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DAY TRIPPING SOUTH OF HERMANN

 

The following trip will take you approximately 35 miles from Hermann – the farthest point on this tour is about five miles south of Mt. Sterling. Your will travel south of Hermann on Highway 19 through the town of Swiss, where you will want to stop at the Swiss Meat Company, onto The Gourd House and then to Drake, MO, home of The Drake Company. At Drake, you will pick up Highway 50 heading west toward Mt. Sterling. After you have spent a day out and about, exploring the area to the south of Hermann Hill Vineyard & Inn, you will be ready to return to enjoy a relaxing evening spent in the luxury of your first class accommodations.

Please note that the mileage between destinations is approximate. Some points of interest along the route are open daily, while others are open on weekends only and/or by appointment. It is a good idea to check with each business before you go.

View a Google map of this trip.

(Leave Hermann on Highway 19 and travel south for approximately 12 miles to Swiss. Swiss Meat & Sausage Company is located on the east side of the highway in Swiss, and the Silver Dollar is located on the west side of the highway.)

Swiss Meat & Sausage Company
For the "best of the wurst", a stop at Swiss Meat & Sausage Company is a must. This family-owned business has been operating in the tiny town of Swiss since 1965. Its founders, Bill and the late Margie Sloan, moved from St. Louis County, where Bill managed the meat department of a grocery chain store, and purchased the Swiss Country Store and Service Station from Margie's parents. As the meat cutting and sausage production operations grew, the Sloans needed more space. In 1969 the current building was constructed, which has had several add-ons since then.

Bill is now semi-retired. His five children and several of their spouses run the business he founded. But, Bill continues to oversee the operation of the entire plant. He is still there to talk to customers - a favorite pastime according to his son Mike. Through the years, the Sloan family has been honored for their contributions to the meat industry and they have consistently won national, state, and local awards for their products. Many are served in dining establishments throughout the Hermann area.

Swiss Meats carries an enormous inventory. There are 39 varieties of link sausages alone, plus hams, bacons, whole smoked turkeys and chickens, and exotic meats such as elk, ostrich, and buffalo. Many fully cooked items and side dishes are packaged to 'heat and eat'. And, don't forget to take home something for Fido. Pet chews include smoked pig ears and smoked beef bones.

Bring along a cooler or purchase one at Swiss Meats. If you don't have enough room to carry it all, you can have your order shipped.

Swiss Meat & Sausage Company is located at 2056 Hwy. 19 South. Store hours are 8 to 5 Monday through Friday, 8 to 3 Saturday, and noon to 4 Sunday. Winter hours may differ. For information call 800-793-SWISS, or visit the web site at www.swissmeats.com.

The Silver Dollar
Directly across the road from the Swiss Meat and Sausage Co. is a country eatery that is worth a visit.

Built in the early 1970s by Jim Sloan, brother of Bill of Swiss Meats, the Silver Dollar was built as a tavern for the locals. A limited menu was offered, and a liquor store operated from an area adjacent to the tavern that now serves as Silver Dollar's kitchen. The Silver Dollar was a place to have a burger and beer and exchange gossip, and it remains so today.

Two years ago, Jack Stoyanov purchased the Silver Dollar. He still considers it a local hangout because nearly 90 percent of his business comes from area residents. "I'm the little tavern in wine country where the locals hang out," he explained. He considers the tavern unique because of its setting in wine country, and it features a wine list of local wines that are sold by the glass or bottle.

Jack has worked in the food and beverage industry for about 30 years. He is a meat cutter by trade, and claims he grew up in an Italian meat market in St. Louis. He has worked at major restaurants (Tony's in St. Louis among them), country clubs and hotels, mostly on the West Coast. He has brought his culinary expertise to the Silver Dollar, and his mission is simply stated. "We feature a simple menu done right, serving food worth driving for." Mission accomplished, according to his many repeat customers.

The menu features the famous Silver Dollar burgers in addition to daily plate lunch specials. "On weekends we fire up the outdoor grill and feature aged, hand-cut steaks and chops grilled on a charcoal fire. BBQ ribs are a favorite along with roasted chicken and grilled seafood," he said. Also on the menu are salads, appetizers, burgers and sandwiches, full dinners, homemade desserts, and kid's meals. This is a family-friendly facility.

The interior of the tavern has changed little since it was first built. Jack has given it a new coat of paint and fixed it up in a few places, and put red and white checked oilcloth covers on all the tables, but you still feel like you are walking back in time as you enter the establishment. An old, all-country jukebox features country-western favorites and adds to the tavern's charm.

During the winter months, the Silver Dollar hosts washer leagues Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday nights. Wednesday night is open night so anyone can join in the fun. Jack proudly announced that the Silver Dollar teams were the league winners for 2006.

The Silver Dollar is open seven days a week. Summer kitchen hours are from 11-4 on Sunday, 11-8 Monday through Thursday, and 11-9 Friday and Saturday. Drinks are served until a little later in the evening. Carry-outs are available. The Silver Dollar is located on Highway 19 about 12 miles south of Hermann. For information, or to book a private party or meeting, call 573-486-3102.

(Continue south on Highway 19 for approximately 2 ½ miles to Steinbeck Rd. Watch for a large sign for The Gourd House. Turn east on Steinbeck Rd. and travel 1 mile to The Gourd House.)

The Gourd House
Don't give up as you wind along this country road. You'll feel like you're going to end up in the middle of nowhere, but that's part of the experience of visiting this woodland oasis.

Joyce and Don Riedel converted 42 acres of wilderness into lush gardens and a bird sanctuary when they moved from St. Louis in 1990. When they needed something to fill up the garden, they decided to plant gourds. They had no idea just how big the gourds would grow, but they soon found out. Among the crop were huge bushel gourds. At first the Riedels made a few birdhouses, "But then I saw the possibilities and that opened up my mind," said Joyce. The idea of The Gourd House came to Joyce one day while she sat under an arbor covered with gourds. She claims she felt like she was in a gourd house. That's all it took for the Riedels to create the business that they both love.

Making items from gourds is no easy task. In fact, it takes about a year and a half from the time a gourd is planted to the time it is crafted and available for sale. After they are planted, gourds grow until frost kills the vine. The gourds are then cut from the vine and taken indoors to dry. When they are dry, the gourds are scraped clean with knives and stainless steel wool. Joyce traces a design onto the gourd and uses a special wood burner to outline the pattern. Don makes the cuttings, which can be anything from a hole in a birdhouse or a top for a covered bowl, to a handle for a basket or an intricate design. The painting is left up to Joyce who said, "When I started painting on the gourds, they became my canvas."

The Riedels make all sorts of things from gourds-handbags, baskets, bowls, lamps, jewelry, decorations, and the list goes on. No two items are alike because no two gourds are alike. Joyce even makes glycerin soap from loofah grown on the property.

In addition to The Gourd House, the property also features The Wood Shed, where metal artist George Beamon's work is on display. George, a member of the Artists of Wine Country, creates designs in steel, brass, copper and glass. Also displayed is country furniture made by Don. Woodworking is one of his hobbies. He said, "I was born and raised with a hammer in my hand."

The Gourd House is located at 2090 Steinbeck Rd. It is open 10 to 5 Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from May until Thanksgiving. But, the Riedels welcome visitors anytime by appointment. For information call 573-437-3929, or e-mail gfbmetal@fidnet.com.

(Take Steinbeck Rd. West to Highway 19 and turn south. Travel approximately 2 ½ miles to Drake-but don't blink or you'll miss it. The Drake Company is at the intersection of Highways 19 and 50.)

The Drake Company
In 1988, Ed Langenberg and Jim Froesel rescued this 1878 building that has been home to The Drake Company since 1992. For Ed, it's home, again. He was raised at Drake in the house across the road from his family's former mercantile store.

Louis Langenberg, Ed's grandfather, had great visions for the store and the town in the early 1900s. Not only did he stock the basic necessities, he operated the feed mill that still stands across the road and ran the Drake post office inside the store. He also owned much of the farmland that surrounds the buildings.

When Louis died in 1925, Ed's father, Edwin, took over. Following in his father's footsteps, Edwin too was a visionary. He maintained a huge inventory of goods, converted the upstairs of the store into a dormitory for farm hands, added a tavern, operated a service station with three pumps, housed the telephone company, and provided a terminal for the local bus company. It was a busy place, according to Ed. Edwin died in 1952. His widow tried to run the store but it was too much for her to handle. She eventually she sold it, but kept the house and farm.

For 30 years the building slowly deteriorated, and when Ed made trips from St. Louis to check on the farm he was saddened by what he saw. Then, in 1988, the building went up for sale. That's when he and Jim leaped at the opportunity to save it. The result is a beautifully restored landmark filled with fine antiques and collectibles acquired by both men.

Once, when Jim was asked how he knew what to buy he replied, "Anything I like that fits in the car." Many carloads of "things" have found their way to the store. Ed also is an avid collector. "I've enjoyed and been collecting for a long time. I've kept much of what was in the store before it was sold in 1951," he explained. The original display cases are still in use and old photos are scattered throughout the store. Ed loves to tell stories about the "old days" at Drake.

The store is located at 2693 Highway 19 in Drake. It is open Friday and Saturday from 10 to 5 or when the flags are flying. Appointments can be arranged by calling 573-437-3133.

(At Drake, turn west onto U.S. 50. Travel approximately 1½ miles to Phoenix Winery. The driveway is on the south side of 50.)

The Phoenix Winery
Guether Heeb, owner of Phoenix Winery, said he just wanted to "piddle with the vineyard" when he established the winery in 2000. His intention was to grow grapes only. But, one thing led to another, and now he is making wine from the nine French hybrid grape varieties he grows on approximately 10 acres. The driveway leading to the tasting room meanders through the vineyards.

Guenther is no stranger to wine and wine making. He was born and raised at a 200-year-old winery along the Rhine River in Germany. He explained that the German way of life calls for the oldest child to get the farm and the youngest to get the education. Being the youngest, his parents made him get a degree in viticulture, and he became an environmental engineer.  Guenther and his American-born wife moved from Germany to the United States 35 years ago so the children could be near their grandparents in St. Louis. As an engineer, the English language presented a bit of a problem for Guenther so he turned to wine making.

In his distinctive German accent he said, "I like playing with grapes." He does a lot of experimenting with the vines and has a test plot just outside his front door. Guenther describes his as a small, boutique winery where he tries to maintain the German style of wine making. "I cannot compete with the big boys, so I compete by being unique." That uniqueness comes from the methods he uses in raising and harvesting his grapes and the techniques he applies to the wine production.

All 2,000 gallons of Phoenix Winery's wines are sold at the winery. Guenther does not sell wholesale. "If we sell out, we close the doors and put out the sign saying 'Gone Fishing'," he said. "We're a Mom and pop operation and we don't want to be big." Nor does he choose to enter wine competitions. Guenther's theory is if you like the wine, you drink it. It doesn't have to have a medal.

Along with the winery, Guenther operates the Edelweiss Dining Club, a private membership-only eating club on the premises. He is the chef, along with young Aaron Trenshaw, Guenther's apprentice. Aaron's main interest is cooking, but once he started working at the winery and saw how wines and foods could be paired, he showed interest in learning about the vineyards as well. In fact, Aaron has started a vineyard of his own with cuttings from Guenther's vines. Guenther hopes that some day Aaron will take over the winery operation.

Phoenix Winery is located at 1840 Hwy. 50. It is open year round from 9 to dusk Monday through Saturday. Hours begin at 11 on Sunday. To contact the winery, call 573-437-6278, or e-mail Guenther at Gheeb@fidnet.com.  You can visit the winery's web site at www.phoenixwinery.com.

(Continue west on Hwy. 50 about 10 miles to Mt. Sterling. Take Hwy. A south for approximately 4.6 miles to Brick Church Rd. Turn east on Brick Church Rd. and travel 1 mile to the Wenwood Farm Winery.)

Wenwood Farm Winery
Got wine? That's the question often asked at Wenwood Farm Winery, a Century Farm that has been in the Neese family for four generations. Current owners, Laura Neese and her husband, Tom Kalb, live in the old farmhouse on the 400-acre farm. "It's Grandma's house to me," said Laura, who has many memories of visiting her grandparents at the farm.

The bucolic setting for the winery is a former dairy farm that produced award-winning Guernsey cattle. When Laura and Tom took it over nearly 10 years ago, they converted the calf barn into a tasting room, the dairy barn into the wine production area, and the bull barn into the event pavilion. Many items used to decorate the tasting room-tools, photographs, and old deeds-were found in old sheds on the property. "They were a good old German family. They never threw anything away. I pooh poohed it, but they came in handy," Laura said. There is a lot of history here.

Winemaking is something Tom has been interested in since he was 14 years old. Raised in Wisconsin, he worked at a fruit and berry winery there for 10 years. "That's where he gained an affinity for wine making," Laura explained. Tom got additional experience working at Stone Hill Winery and Bias Winery when the couple moved to Missouri in the early 1990s. Laura worked several years at Hermannhof Winery.

The couple does not maintain vineyards at this time. They purchase grapes locally for their wines. Production began in 2001. Laura mentioned that milk production and wine making are similar in several ways. Everything must be kept very clean and both require lots of stainless steel tanks. In fact, Laura and Tom use some of the old milk chillers for the cold stabilization process in making their wines.

A large part of the business at Wenwood Farm Winery involves special events. The open-air pavilion is used most Saturday nights during the summer months. In winter, they move into the sales and tasting room. Summer concerts feature musicians, mostly from the Jefferson City area, who play a wide variety of music including bluegrass, jazz, folk, blues, and even some Cajun. Winter events include a hayride, a nouveau dinner and Christmas gatherings. A special menu is available during every event. Laura uses Wenwood Farm wines in many of the recipes that are served. Swiss Meat Company sausages and cheeses are available for sale anytime, as are wine and soft drinks. A listing of events can be seen on the winery's web site at www.wenwoodfarmwinery.com.  Or, you may contact the winery direct by calling 573-437-3443.

The winery is located at 1132 Brick Church Rd. It is open year round. Summer hours (during Daylight Savings Time) are from 10 to 6 Monday through Thursday, 10 to sunset Friday and Saturday, and 11 to 6 on Sunday. Winter hours are 10 to 5 Monday through Saturday and 11 to 5 on Sunday.