The town of Augusta, population 293, may soon be the hottest tourist attraction in the Midwest. Plans are underway for a 150 million dollar project, including a hotel, exclusive golf course, yacht, and the resurrection of a 163-year-old winery.
Long before Napa Valley was synonymous with winemaking, the Missouri River Valley was the heart of the American wine industry.
Imagine sipping wine overlooking a sea of orange-hued trees or boarding a luxury yacht for a scenic river cruise. It will soon be a reality, thanks to the generous efforts of a local couple.
The best part? You won’t have to deal with the crowds or high prices that come with Napa Valley.
A Vintage Vision
David and Jerri Hoffmann grew up in nearby Washington, MO. They met in school, fell in love, and even after relocating their company headquarters, kept a home near Augusta.
Augusta was once famous for being the top winemaking region in the country. That was before the Prohibition era killed that industry.
During the pandemic, The Hoffmanns spent most of their time there and were inspired by watching the show Yellowstone. They would fulfill David’s decades long dream to restore Augusta to its previous glory.
A Rich Provenance
Missouri is home to some of the most enchanting scenery in the country; its rolling hills and picturesque valleys are a sight to behold. But many aren’t aware that the charming town of Augusta, a scenic 35 miles from St. Louis, holds the title of being the very first American Viticultural Area. (AVA).
You won’t find common American vines that produce a bold Cabernet Sauvignon or a fully oaked Chardonnay like in Napa Valley. Instead, due to Missouri’s harsh climate, winemakers plant vitis vinifera, woody, deciduous vines native to the Mediterranean region and Central Europe. Along with being hardier, the so-called “wine grapes” have restorative effects and a unique, highly sought out flavor.
The Augusta wine region in Missouri is famed for its leaf peeping in the fall, while the town comes alive during harvest season.
The Hoffmann Family of Companies, a Florida-based conglomerate, purchased over 1,000 acres in the Augusta area in 2020, including multiple vineyards and historic buildings. Their vision is an ambitious $150 million project.
It includes plans for four wineries, a 60-room hotel helmed by either Marriot or Hyatt, and a destination restaurant. Additionally, the Hoffmans are looking to expand even more, with an 18-room five-star hotel and spa in nearby Marthasville, a 12-hole golf course designed by Rees Jones, river cruises aboard the 105-foot luxury yacht Miss Augusta, and a revitalized downtown.
This Midwestern gem has plenty to explore, with numerous wineries already in the area and marvelous historic accommodations – all now undergoing a major transformation and rejuvenation of everything from the vineyards to the gas station and everything in between.
When you arrive in Augusta, you may feel like you are in a movie set in small town USA. The signage, the color palette, and the impeccable lawns mowed to perfection all welcome visitors to enjoy its quaint Midwestern charm.
You may think that a $150 million investment would require the demolition of existing buildings, but the Hoffmann Family of Companies has been carefully and methodically renovating and refurbishing historic buildings instead of simply building from scratch.
It’s astonishing what a simple coat of fresh paint can do for an entire town’s aesthetic. The colorful buildings welcome visitors as they explore this newly thriving town.
The Wine & More
In Augusta, you will find Norton, Chardonelle, and Vignoles wines. You will be surprised to discover port wines that rival those made in Portugal.
The Hoffmann’s acquired four of Augusta’s wineries: Mount Pleasant Estates, Augusta Winery, Montelle Winery and Balducci Vineyards. Mount Pleasant and Augusta are located central to downtown, while Montelle and Balducci are located on the outskirts of town.
Montelle Winery offers some of the most exquisite views of the region. The massive outdoor patio wraps around the winery and allows guests to take in the views with enjoying their wine. It is the ideal location to take in the fall foliage.
If you are feeling adventurous, head to Hoffmann Farm for a 30, 60, or 90-minute gator tour, where you will see goats and Clydesdale horses in addition to the acres of vineyards on the property. It’s a highly-recommended true midwestern experience for those visiting Augusta.
Trolleys carry visitors around Augusta’s charming downtown area and picturesque vineyards from April to October free of charge. The Katy Trail – America’s longest stretch of rails-to-trails – is located conveniently at the foot of downtown Augusta where visitors can rent e-bikes and have the choice to return them at one of the locations along the trail.
Part of Augusta’s charm is the plentiful options for accommodations. There are no big chain hotels here, only beautifully restored B&Bs and one hostel until the 60-room hotel is developed.
The Augusta Collection features four unique accommodations centrally located in Augusta and one within a stone’s throw of downtown. All have been beautifully designed in part by Jerri Hoffmann with sumptuous linens and all the accessories you will require during your stay. After a day of exploring, enjoy a tranquil sleep on the luxurious beds, which make for a dreamy weekend getaway.
The Bungalow offers three bedrooms in the heart of downtown and is the largest of the Augusta Collections properties. The Small Cabin is a vintage wood cabin just around the corner from Walnut Street and is a cozy accommodation option for a solo traveler or couple. The tin roof provides a lovely ambiance during the sporadic rainfalls, and the outside patio is perfect for enjoying a glass of local wine or port.
The Future of Augusta
It is clear that the Hoffmanns have grand plans for Augusta, MO. Their investment has profoundly impacted the town and its economy, and they are just getting started.
The hope is that Augusta will become a top destination for wine lovers and tourists from all over the world. With its idyllic setting, charming small town feel, and burgeoning wine industry, Augusta is poised to take the stage.
Casandra Karpiak is a travel writer and the co-owner of Savoteur. A Toronto native with Danish roots currently residing in British Columbia, her travel writing has been seen on The Associated Press wire, MSN, CBS, NBC, Entrepreneur, 24/7 Wall St, Times Daily, and many more.
You can follow her travel adventures on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.