By Scott Meeker
It’s a trail that creeps like a vine across Southwest Missouri. It detours here and there, beckoning visitors to stop and sample the fruits of the winemakers’ labors.
The Ozark Mountain Wine Trail features 10 destinations that attract wine lovers from around the region. The wine tour was formed in 2007, according to past president Brian Overboe, owner of the OOVVDA Winery in Springfield.
“It was ourselves and another new winery here, and we put our heads together to model something after wine trails frequently associated with wine areas,” he said. “We got that momentum going and tried to build unity between existing wineries and build the wine culture in this part of the state.”
Erv Langan, owner of the Keltoi Winery in Oronogo, was quick to get on board.
“We’re also part of the Missouri Wine Trail but thought we could enhance our operations if we tried to get people to come back and forth,” Langan said. “We’re right here near the Oklahoma and Kansas borders, so we’re the first (winery) they see.”
The Keltoi, which offers a variety of reds, whites and fruit-based wines made from the grapes grown on its six acres, is also part of the Missouri Wine Passport Program. Launched two years ago, it has more than 100 wineries where visitors can visit and get their passports stamped.
Langan said that although wineries use many of the same varieties of grapes, much of the flavor will depend on what the year was like in that area when the grapes were harvested.
“Every winery you go to has a different story to tell,” he said.
Jan O’Haro, who owns the White Rose Winery in Carthage along with her husband, Jim, says that the Ozark Mountain Wine Trail and the state passport program are good for business.
“The passport program has really introduced us to people from the Hermann area,” she said. That region of central Missouri has long been known for its wine industry.
“Now people are finding out that there are also wineries on the other side of the state.”
The White Rose, which sits on a 10-acre estate, also offers a restaurant and a bed and breakfast. The Norton wine produced there won the best in its class during the 2012 Lone Star International Wine Competition in Texas.
If wine isn’t your cup of tea, the trail does offer an alternative at the far end of one of its vines.
Located in Walnut Shade, the Copper Run Distillery is known for its aged whiskey, gold rum and its unaged whiskey — more commonly known as moonshine. The latter is 80-proof, and a 120-proof batch will make its debut next month.
The distillery is “a little off the beaten path,” but has made a name for itself, said Maidson Vodicka, events coordinator for the distillery. The wine tour has introduced the business to visitors who might not otherwise have made the trip.
“We see a lot of people on motorcycles come through with their passports,” Vodicka said.
Its location between Springfield and Branson allows Copper Run to have plenty of live music acts on tap, too.
“We do a lot of music here; a lot of bluegrass and folk,” she said. “There’s music from 3 to 6 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday, and there’s an open mic every Thursday night.”
Winery owners said that the Ozark Mountain Wine Trail is a benefit to all of the businesses.
Langan said he often has visitors ask about starting to grow their own grapes for winemaking. And if his knowledge eventually helps another winery to get its start, he’s happy to have helped.
“The more wineries we have, the better it is for everyone,” he said.
“We try to do things to promote each other,” he said. “Each of us has our own unique offerings. I don’t feel like we’re competitors at all.”
Ozark Mountain Wine Trail
7C’s Winery, Walnut Grove
Keltoi Winery & Vineyard, Oronogo
Lewsi Winery, Galena
Lindwedel Wine Garden, Branson
OOVVDA Winery, Springfield
Tyler Ridge Vineyard Winery, Springfield
Whispering Oaks Winery, Seymour
White Rose Winery, Carthage
Williams Creek Winery, Mount Vernon
Copper Run Distillery, Walnut Shade
For more information, visit www.ozarkmountainwinetrail.org.