Explore St. Louis

History and Wine: A Trip to Ste. Genevieve

Ste. Genevieve, the oldest European settlement in Missouri, makes for a perfect day trip from St. Louis. Follow editor David Lancaster as he explores historic stops and tastes the craft of the area's vintners.

Founded in the late 1740s (some say as early as 1735), Ste. Genevieve was the first European settlement in what would eventually become Missouri, predating St. Louis by at least 14 years. A remarkable collection of structures from the French Colonial era still exist there, forming the nucleus of a historic district that includes shops and restaurants. Located about an hour south of St. Louis off I-55, it makes a lovely day trip.

Start the day at Station 2 Café, located in an old firehouse, where breakfast is served until 11am. You’re right in the historic district, so you can stroll to the Ste. Genevieve Welcome Center (probably a wise first stop), Bolduc House Museum (c1792), the Jacques Guibourd Historic House (1806), the Felix Valle State Historic Site (1818) and the Ste. Genevieve Museum.

Besides history, Ste. Genevieve is also rich in wine, and of the seven or so wineries in the area, Chaumette Vineyards and Winery offers a particularly enjoyable visit. The countryside is beautiful, the wine is delicious, the restaurant rocks (come here for lunch), and the place even has a spa. If you're not familiar with Missouri wines, the varietals may sound a bit strange. No pinots or chardonnays here—those European varietals can't take our Missouri winters. Midwest vintners have learned to craft delicious wines from French hybrids, a grafted blend of European and American vines with names like chardonel, vignoles, seyval and chambourcin. The Rolls Royce of Missouri varietals, however, is norton (also called cynthiana) a purely American variety that delivers a big, bold dry red perfect for any culinary occasion that would otherwise call for cabernet sauvignon. Chaumette's norton is so good they could sell it in France—please be sure to taste it.

Do a tasting tour of the other wineries in the area—River aux Vases Winery, Weingarten Vineyard, Crown Valley Winery, Charleville Vineyard, Cave Vineyard— and then head back to town for a stop at Ste. Genevieve Winery and dinner at Old Brick House Restaurant, housed in the oldest brick building west of the Mississippi (1780).