Wine brings people together….whether it’s lazy summer evenings spent on a deck or cozy winter nights in front of a fire. Wine is the special ingredient for toasts to the new year, the newly married, and the newly born. Because wine is made for sharing, its flavors turn a good meal into something extraordinary. Wine helps make memories, and for the Hofherr family at St. James Winery, wine is a family’s legacy.
Jim & Pat Hofherr believed there was great potential to resurrect the winemaking acclaim Missouri enjoyed prior to Prohibition, so with dreams of building a winery from the ground up, the Hofherrs came to St. James, Missouri, and opened their winery in 1970. It remains family owned and operated.
That first year, St. James Winery produced about 8,000 gallons of wine (3,400 cases), but two of those first wines have become the stuff of legend. Year in and year out since 1970, Velvet Red and Velvet White have been bestsellers, and the hundreds of awards these wines have won attest to their quality.
As the winery grew, the push for excellence became a driving force. St. James Winery began to win important awards at major wine competitions. In 1994, St. James Winery Norton was named Best of Show at the International Eastern Wine Competition, and in 1995 St. James Winery Seyval was named one of the Top 50 Wines in the World by Bon Appetit. In 1997 and 1998, the winery won back to back Governor’s Cup Awards for Best Wine in Missouri, each time for Vintner’s Reserve Vignoles.
The popularity of St. James Wines skyrocketed, and between 1995 and 2000, annual production went from 10,000 cases to 100,000 cases. St. James Winery’s reputation spread throughout the wine community. To continue to keep up with demand, St. James Winery grew its vineyard acreage, enlarged the cellar, added a twist-cap bottling line, expanded the warehouse, and increased its distribution network.
These changes made St. James Winery one of the most modern and best-equipped wineries in the state. In 2006 St. James Winery was included in Wine Business Monthly’s Top 10 Hottest Small Brands in the US, and in 2009 Critics Challenge named St. James Winery “Winery of the Year-Eastern US.”
Today St. James Winery makes more than 200,000 cases of wine each year. Their wines are distributed throughout the Midwest and South. The winery tends vineyards planted with Catawba, Chardonel, Norton, Concord, Seyval, Vignoles, Chambourcin and Rougeon grapes.
Missouri: The Emerging Wine Region
During the 1800s, Missouri had a thriving wine producing community. German immigrants planted vineyards in the Hermann area, and Italian immigrants planted vineyards in the area around St. James, Missouri.
The Italian immigrants here called the area Rosati, and, and they prospered as they planted vineyards. Grapes became a big business in the region with eventually more than 2000 acres of grapes planted in about 200 vineyards.
Today, the area is known throughout the region as “Little Italy of the Ozarks” thanks to the Italian settlers who originally planted grapes here. Of course, the area has another name now because in 1987 it became an official American Viticulture Area known as the Ozark Highlands AVA.
The St. James Winery logo, a schoolhouse, honors these Italian settlers who first planted grapes here in Missouri. The original schoolhouse built to educate their children still stands today and is adjacent to the winery’s vineyards.