AUGUSTA, Mo. — Augusta, Missouri, has long been a popular local destination this time of year. Many people flock to the winding roads of Highway 94 to take in the fall scenery and the many wineries offering up Nortons, Chambourcin, Vignoles, Rieslings and so much more.
Missouri gained notoriety in 1980 as the first American Viticultural Area (AVA) in the United States, beating out California and Oregon at the time. Vineyards and wineries have grown over the decades with more than 125 wineries now in the state of Missouri.
In January of this year, the Hoffmann Family of Companies started investing in the economy, buying multiple wineries and acres with the vision to turn Augusta into more of a national destination, one David and Jerri Hoffmann hope to rival Napa Valley. The Hoffmanns now own Montelle, Mt. Pleasant, Balducci and Augusta wineries.
You'll notice a change in colors as soon as you pull into the charming town, Mt. Pleasant with new splashes of rose', shades of red downtown and a colorful orange at Balducci's.
"At first, I think people thought, 'Wow, what is this?' and now I think they really like it," David Hoffmann said.
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The most noticeable thing, Hoffman quipped, "I cut down a lot of trees; the soil is rich and at Montelle we did take down a lot of trees but we're planting vineyards in there."
There has been pushback to the vision of rivaling Napa Valley, with critics saying Missouri doesn't have the climate of Napa or the best soil, and we're not France or Italy. To that, Hoffman said simply:
"They're all wrong."
"I think we're the next 'Bottle Shock' in America," he added optimistically with a smile.
"Bottle Shock" is the movie based on a 1976 blind taste test competition that put Napa on the map after one of the California wines won against France. Hoffmann has talked with winery friends in Napa and Italy and is already lining up tastings. He showed confidence in putting our Nortons and Ports up against a Quintessa or Caymus. His wife, Jerri, completely agreed.
There have been questions about why wine prices in Augusta have increased so fast. Hoffman said the wineries actually had those planned before he ever took over. He said they are doing $15 tastings but that is for four different wines and the price of bottles did go up, but he said it matches market pricing.
There are many changes throughout Augusta as well, with a new Emporium open, horse and carriage rides coming, a zipline and a 12-hole championship golf course. One of the most exciting things they want you to experience is a Gator Tour to the heart of the vineyards and their lake house.
"You'll come in to this tasting room and taste 30-year-old Port right out of the barrel and then you'll go and see our bottling plant and processing facilities. We've sampled this with 25 people and they say it's the most exciting hour and a half they've ever experienced," David Hoffmann said.
One of the other new experiences you will see is the Miss Augusta yacht that already has bookings before it officially launches.
"The boat is spectacular; it seats 250 people and has a full restaurant with an upper deck that seats 100 people and you'll see it cruising up and down the Missouri River. It officially begins Oct. 15" Hoffmann said.
Jerri Hoffmann is really excited about opening a room that's been closed for at least two decades at Mt. Pleasant. Think weddings, rehearsal dinners, private events and public tours.
"We think it should be shown off, it's historic and it's impactful when you are here," she explained.
If you've heard of The French Laundry in Napa Valley, David Hoffmann told 5 On Your Side he will be opening The Italian Laundry at the Balducci's location as well as a bistro and a restaurant inside Mt. Pleasant.
They are invested in the community to boost the local economy creating 1,000 new jobs.
"Come on out to Augusta and open your business here, it's going to be fun and it's going to be successful," he added.
A luxury hotel is coming with ground to be broken in November and it will take 18 months to complete.
Those visiting town also might notice 1951 trucks all over Augusta that have been restored with the Hoffmann company name on them. Hoffmann said they are symbolic of the fact his company never tears down, they restore. He said the hotel being built is the first time their company has built anything showing just how devoted they are to our area. After all, David and Jerri are from here, growing up in Washington, Missouri, where the high school sweethearts met.
The Hoffmanns aren't done yet, they said. They'll be buying more properties in the area over the next two years including some bed and breakfast spots.