Who needs Sonoma?
Believe it or not, Missouri has long been home to a thriving wine industry. The verdant hills along the Missouri River are ripe for agriculture, while long summer days and just the right temperatures produce an ideal environment for growing grapes. During the 1800s, German settlers in the region perfected the art of viticulture — in fact, prior to Prohibition, Missouri was the No. 1 wine-producing region in the country.
With the arrival of summer, camping season has come to the Midwest, and many local wineries offer opportunities to enjoy the fruit of the vine while overnighting under the stars. So, why not bring your tent, sleeping bag, and multitool with corkscrew along on your next winery visit? You’ll save yourself the drive home and experience the region’s wineries in a whole new way.
7C’s Winery in Walnut Grove has a large open field that can accommodate tents, trailers, and RVs. The campsite is about 1/4-mile from the tasting room, an easy jaunt for thirsty outdoorsmen and women. 7C’s has a field of sunflowers and offers visitors the chance to pick their own bouquet of wildflowers (reservations needed). A six-hole disc golf course is found on-site, and the winery also serves mead (wine made from honey). Local attractions include Lake Stockton and nearby Springfield, Missouri.
Arcadian Moon Winery in Higginsville features two RV hookups and plenty of room to spread out and get comfortable. Wines are made on the premises, along with handcrafted beers, wood-fired pizza, and other casual fare from the kitchen. Relax on the deck overlooking one of four lakes on the property, stroll the 75 acres for an invigorating walk, or just lounge and enjoy live music on the weekends. Maple Leaf Lake Conservation Area is just west of the winery on Route 40.
Cave Hollow West Winery close to Hannibal is situated between two caves explored by Samuel Clemens himself. The winery offers Mark Twain-themed wines in its tasting room — try its Mischief chambourcin or Satire white blend. Campsites are located a stone’s throw away at the Mark Twain Cave Campground. Nearby attractions include historic downtown Hannibal and the watery playground of Mark Twain Lake.
Wild Sun Winery and Brewery in Hillsboro has been named “Best Winery” by both Feast and Sauce magazines for two years running. This 10-acre estate offers live music on the weekends, plus pizzas, burgers, and snacks. The winery is located a short, 15-minute drive from Washington State Park, where campers can find a myriad of overnight options, from basic walk-in/backpacking sites to fully powered RV sites. The 5.9-mile Rockywoods Trail welcomes hikers, and Big River provides great opportunities for swimming, canoeing, kayaking, and fishing.
Hermann City Campground has 51 full-service sites, along with basic tent camping on a first-come, first-serve basis. The campground provides easy access to a handful of wineries in and around Hermann, including Stone Hill Winery, Hermannhof Winery, and Adam Puchta Winery. Hermann is known as one of the centers of the Missouri viticulture scene, with plenty to see and do in and around town. Visit the Deutschheim Museum for a detailed lesson in Hermann’s German heritage. Rent a bike and ride along the Katy Trail. Bring your canoe or kayak and paddle the pristine Loutre River. Or simply sit on the riverfront and watch the Missouri River slowly roll by.
On the Illinois side, visit Pheasant Hollow Winery in Whittington. This winery has live music on the weekends, along with food trucks and an ample wine list. The Whittington Woods Campground is less than a mile away — easily walkable after a trip to the tasting room — and features newly renovated restrooms and shower facilities. Both the campsite and the winery sit on Rend Lake, a great spot for boating, swimming, and fishing. A trail that wraps around the lake is suitable for biking or a scenic sunset stroll.
Wine Trail Wilderness campground sits in the heart of southern Illinois’ Shawnee National Forest, right in the middle of the Shawnee Hills Wine Trail. Composed of 11 wineries dotted along a 40-mile trail, this destination is the first of its kind in Illinois and includes some of the oldest vineyards in the state: Blue Sky Vineyard, Hickory Ridge Vineyard, Pomona Winery, Owl Creek Vineyard, and more. While in the area, don’t miss the incredible Garden of the Gods Recreation Area, an outdoor lover’s paradise with miles of hiking trails and woodland areas to explore.
So, there you have it: Wine and camping make the perfect Midwestern pairing. Cheers!
Many Missouri and Illinois wineries offer the option to camp through Harvest Hosts, an RV camping service that serves wineries, breweries, golf courses, farms, and attractions across the country. These include:
Chaumette Vineyards and Winery – Ste. Genevieve, Mo.
Fergedaboudit Vineyard and Winery – Hanover, Ill.
Lavender Crest Winery – Colona, Ill.
Serenity Valley Winery – Fulton, Mo.
Seven Springs Winery and Vineyard – Linn Creek, Mo.
Sleepy Creek Vineyards – Fairmount, Ill.
St. James Winery – St. James, Mo.
Tuscan Hills Winery – Effingham, Ill.
Wenwood Farm Winery – Bland, Mo.
Author: Nick Tilley is a regular contributor to Terrain Magazine.