not here in Missouri, somewhere else. It's a great combination - wine and bikes. Try it sometime.
Biking the Vineyards Info
Wow! Am I surprised about this LotD
Thank you all for your very nice comments. I'm so surprised and happy, as a matter of fact, I'm doing the LotD happy dance right now. If I don't get to answer your comment now, I'll try to soon. Thanks very very much.
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