Italian immigrants settled in the St. James area of the Meramec Highlands in the late 1800s. The railroad carried them to new and inexpensive land where the immigrants built a life and eventually began to use their agricultural knowledge to grow high-quality, Concord grapes. Initially, these grapes were used predominately for juice and jelly. However, the pristine growing conditions helped build new markets and more than 2,000 acres of grapes and over 200 wineries surrounded the St. James area by 1922. This community of winemakers helped make Missouri the second largest wine producing state in the U.S. until prohibition wiped out the family wineries that had come to define the region. The ground was still fertile, but without any place to sell their wines, the families who had come to call St. James home were forced to close their wineries.
History brought back to life
As Missouri wines began to comeback in the 1960s, Jim and Pat Hofherr decided to re-establish the craft of wine making in St. James. They used the same grapes and similar wines that made the region world famous a half-century before, and created the now-famous Velvet Red and Velvet White that remain a hallmark of the St. James Winery lineup. Using all the Hofherr children as (more or less willing) extra hands, the family produced 8,000 gallons of wine in 1970, their inaugural year. Wine making was back in business in St. James.
Bold steps forward
It’s been nearly 50 years since the Hofherr family began making wine. In that time, St. James Winery has helped put Missouri wines back on the national stage. People throughout our state and across the country seek out our wine, and we have expanded to meet their demand. St. James Winery now produces 500,000 gallons of wine per year and is available for purchase in 16 different states. Some days, we produce as much in one day as the Hofherr family produced in the entire year of 1970. Jim and Pat’s middle son, Peter Hofherr, is now the CEO and he and world class winemaker Andrew Meggitt see to it that our wine stays true to the quality of the first winemakers of Meramec Highlands, while they grow and develop new award-winning flavors.