44,000-square-foot Crown Valley Winery is modeled after facilities
Napa Valley. Four other wineries in the Ste. Genevieve area
join with Crown Valley to comprise the “Route du Vin,” a
cluster destinations for wine enthusiasts.
often that an industry changes overnight. But round the bend of Highway
WW east of Coffman in Ste. Genevieve County and you’ll see
where such an event took place on April 25, 2003. On that date a
new winery raised the standard for Missouri agritourism destinations
and challenged the supremacy of established wine producers.
grape and wine industry has never seen anything like Crown Valley
Winery. Designed from the ground up with high-volume production
in mind and boasting stunning architecture and landscaping, Crown
Valley wows visitors with their first glance.
a showplace,” says Christopher Ruess, director of marketing
for Crown Valley Winery, which looms over a picturesque valley filled with
think it’s one of Missouri’s treasures.”
Even if it is Ruess’ job
to promote the winery, it’s impossible to
dismiss his description as mere hype. Crown Valley is impressive.
of Bloomsdale samples wines with his brother, Norman, sister-in-law,
LaVerne, and wife, Margie. Unlike most wineries in Missouri,
Crown Valley charges for tastings. Visitors pay $5 for
seven samples and a souvenir glass.
winery gleams as the sun reflects off two-story-tall banks of windows.
Wrought-iron railings welcome visitors to an expansive parking lot with
plenty of space for tour buses. Inside, an elevated walkway leads guests
over a shimmering display of stainless steel tanks that comprise one
of the largest wine-production facilities in the state.
is very, very nice for a Missouri winery,” says Ron Williams
of St. Louis, a wine enthusiast who visited Crown Valley in October
and likened it to vineyards he toured in California.
say that this compares most favorably to everything that we saw
in Napa Valley,” he says. “It has a spectacular vista.
The facility is first rate.”
Raymond Kern, a
visitor from nearby Bloomsdale, agrees. “I didn’t
expect anything this big,” he says. “This is right
out of California. They just brought it here.”
|A wrought iron gate welcomes visitors to Crown Valley Winery.
These visitors’ impressions
are exactly what southeast Missouri businessman Joe Scott, Sr.,
intended when he created Crown Valley Winery. “He wanted
to impress,” Ruess says of his boss. “Everything
he does, he’s
enterprises are almost too numerous to list. He began his career
selling windows and went on to own car and farm implement dealerships,
corporate real estate, hotels and time-share resorts.
In the 1980s,
Scott began acquiring land near Coffman, located about 15 miles
west of Ste. Genevieve, where he spent boyhood summers at his grandfather’s
farm. Eventually, he
purchased nearly 8,000 acres of rolling hills and valleys where he
raises Black Angus cattle, bison and a sizeable herd of elk.
visiting wineries in Europe and California, Scott decided to add
vineyards and planted his first grapes in 1998.
winemaker Daniel Alcorso adds yeast to a 3,000-gallon vat of
grape juice to begin the fermentation process required to make
wine. The winery’s production facility is on display
to guests visiting the tasting bar or bistro.
led to another and he said, ‘Why not build a winery?’” explains
Ruess. “Not just a winery, but something that’s
a destination, something that really raises the mark.”
personally laid out the floor plan after visiting
California wineries. Construction began in 2000 and the first
grapes were crushed to make wine in 2002. In April
2003, Crown Valley Winery, which is served by Citizens’ Electric
Corporation, opened its doors to the public for the
At 165 acres, Crown
is the largest in the state and boasts more Norton,
the official state grape, than any vineyard in
the nation. The state-of-the art winery is computer monitored
and temperature controlled. To oversee production,
the winery hired a winemaker from France. Recently,
that job has passed to a winemaker recruited from
Australia’s Yellow Tail, which skyrocketed
from obscurity to become the top imported wine
brand in the United States.
Nearly all producers
age wine in oak casks, but few can equal Crown
commitment to barrel aging. A small winery may
have a dozen barrels while larger producers might
use several hundred. Crown Valley has 846 barrels,
each holding 58 gallons of wine.
|Bunches of Norton grapes
await harvest in Crown Valley’s
vineyards, located about 15 miles west of Ste. Genevieve. The winery
boasts the nation’s largest planting of Norton grapes, the
official state grape of Missouri.
think of many wineries east of California that
would have as many barrels as we have,” says
Bryan Siddle, operations manager for Crown
Valley Winery. “I think if you added
up all the barrels in all the Missouri wineries
it still wouldn’t even come close.”
Gill of Steelville’s Peaceful Bend
Winery, one of Missouri’s
smallest, says he was initially cautious
about Crown Valley but now sees it as a welcome
addition to the state’s wine industry.
think what Joe Scott has done is nothing
short of tremendous, not only in and of
itself, but for the industry,” he says, adding
that the addition of another large volume
producer can only draw more attention to
Crown Valley produced
16,000 cases of wine during its first year in
operation. Last year it made 32,000 cases,
or nearly 80,000 gallons. The facility’s
50,000-case capacity places it in the
same league as No. 1 St. James Winery
and second-place Stone Hill.
workers load Norton grapes plucked from the vine by a mechanical
picker during harvest at Crown Valley Winery. At 165 acres
vineyards are the largest in the state.
wineries in Missouri, Crown Valley
specializes in wines made from French-American hybrid
grapes like Chardonel, Vignoles and
Norton. But unlike most of its in-state competitors,
the winery also produces Merlot, Pinot
Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and other
familiar varieties from grapes imported from California.
Crown Valley’s offerings are a bit more expensive than many
Missouri wines. Most average between
$14 and $25 a bottle. Some limited-edition wines are costlier.
The 2001 Crown Jewel, an estate-grown Chardonel aged in French
oak barrels for 30 months, sells for $50.
Most of Crown Valley’s
wines are sold at the winery itself, though liquor and grocery
stores in larger cities carry the brand as well. Recently, the
winery opened retail stores in Farmington and St. Louis.
way Crown Valley is similar to California wineries is that
it charges for tastings, a practice
adopted by only one other Missouri
winery. For $5 visitors can sample
seven wines from a list of 36 of Crown
offerings. A souvenir glass is
included. “(The pours) are about an ounce
and quarter each. It’s
a fair amount of wine,” Ruess
|Visitors to Crown Valley
Winery take in the bucolic scenery while enjoying a glass of
wine. The winery overlooks the owner’s
Black Angus and bison farm operation as well as vineyards.
Besides the tasting
bar, the winery offers deli meals,
a gift shop and tours of both
its production facility and
The design of the
winery immerses visitors in the winemaking
process. The equipment used
to destem and crush grapes
is clearly visible from balcony
scenic overlooks. To get from
the gift shop to the tasting
bar and bistro, guests pass
across a walkway above the
winery’s fermentation tanks.
Winemaking is not
the only thing Scott wants visitors to see when they’re
in the area. The developer
is establishing “Crown Country,” a tourist
destination with the winery
as the main attraction. The company has opened four bed and breakfast
inns and several antique shops. One facility, Crown Ridge, offers
a tiger sanctuary, executive lodging and a fine dining restaurant
where Scott’s bison, Angus beef and elk are served.
also owns a motel, restaurant and the Eagle
Lake Golf Course in Farmington.
An upscale hotel currently under construction
adjacent to the links will soon partner
with Scott’s time-share resorts.
Bottles of Crown Valley Winery's product await purchase in the
gift shop. Most of the company's wines are sold at the winery but
it is working to expand distribution to grocery and liquor stores.
Jim Anderson is
program director for the Missouri Grape and Wine Board, which promotes
the state’s wineries,
including five in the Ste. Genevieve area. He says the addition of all the
extra amenities makes Crown Valley unique.
putting a lot of other things into value-added agriculture for consumers
to see when they come out to visit,” Anderson says. “They’re
very much a draw
to bring people into the area.”
Last year 30,000
people visited Crown Valley Winery.
That’s a fraction
of the million
visitors to Missouri wineries statewide but Crown Valley’s
that word is just beginning to spread about the state’s
newest large winery.
As impressive as the beginning has been, there is more to come.
definitely in the embryo stage,” Siddle says. “We’re
still in our infancy.”
For more information,
log onto www.crownvalleywinery.com, write to Crown Valley Winery,
23589 State Route WW, Ste. Genevieve, MO 63670; or call 1-866-207-9463.
For general information about Missouri’s
wine industry log onto www.missouriwine.org.