Thursday, November 28, 2013


Sunday, November 24, 2013

For Sale: Meramec Vineyards

A sad (for me) post came through my mail this morning, an e-newsletter from Phyllis of Meramec Vineyards, the home of weekday hours, nice lunches and supple Nortons. The winery is for sale pending her retirement from the business. Phyllis has made quite a legacy in the area that now houses four other wineries including the virtually ancient winery in the St. James region, Heinrichhaus Winery (another great Norton winery). See Phyllis' note below:
When It's Time To Find A Successor by Phyllis Meagher, Owner of Meramec Vineyards Sign on winery on I-44 If you have driven by the winery or visited us in the last couple months you know that there is a big FOR SALE sign in front of the winery. Yes, it's true - Meramec Vineyards is for sale. Some 33 years after purchasing the original vineyard and almost 15 years after starting the winery, I have decided to look for a successor and retire. It wasn't an easy decision. There Comes a Time Birthdays come and go. Another year. And another. They add up. Owning and running a winery is a blast. It's rewarding. It is a lot of work as well. Each year I say "one more year". But all those birthdays can't be ignored. There comes a time when you know that there isn't an unlimited number of "next years". It begins to get harder to keep up physically. I know that Meramec Vineyards would do well with a younger and newer set of hands to guide her. It may take a while to find the right new person but I know it is time for me to look at retirement. Recognizing that a smooth transition could require me to work and consult with the new owner, I decided to put the winery up for sale now so we have time to find the right new owner and I still have some time and energy left to help with any transition. Still Open and Flourishing The winery is not closing - not by a long shot. We have just finished harvest and have over 10,000 gallons of new wine in the tanks. Our winery is open seven days a week. Our Bistro d'Vine is open seven days a week. Our "Atrium" is ready for private parties. We will continue to operate as usual with the special events as well as the wine, the food, the ambiance you have come to enjoy. Even during harvest this fall, we found ourselves saying things like "next year" we should do ... [fill in the blank.] We are still of a mind to keep making improvements - noting things we can do better or differently. What is "For Sale" The entire business is "for sale". Meramec Vineyards is a fully integrated winery. We grow our grapes. We process them into wine in our building here on Interstate 44. We have a retail room with wine related items and complimentary wine tasting at our tasting bar every day. We have a Bistro where you can enjoy wine and food amid the ambiance of a winery. There's a garden patio seating area. All that we are as a business is included: the fixed assets such as the Interstate 44 property where the winery building is located and the 30 acres of farm with vineyard equipment, farm building and 15 acres of producing vineyards with six varieties of grapes three miles from the winery. Our wine inventory. Our name. Our reputation. Our systems for conducting business have been honed over the years. Our excellent and knowledgeable staff is in place. Our wine bottle window. Our cork mulch. All the finishing touches. Tell Me More Have you started dreaming yet? Check out all the particulars by contacting our Broker: Dilek Acar of Acar Realty in Rolla Missouri. Check out more pictures and information including the selling price by clicking on their website: Acar Realty link Email: Call her: Direct Line: (573) 368-7355; Toll Free:(888) 355-7355 or Mobile:(573) 465-4321.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Fire Season!

Pictures of burned landscapes came in from Licking, from Columbia, and from the southern Ozarks yesterday after scattered wildfires had broken out the day following the 60 mph wind gusts. Dry fuels, low humidity, and high winds compelled NOAA to issue hazardous fire weather notifications for some counties yesterday. Today begins a wet period of rain, snow, and the subsequent matting down of all those fluffy oak leaves that can carry fire so well in early fall. To keep up with the Western Ozarks' prescribed fire events, click here for the Springfield NOAA Spot Weather Forecast.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

First Frost

The north winds ripped the remaining maple leaves off the trees this weekend. The dry winds and low humidities associated with the cold front, coupled with the flammable one hour fuels sent up a few concerns from our fine friends at Springfield NOAA. Moisture still exists in the woods, and leaf litter is nice and fluffy and fresh. With the first frost event comes the delicate "petals" of frost flowers. These fragile sculptures occur in shady areas, or in the morning hours before the sun has a chance to reach the floor.

Frost flowers are formed when the sap in certain plants freezes, thereby expanding in the stem and causing the formation of small fissures. Water is drawn up through the stem, but as it exits the cracks, it freezes upon contact with the air. As capillary action pulls more water through the stem, the ice is forced out of the cracks, curling into delicate formations.

In the Ozarks, frost flowers occur in a handful of species. Among them are ironweed and snakeroot, both very common fall blooming wildflowers. Every frost flower is different, some more ornate than others. They're extremely delicate, breaking at the slightest touch. I've seen prettier ones than I saw today, but as harbingers of winter, they always remind me of the crisp morning air broken by the loud cackling of pileated woodpeckers.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Backpacking on an Igneous Dome

The winds whipped wildly through the shagbark hickories and red oaks as we crested the dome to set up camp. We planned to spend three days hiking around the St Francois Mountains with Devil's Wall as our base camp. We missed the spectacular show of fall colors by only a few days, dominated this weekend by deep brown leaves in the colder valley with splashes of yellow on the ridgetops. By Tuesday, with full force gale winds penetrating even my trusty Kelty tent all night, the autumnal display was virtually over.

No trip to the southern Ozarks would be complete without encountering windstorm debris from the May 2009 derecho that toppled thousands of acres of the woodland canopy. Backpackers who follow the Ozark Trail don't have to worry about remnant trees; the Ozark Trail Association had boots on the ground the day after the windstorm to make the trail accessible as soon as humanly possible. But venturing far off trail to reach the high point of the rock wall meant tackling downed trees, one step at a time, across the saddle. Through time, these symbols of that fierce spring night will melt away through natural processes, leaving breaks in the canopy and a rich understory that was gratefully spared the bludgeoning by salvage logging that occurred throughout the region.

With the thick, untrammeled vegetation, it was obvious that our chosen campsite had not seen overnight campers in at least a year. Hikers who visit this area conscientiously use the same fire ring that someone set up many years ago with igneous rocks, allowing the area to retain its naturalness by sparing it from randomly spaced campfire scars. The wind picked up at sunset, which meant blacklining around the campfire ring to remove the flammable post oak leaves and thin, wispy stalks of poverty grass. Darkness set in by 5:30 and the thick cloud cover brought in by the cold front masked what is undoubtedly an impressive starry sky with no light pollution for miles.

Many years ago, my mother bought me an MSR Dragonfly campstove, integral to campfire coffee. It's a fantastic and lightweight stove that boils water in a matter of three minutes with hot coffee ready in five. The cold, 20 mph sustained winds sucked the heat from my enamel cupful of coffee almost immediately the next morning. I usually have to let the coffee cool off for a short while, but not so this week. Within seven minutes, my coffee was as cold as creek water.

With the glade map in hand, we scrambled down the hill into the creek valley to refill water bottles. We trampled across slick igneous boulders covered in lichens and into the maple-filled valley where we neared the first glade of the morning. A few stray asters remained in flower, but mostly in seedheads. Large populations of Aster ptarmicoides covered the glade that is undoubtedly a Mead's milkweed site. The glades here are among the best quality in the entire region with thick grass cover and prairie plants like prairie parsley and Liatris pycnostachya. The igneous-loving Hypericum gentianoides dotted the openings on the glades. Miraculously, the glades in this area were spared a lot of the destructive grazing that occurred in the St. Francois Mountains; granted, goats traveled all over the place, but these glades are not barrens, and the grass thatch and deep soil are remarkable.

Atop a massive glade belt, one can look down and into some of the signature examples of dry igneous woodland in Missouri. Large, old growth trees are widely spaced with grass beneath allowing for fire to creep through the area every few years. Rugged country, the calderas of the Ozarks, and plenty of opportunities for solitude, for an unparalleled wilderness experience in a landscape reminiscent of those survey notes from the early 1800s before the age of extraction began to change the shape of the beautiful Ozark Highlands.