Hermann, Missouri is steeped in the German heritage that the founding fathers brought from the east. While time has certainly allowed a variety of new tastes to enter the scene, the old world still holds a place in the hearts of residents and visitors alike. Strolling through the downtown, one can almost imagine themselves being whisked away to the bank of the Rhine. The slower pace is a good match for the ages-old architecture that dominates the landscape. With Oktoberfest in full swing, we were on a mission to find the wine and wurst that this river town has made famous.
Lay of the Land
After a 4-hour Amtrak journey, we were ready to stretch our legs. Stepping out of the train, we were greeted by the sight of brick buildings lining the main drag through downtown. With this being a pandemic year, the atmosphere was a little off from the past. Oktoberfest is the largest annual festival held in Hermann. It draws thousands of visitors eager to sample the flavors of German culture. Toss in some wine and wurst, and you have the makings of a real German celebration. 2020 saw a slightly different sight, as the usually packed sidewalks were more manageable for social distancing.
Taking It All In
While our lunch plans had been set before our arrival, we still wanted to check out the local food scene. A sign advertising free samples are not to be passed up. The Hermann Wurst Haus is definitely the kind of place that evokes feelings of an authentic German shop. Stepping across the threshold, we were greeted by the sight of an amazing meat counter. All around us we saw bratwursts and sausages on display. The urge to stock up had us kicking ourselves for not bringing a cooler. This is definitely a “must-have” for future visits.
Our train home would not be leaving until early evening, so that gave us a few hours to explore the town. Hermann is filled with a nice selection of boutique-style shops. As we wandered along, we found spaces filled with garden art, apparel, home decorations, and a plethora of antique stores. Hermann is easy to navigate on foot and we enjoyed the building artwork that we spotted along our walk.
In the early days of Hermann, the hillsides and town’s empty lots were covered with grapevines. During the 1800s, they were considered one of the largest producers of wine in the world. Unfortunately, prohibition dealt an ugly blow to the town. Not only were the wineries silenced, but even the grapevines were also torn out of the soil. As we wandered around town, we tried to imagine how disheartening it must have been for the townspeople. These days the local wineries are working hard to rebuild their status in the wine-making world.
Down on the main tourist path, we happened upon Hermannhof Winery. This space is one of the early buildings in Hermann. This tourism town is filled with sites that are on the National Register of Historic Places. This particular winery was built in 1852, in what was the French section of the city, and sits above 10 huge stone cellars. This allowed Hermannhof to become a major storage facility for not just their wines, but some of the smaller winemakers around the town. They have also expanded to include a restaurant, inn, distillery, and a living history farm. Their selection of wine and wurst choices make it easy to assemble an impromptu picnic in the countryside.
These days the winery produces about 15,000 cases per year. The wines are fermented in white oak barrels from France and Missouri. Their attention to detail has been rewarded with accolades from their peers worldwide. We stepped in for a wine tasting, which is all the rage during Oktoberfest. Being lovers of white wines, we were excited to see they offer Vignoles. This is our favorite variety at our favorite KC metro winery. At the end of our tasting, we picked out a couple of varieties to take home.
Wine and Wurst in Hermann, Missouri
In the past, we have made short stops in Hermann, Missouri. Most of these have been to stretch our legs during a trip from point A to point B. This was our first visit that had this German heritage town as our main destination. We wanted to see just how much of an adventure it would make, and we discovered that a day trip limited our ability to explore. While it is possible to see the highlights of such a visit, we believe an overnight stay would allow us to get a better feel for the town’s flavors and personality. It was obvious to us that this would not be our last visit to Hermann, Missouri.