Nearly a century ago, Stone Hill Winery was the nation's second-largest winery and the mothership of a thriving Missouri winemaking industry. Many of Missouri's wineries were founded by immigrants -- mostly Germans -- who settled small communities such as Hermann and Dutzow along the Missouri River. Hermann emerged as the center of the winemaking industry and home to more than 60 wineries before Prohibition corked the industry. More than two generations passed before winemaking was resurrected, and most of the credit for the revival goes to Jim and Betty Held, a farming couple who borrowed $1,500 to purchase the Stone Hill property in 1965. Back then, Stone Hill's cellars were used to raise mushrooms; today, Stone Hill is the biggest and most decorated of the state's three dozen wineries. The winery, on a hill overlooking picturesque Hermann, offers visitors a decent restaurant, an interesting tour, a generously stocked gift shop and -- best of all -- free samples. And it's a pleasure getting there from St. Louis, provided the starting point is Highway 94 in St. Charles County, a route that meanders through beautiful stretches of the Missouri River valley. On the way back from the wineries, be careful to avoid squashing bicyclists on the Katy Trail.
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