Luke Pappaspanos, Guest Writer
Students savor the challenge of solving puzzles or searching for items in a scavenger hunt. The clue is to find a vineyard in the city. Sounds easy? Stonehill Winery is probably the first vineyard that comes to mind, or maybe the St. Charles area. Nope, the answer is high upon a hill in Bridgeton. The Boenker Vineyard overlooks shops, restaurants, neighborhoods and industrial properties. This family owned vineyard continues to witness progress growing up all around it and has for over 100 years. Over time, selling portions of the family estate to businesses has reduced the property to around 32 acres. Missouri is home to over one hundred wineries outside of the city limits; and only one inside.
At the Boenker Hill Vineyard and Winery, Mrs. JoLynn Boenker explains that the “oe” is pronounced like an “a,” so the word is pronounced, banker. Matt and JoLynn, a very friendly couple, happily chat with everyone which makes all visitors feel like part of the family. The Boenkers raised their ten children here in Bridgeton on the hill. Matt enjoys working with his seven-year-old grand-daughter around the farm who claims that she wants to own the farm someday.
“Every Fourth of July, people gather on the hill with blankets and chairs to watch the firework displays from Hazelwood, St. Charles, Bridgeton, and even Alton, Illinois. We pass out free hot dogs,” says Matt Boenker. Continuing, Matt shares that “it’s a great family friendly event.”
“We came back to the farm after the war and never looked back,” Mrs. JoLynn Boenker exclaims. Their farm business continues to grow because they also book weddings, receptions, reunions, and concerts at the farm.
When tasting the wines, Mrs. Boenker recommends, to “start with semi-dry to sweet and work through the next five wines.” For six dollars, five wines may be sampled, or the wines may be sampled for one dollar each, this includes a glass (sampling a wine is not required.) There is a choice of delicious apple or strawberry slushies to taste and/or to purchase. Also for customers, a few types of beers and some non-alcoholic beverages are available.
Matthew is a member of the Missouri Wine Growers Association, and he reveals, “every wine purchased in Missouri helps to benefit the 35,000 vineyard jobs in our state. It is a 1.7-billion-dollar state industry.”
So, all nature lovers, history buffs or anyone looking for an outdoor venue, check out the Boenker vineyard and winery. Fill that picnic basket up with fruits and cheeses and enjoy what Bridgeton has to offer. Just a short drive from the UMSL campus to a quaint rustic farm on a hilltop with a view of the surrounding area. Enjoy this fall season right in the heart of town.
The hours for visitors: Fridays and Saturdays: 11:00 A.M. – 6:00 P.M., Sundays: 12:00 P.M. – 5:00 P.M. Beginning November 1, days and hours will be Saturdays and Sundays only.
Some great reads on the subject include:
A Tour of Missouri Wineries by Jonathan Eccher and Jeremy Hollingshead
Missouri Wine Country: St. Charles to Hermann by Dianna Graveman and Don Graveman
Exploring Missouri Wine Country (3rd updated and revised edition) by Brett Dufur
A History of Wine in America From the Beginnings to Prohibition by Thomas Pinney