by Nancy Stiles
Little Hills Winery (501 South Main Street, St. Charles; 636-946-9339) has been quietly serving St. Charles for the better part of 40 years. It was once called Winery of the Little Hills and was one of the first 25 wineries in the state of Missouri. David and Tammy Campbell acquired it about seventeen years ago when it didn't produce a drop of wine in St. Charles.
After their first five years at Little Hills, the Campbells began making the wine themselves in underground caverns in St. Charles. The caverns were originally used as a brewery in the nineteenth century and remained so until as recently as 1980. However, it can only produce about 2,000 cases and everything is by hand since there's no room to get any machinery down there.
Little Hills will keep its restaurant and tasting room, but the actual winery is set to move to a 37-acre piece of land out in unincorporated St. Charles County pending conditional use permit approval. It's just four miles from Winghaven and Highway 40.
"We have some disconnect in St. Charles. Folks now are looking for a winery you can taste, touch, feel and see," Campbell tells Gut Check. "It's very hard for us to do that [now] -- we're all over the place because there's not twenty acres in historic St. Charles for us to plant some vineyards."
If all goes according to plan, Campbell hopes to break ground by the end of the year, with an opening in February, March or April. The Little Hills vineyard will house the manufacturing process, a tasting room and a small restaurant. The expansion will also allow Little Hills to grow its wine portfolio, adding some West Coast offerings like pinot noirs, pinot grigios and Riesling.
The land is adjacent to a county park, so Campbell plans to add walking and hiking trails, as well as picnic spots -- there are a even a few lakes on the property.
"i think as we move forward, the important thing is, we're not closing down any of our locations in St. Charles," Campbell says. "We're glad to be a part of St. Charles, and we plan on staying in St. Charles as long as they'll have us."
Campbell says he will be posting information on the Little Hills website as the expansion moves forward, so be sure to check for updates.
Gut Check is always hungry for tips and feedback. E-mail the author at Nancy.Stiles@RiverfrontTimes.com.
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