Missouri  isn't exactly the first place you think of when thinking wine. However, there are over 125 wineries in Missouri with the majority concentrated along the rolling hills on either side of the mighty Missouri River. These wineries are a huge tourism business for the state: over $220 million is spent annually on wine-related tourism.

During our recent family visit to the far northwest suburbs of St. Louis, we ventured out on a rainy Saturday for a scenic fall drive through the back roads along Missouri Highway 94, the Missouri Weinstrasse, historically known as the country's first designated wine trail. When German settlers first arrived to this region in the 1800s, it reminded them of everything they loved about their homeland with the sweeping vistas of the Missouri River valley and the Osage Ridge with its tree-covered slopes. Surprisingly the 15 square miles surrounding the town of Augusta, Missouri beat out areas such as the Napa Valley in California to be awarded as the country's first American Viticulture Area (AVA) due to its unique soil, climate and long tradition of local wine varietals. 

Of the four larger wineries along the Weinstrasse (there are actually 8 wineries in the area surrounding the town of Augusta), we chose to visit the Montelle Winery which is described in the Official Missouri Travel Guide as "atop a ridge, 400 feet above the Missouri River bottoms". The views, despite the rainy weather, did not disappoint:

But we didn't come just for the spectacular views. There was some wine to be tasted...

The winery is in a small building located at the top of a winding, curving driveway.


Once inside customers stand at the counter and are allowed up to 5 free separate tastings of the 19 or so different varieties.

Some of the wines we tasted were:
Dry Vignoles described as a "dry white, strawberry and pineapple bouquet"...
Chardonel, described as a "dry white, apple, pear and fig bouquet"...
River Country White, described as a "semi-dry white, fruity bouquet, spicy overtone"...I prefer sweeter, white wine, so this was the one I really liked, and we bought a bottle of it.

River Country Red, described as a "semi-dry red, black cherry aroma, soft body...as a red wine lover, this was the one husband really liked, and we bought two bottles of it.

The winery's Klondike Cafe serves a selection of salads, sandwiches and pizza.
We ordered a 12-inch Classic pizza...that was one of the best pizzas I've eaten...delicious taste with a really, crispy crust.
Unfortunately the weather was rainy the day we visited. On warmer, dry days, visitors sit on the multiple outdoor decks and enjoy the resplendent valley views while sipping their vino varieties.

During inclement weather, wine connoisseurs can enjoy their vino in the winery's two-story indoor patio. The upper-level level overlooks the lower level where live music plays on the weekends. All visitors were really enjoying themselves and dancing to the band. Since it was Halloween, many were dressed in appropriate costumes.

We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves at the winery despite the weather. The wine is delicious, the staff were friendly and knowledgeable and the food delicious.  On our next visit to Missouri wine country I would like to visit the other wineries in the region.

Note to bicycle enthusiasts: Augusta, Missouri is a popular stop along the Katy Trail, a 240-mile-long bike and walking path built along the former Missouri–Kansas–Texas Railroad (known as the K-T or Katy Railroad). It runs from Machen, Missouri to Clinton, Missouri. It is currently the longest rails to trails trail in the country.

Just a few more scenes from Missouri's most scenic winery:

For more information on Montelle Winery, click here.
For more information on the Missouri Weinstraße, click here.
For more information on Missouri wine industry, click here.
For more information on the Katy Trail, click here.

Thank you for visiting,

 A Great Europe Trip Planner 

All photos were taken by me. Unauthorized use is prohibited.



I must have a balcony cabin when I cruise. These photos will tell you why. Each one was taken from the balcony of our cabin and show why a balcony is a must-have for me when cruising. I probably could have taken the same photo from one of the outside decks of the ships, but the intimacy of being on your own balcony makes it more special to me.

Belize: Our cruise ship was tendered off the coast of Belize City. I snapped this photo of the amazing turquoise water...it really is this color.

Honduras: We had already docked in Roatan; in the early morning sunrise from our balcony, we watched Carnival Glory turn 180 degrees and back into its place in front of our cruise ship.

Bahamas: As we sailed out of Nassau harbor, from our balcony we passed the lighthouse that greets visitors to Paradise Island with Atlantis in the distance.

Virgin Islands: On our last cruise we visited Charlotte Amalie for the first time. This was the view from our balcony.

St. Lucia: We also visited here last Spring for the first time. This view of the Castries Bay was captured from our balcony.

Puerto Rico: Leaving San Juan Harbor we sailed past Castillo San Felipe del Morro which we had actually toured earlier in the day. Standing on our balcony we were given a perfect view of the entire fortress and the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean.

Barbados: Prior to departing Bridgetown we watched the Jewel of the Seas sail off to its next port. We can't wait until we are in our balcony cabin on that ship in just a few weeks!

Thank you for visiting.

A Great Europe Trip Planner

All photos were taken by me. Unauthorized use is prohibited.



Husband and I discovered two wonderful things during the recent visit to the Chicago Botanic Gardens for my birthday: 1) since my husband is a veteran, we get in for free; and 2) the Model Railroad Garden. Husband is a model railroad fanatic so we made two subsequent visits to the gardens, most recently yesterday. I recently wrote a blog post about the Model Railroad Garden which really is amazing even if you are not a model train enthusiast. The late-summer weather was sunny and pleasantly warm so we decided to make another drive to the gardens because husband had a few questions for the garden volunteers about model trains who are always eager to answer his questions. Besides I can always stroll through the gardens.

What a pleasant surprise to discover the Central States Dahlia Society was hosting their 81st Dahlia Show with exhibitors from throughout the Midwest. Set up on long several tables, just one bloom per pot is judged. Here are just a few of the dahlias on display, from the classic ball and pompon dahlias to spiky cactus dahlias to the large dinner-plate dahlias:

I would not, nor could not, judge this flower show. The photos above show just a few of the spectacular blooms, but they were not even the winners. The photo below shows some of the winners. How could you even pick one flower over another. Every single flower was perfectly gorgeous!

Thank you for visiting.

A Great Europe Trip Planner

All photos were taken by me. Unauthorized use is prohibited. 



Chicago is home to two of the world's best art museums, housing outstanding permanent collections: the Art Institute and the Museum of Contemporary Art. However, outside those doors, in a 4 city-block walk in the Chicago Loop are four unique pieces of art by world-famous artists.

The bright red of Alexander Calder's 53-foot-tall, 50-ton Flamingo contrasts against the three black skyscrapers that surround Federal Plaza where it sits. It was unveiled to the public on October 25, 1974, with the American sculptor present. Ironically all 3 buildings that surround the plaza were designed by Mies van der Rohe who was himself an artist with his minimalist, grid-pattern, steel and plate glass architectural designs. Calder's reputation for his large arching stabiles was the reason he was commissioned to create a piece of art work which would contrast with the rectangular modern buildings.

Walk just two blocks north on Dearborn Street to the Chase Tower's Exelon Plaza. There you will find Marc Chagall's Four Seasons mosaic. Installed in 1974 (with Chagall present), the mosaic depicts Chicago's four distinct seasons in the artist's abstract style. The 5-sided, 70-foot-long mosaic is composed of thousands of inlaid glass and stone pieces in over 250 colors from Italy, France, Norway, Belgium and Israel. It was a gift to the city by Chagall and his friends, Chicago philanthropists William and Eleanor Wood Prince. In 1994, a protective covering was installed over the mosaic because 20 years of Chicago's harsh weather had begun to do major damage to the mosaics.
Each of the four seasons...

The two end mosaics...

So you know it's a Chagall...three times.

Walk another two blocks north on Dearborn Street to Daley Plaza. Located in the middle of the plaza is Pablo Picasso's famous untitled sculpture. Commissioned by the architects of Daley Plaza in 1963, the work of art was fabricated in nearby Gary, Indiana of the same steel as on the exterior of the neighboring Daley Center, before being disassembled and relocated to Chicago. Picasso refused the $100,000 payment the city offered him; he considered the sculpture a gift to the city. When initially erected, the sculpture was certainly controversial because of its modernity. Most sculptures in major cities at that time were of historical figures. Picasso, who was 85 years old at the time he designed the sculpture, never explained what the 50-foot-tall, 162-ton sculpture represented. However, the sculpture has been described as a mixture of an Afghan dog and a woman; a bird; an aardvark; and a baboon. However many art historians believe the sculpture may be inspired by a French woman, Sylvette David, who met Picasso in 1954 and was his model for dozens of paintings. Despite its early controversy, the Picasso (as it is fondly known) is a beloved icon of the city. Children of visitors and locals alike are fond of using its high-degree-angled base as a slide.

The Picasso in Daley Plaza after an early morning rain.
Directly across the street from Daley Plaza, in a small plaza between the Cook County Office Building and Chicago Temple Building, is a sculpture by another Spanish artist, Joan Miró. The 39-foot-tall Chicago (originally titled The Sun, the Moon and One Star) is made of steel, wire mesh, concrete, bronze and ceramic tile and faces the Picasso. Commissioned in 1969, it was abandoned due to financial issues. In 1979. then-mayor Jane Byrne agreed the city would finance one-half of the cost if private monies would finance the other half. The finished piece was unveiled on April 20, 1981.

These four pieces of art are just a small part of what can be found throughout the city. All over Chicago, in parks and plazas, visitors can enjoy a myriad of masterpieces.

Thank you for visiting,

 A Great Europe Trip Planner 

All photos were taken by me. Unauthorized use is prohibited.