Missouri Wine Industry Expands Rapidly

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MISSOURI - Missouri's wine industry is having a $1.6 billion economic impact in the state. Statistics show that the industry continues to grow.

"What we do is agritourism, which is getting folks to come out, especially this time of the year when it's beautiful. This money stays in the economy in Missouri, " said Jim Anderson, the director of Missouri Grape & Wine Board.

Missouri's wine production has reached 1,219,204 gallons per year, an increase of 16 percent in the past five years. The industry generates 14,051 jobs throughout the state. 

With a total of 128 wineries, Missouri's wine production ranks eighth in the nation this year, according to an economic impact report from Missouri Grape & Wine Board. More than 20 new wineries have opened since 2010.

One local couple, Lee and Regina Ruppert, started their winery on a 60-acre property in Fulton, Mo. in 2011. With 20 years of wine-growing experience, the Rupperts said the winery is their retirement plan.

"We just started 100 plants of grapes this spring as a test to see how they perform in this type of soil," Regina Ruppert said.

As a family business, the Rupperts produce about 2,000 bottles of wines every month. They do it without any additional staff and said they are not sure they want to expand beyond their home market in Fulton.

"I really honestly don't know if we want to get to that level, you know, to be in the big four wineries, " Regina Ruppert said. "For the first year, actually, we broke even. For a new business, you know, it's pretty awesome."

Expanding into mass production takes time. About 28 years ago, one of Missouri's oldest wineries started making wines in the garage. 

"Now we are the third largest in the state," said Rachel Holman, the CEO of Les Bourgeois Vineyards.

The company distributes wines through wholesalers, reaching into out-of-state markets like Illinois, Kansas and Louisiana.

Each year, Missouri sells 910,173 gallons of wines nationwide, making up 8 percent of national market share.

"We had a great organization, the Missouri Grape and Wine Board. They are based in Jefferson City," Holman said. "They did a lot of great research, and a lot of great marking work that helps the industry overall."

Missouri was a leader in wine production before prohibition, second in the nation according to Anderson. He said he would like the state to regain it's position.