|(Phoenix Winery is located about 21 miles south of Hermann. Follow Hwy. 19 south from Hermann to Hwy. 50. Take Hwy. 50 going west for about 1 1/2 miles. The winery is located on the south side of Hwy. 50.)
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.