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America’s First Designated Wine Region

If you listen to my radio show or podcasts you’ve heard me mention wine regions as AVAs. American Viticultural Areas are federally designated by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (the TTB).

Would you believe the first official wine region designated as an AVA was in Missouri?  Yep, on June 20th, 1980. The Augusta AVA encompasses 15 square miles around the city of Augusta near the intersection of St. Charles County, Warren County and Franklin County. I find this of particular interest as I grew up outside of St. Louis, about 45 minutes from Augusta.

What prompted that decision?

In 1859, Georg and Friedrich Muench founded one of the earliest wineries in the area, Mount Pleasant Winery. Flooding in the Missouri River valley caused the river to change course in 1872, drying up the area’s riverboat landing leaving behind a distinct soil type between the town and the river. You guessed it, that made for ideal conditions to grow grapes for wine.

America's first official wine region

You may be surprised to hear that Missouri also had some of the earliest winemaking successes, dating back to 1837. By 1848 winemakers there produced 10,000 US gallons per year, expanding to 100,000 US gallons per year by 1856.

In case you’re wondering, Napa Valley received the second AVA distinction just eight months later.