Wine tasting, kept to minimal levels, can be a great country road trip, even in Missouri. We drove west on 64, then cut southwest on 94 once we had crossed the Missouri river. The Katy trail was our companion, making us envy the free spirits biking through the crisp, not to say freezing, air.
Even in winter, a few wineries are open. We stopped at Montelle, Nobolais, and Balducci’s, with lunch and an antique store in Augusta between Montelle and the other two. The tasting is free, the pour about half an ounce, the wine mostly sweet, mostly white. But it isn’t too bad because there are always a few interesting reds. The Missourians are very proud of the Norton grape. They have even made it their state grape. When I first tasted it, I thought it was terrible, but now I think it is just different, strong and interesting, unfortunately also fairly expensive.
Last week we toured some wineries in Santa Barbara County, in the Foxen Canyon off the Santa Ynez valley. There the price was $10 to $12, the pour an ounce each of 6 or 8 wines, all accompanied by a much more professional chatter than the servers in Missouri could manage.
I love driving west along the open Missouri valley, with hills mixing farmland and forest to the North. The antique store along the way in Augusta was fun, a walk back to the 1960s or before when there were dial telephones, butterfly chairs, and typewriters. But be careful where you eat. I recommend the wineries; the last two we stopped at had fairly complete looking lunch menus. The place we actually ate at in Augusta, Ashley’s Rose, was not good. If it were in a play, we would have thought it overdone. The tea water was tepid. The black tea was really lemon. They were out of chili, forgot to bring the soup.Croutons showed up on the no-gluten salad. The french fries were cooked in ancient tasting oil. The hamburger, usually the safest bet, was gristly. And, to top it off, as another blast to the past, the place was smoky. Apparently it was legal to smoke at the bar, a few yards away in the same room. But the server was friendly.
At the furthest extent, we were only an hour from home. Half the distance away we could have stopped at the Lewis and Clark hiking trail.