Missouri has seen the number of wineries in the state grow from 50 to 118 since 2005. Missouri also has more wine trails than any other state in the Midwest. Teah Hopper, a marketing specialist for the Missouri Wine and Grape Board, believes that Missouri’s wine trails have definitely contributed to the growth of the Missouri wine industry which now has an economic impact of over $1.6 billion, according the Board’s website.
“Wine is becoming more of our culture, and wine trails are perfect for that culture,” Hopper said of the growing number and popularity of wine trails in Missouri. ”There are more clusters of wineries and the wineries are now working together,” she said.
The Mississippi River Hills Wine Trail is the newest wine trail in Missouri. Bonnie Hemman of Hemman Winery in Brazeau helped spearhead the trail, but she said starting a wine trail was not as easy as she expected. Bonnie and other area owners began talks of starting a wine trail two years ago. However, Bonnie said the idea took “a siesta” after some personal setbacks.
When the local group started back up again, they discovered that the process of starting a wine trail involved much more than just creating brochures. They soon realized that running a wine trail is like running a business. Start up expenses included advertising and filing the various forms required to start a business and receive certification from the secretary of state’s office.
See related story: Chocolate Comes to Hermann Wine Trail
After two years of planning, the Mississippi River Hills Wine Trail officially opened on November 10 and 11, 2012 with their first event, “Taste of the Holidays.” The six wineries on the new wine trail decorated for the holiday season and offered food and wine pairings. “We really decked the halls!” Bonnie says. At Hemman, this included three Christmas trees and lights and decorations that hung from the ceiling to kick off the holiday season.
Bonnie was cautiously optimistic about the turnout for the first event. Before “A Taste of the Holidays,” Bonnie told Midwest Wine Press, “It will be a growing process. We’re not expecting the first event to be a gangbuster. It will take a while for people to become knowledgeable about this,”
But the event went better than expected: 200 people came to Hemman Winery for the trail’s inaugural weekend, and 140 people visited all six wineries. The next event, “Be Mine With Wine,” will be Saturday, February 9.
The new Mississippi River Hills Wine Trail also helped a new winery get off the ground. Apple Creek Vineyard and Winery officially opened to the public during the “Taste of the Holiday” promotion. Owner Doug Hunt of Apple Creek said the wine trail promotion definitely attracted customers. He also thinks being on the wine trail helps with attracting publicity, like a December feature on the winery in the St. Louis Post Dispatch.
Other new winery owners have also realized the impact being on a wine trail can have. Susan Marksbury from Bushwhacker Bend Winery in Glasgow opened her winery with her husband one year ago. After receiving advice from fellow owners, the couple decided to join the Missouri River Wine Trail. The wine trail events have doubled their business on event weekends, Marksbury said.
Belonging to the Missouri River Wine Trail not only increases sales for wineries, it also increases sales for other tourism related businesses. Quaint Missouri towns with bed and breakfasts, shops and restaurants, like Ste. Genevieve and Hermann, bring in business for the wineries, and the trails bring in business for the towns. Cooperative tourism campaigns form a reciprocal relationship between tourist towns and wineries and contribute to a positive public image for the regional wine industry.
Another marketing tool used increasingly by wine trails nationwide is mobile phone technology. America’s Wine Trails, which is based in Missouri, is using their Mobile Web Tours to get wine trails information out to customers nationwide.
Using America’s Wine Trail’s mobile applications, consumers can engage with a winery through “audio tours, videos, text captioning, a tour map, a link back to the winery’s website and a comments function,” according to the company. Any wine trail interested in having a mobile web tour can contact America’s Wine Trail’s for a quote.
America’s Wine Trails has also just partnered with Wines & Vines and WineAmerica to launch a new mobile app that allows users to find trails and wineries across the country. The company also has 277 wine trails listed on its website. According to the America’s Wine Trails website, the U.S. currently has more than 6,000 wineries.
Wine trails are becoming an important way for wineries to grow sales. The increase in wine trails in recent years illustrates that they boost business and that winery owners are listening.
57 wineries comprise Missouri’s nine wine trails across the entire state:
Hermann Wine Trail (northeast)
Route Du Vin Wine Trail (southeast)
Mississippi River Hills Wine Trail (southeast)
Missouri Weinstrasse (near the St. Louis confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers)
The Missouri River Wine Trail (mid-Missouri)
The Ozark Mountain Wine Trail (southwest)
The Aux Arcs Wine Road (south)
The Great Northwest Missouri Wine Trail (northwest)
Kansas City Wine Trail (opened unofficially this year)
Beth Steffens is a Journalism student at the University of Missouri in Columbia