For Immediate Release Media Contact: Pam Jones or Marjorie Beenders
October 30, 2008 Phone: 573-636-8282 « Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Winery Visitors Enjoy Suberb Vintages
at Central Missouri's Lake of the Ozarks
Lake of the Ozarks, Mo. –Along with outstanding dining, shopping, attractions, lodging, festivals and much more, visitors to Central Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks now can enjoy delicious diversions at three unique wineries: Casa de Loco, Seven Springs Winery and Grey Bear Vineyards and Winery. Each has its own distinctive setting and character—but all three offer excellent wines to accompany a getaway to the Lake, a relaxing adventure off the beaten path or a romantic interlude.
The newest winery at the Lake of the Ozarks is Seven Springs Winery near Osage Beach. It’s a dream-come-true for owner Mike Bleile. “As a youngster, I enjoyed watching my grandfather make home-made wine, and as an adult, I have enjoyed wineries and the people who go to them,” he says.
Bleile, who also owns Select Certified Appraisals, Inc., says he searched five years for the right property for his winery. “I figured I would instantly know it when I saw it,” he says, and that’s exactly what happened when he looked over 160 picturesque acres of rolling central Missouri foothills—formerly farmland that included seven natural springs. He bought it in 2005 and officially opened Seven Springs in June 2008.
A winding, scenic road takes visitors up a hill to the main 9,000-sq.ft. building that houses a large reception hall, meeting room, wine-tasting area and bistro café. The double-decker terrace and patio areas overlook a breathtaking panorama of the Ozarks hills—perfect for enjoying a fine wine with fantastic food, created by executive chef Tom Balikes. His creative menu features customer favorites such as Italian Breads and Savory Dipping Oils, Lump Crab & Brie Quesadillas, Seared Ahi Firecracker Lollipops, Grilled Chicken-Apple-Cheddar Paninis, and Spicy Shrimp & Crab Bisque.
Each item is matched with recommended Seven Springs wines. To develop his eight original varieties, Bleile took classes and worked with several vintners. “It’s an ongoing, continuing education,” he notes. He planted eight-plus acres in vignole grape vineyards, which won’t be ready until 2010. In the meantime, he purchases grapes from other growers and has his wines made at Crown Valley Winery in Ste. Genevieve. “Most wineries grow one or two grapes on premises and have to purchase or trade for the rest, since different grapes require different growing conditions,” he explains.
The current Seven Springs selection includes Spring Fling, a light-bodied white; Muscato Sparkling (“Perfect for Christmas morning,” Bleile says); Chardonel Brut Sparkling; Chardonel, Vignoles, Norton and others, as well as a few micro-brews.
Seven Springs hosts numerous weddings, reunions, meetings and corporate events for up to 300 guests. It offers a VIP Membership for wine and food discounts, and even has free Wi-Fi throughout the premises. In the future, Bleile plans to build a gazebo in the vineyard for outdoor weddings and parties, and he’ll erect a chapel with authentic 1800s stained glass windows, pews and more, “but completely modernized,” he says.
Seven Springs is open daily 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. For more information, call (573) 317-0100 or visit www.sevenspringswinery.com.
Opened in July 2007, Casa de Loco is the oldest of the Lake-area wineries—that is, historically speaking. Located near Camdenton, the property, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, originally was built in 1930 as a private getaway by St. Louis industrialist Hugo Urbauer. The secluded, 4.9-acre parcel featured a main lodge, a small cottage, servants’ quarters and a large garage, all high atop a bluff with a scenic view of the Niangua River. The place became a favorite among Urbauer’s well-to-do friends who called it “The Millionaire’s Club,” and rumor has it visitors included Clark Gable, Jean Harlow and Harry Truman.
After Urbauer’s death in 1948, the property changed hands several times. It briefly was used as a mental health facility—thus the winery’s name—before being abandoned in the 1970s. “A friend of mine told me the federal government owned it and didn’t know what to do with it,” says owner Larry Owens. “But I knew the moment I saw it.”
That’s because Owens has owned vineyards in California and has been making his own wine for years. He moved back to the Lake area 10 years ago and opened a mortgage business, but his true loves are his winery and making wine from his own grapes. Casa de Loco now offers eight varieties, including Group Therapy Champagne, Schizo Bianco, Labottleme Zinfandel and Straightjacket Syrah (the last two won the silver and bronze medals at the 2006 San Francisco Wine competition). Guests can take a Tasting Tour to sample them all, and even join the Crazy Wine Club offering scheduled wine shipments and discounts.
With its unique history and charming setting—as well as its 300-person capacity Grand Hall, huge stone terrace and fully equipped catering kitchen--Casa de Loco is increasingly popular as a wedding site. The winery also hosts meetings and events, and offers live jazz and murder mystery theater.
In the future Owens hopes to install an Italian brick pizza oven and other dining options. “I’m doing what I love doing,” he says.
Casa de Loco Winery is open daily, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. For more information call (573) 317-9695 or visit www.casadelocowinery.com.
At Grey Bear Vineyards and Winery near Stover, on the west side of the Lake, Dave and Marschall Fansler also are doing what they love—growing grapes and making wine. Illinois native Fansler started his first winery in Montrose, Colo. in 1993. He studied viticulture at the University of California at Davis. "There's a challenging learning curve in this business," Fansler says. “You have to experiment. Each winemaker has his or her own style. No one makes a bad wine. There are simply some that you like better than others.”
After 25 years in Colorado, Fansler decided to relocate. “I want to be semi-retired and enjoy life,” he says. He and Marschall investigated vineyards in Oregon, New Mexico and other locations before noticing in a real estate catalog a small vineyard for sale in central Missouri—the future home of Grey Bear Vineyards and Winery. “We visited the vineyard which had been planted in 1998, and saw the quality potential and the good condition of the house and grounds,” Fansler says. “It is hard to find a well-maintained vineyard and we were very impressed.” They purchased the property in 2003 and opened Grey Bear in 2005.
Grey Bear wines are made from grapes grown on-site on 3.5 acres as well as grapes from Fansler’s Colorado operation. Among the most popular of Grey Bear’s 15 varieties are Chicks & Tiggers, a soft sweet blush; Pride of the Osage, a chocolate cherry cabernet; Trail of Tears, a semi-sweet concord Norton; and Bear Claw, a dry chocolate cabernet. “Since we moved to Missouri, our wines have won one gold, four silver and four bronze medals,” Fansler says. “We also have won several medals in Colorado. We’ve done pretty well.”
The southwest-themed winery, tasting room and gift shop are housed on the first floor of the unusual deltec building, consisting of 20 eight-foot panels and designed to withstand hurricane force winds. On the second floor, the cozy Black Canyon Ale House and Microbrewery is set to open before the end of the year. The brew pub and bistro will feature up to six microbrews, appetizers, gourmet sandwiches and unique entrees. “Guests like the vineyard view from inside, and also enjoy sitting by the fire pit or at the picnic areas outside with a nice bottle of wine,” says Marschall.
Grey Bear hosts parties, wedding receptions and meetings for up to 100 people, with partial or full catering. This fall, the winery is featuring The Vineyard Experience, offering volunteers the opportunity to pick grapes for a day and then be treated to a harvest meal and wine made with the same grapes that were picked the year before.
Grey Bear is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday, noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday. For more information, call (573) 377-4313 or visit www.greybearvineyards.com.
Visit a Lake-Area Winery Soon!
As you can see, each of the Lake-area’s three wineries offers a unique experience and ambiance—from spacious and contemporary, to historic and secluded, to rustic and casual. And the wines are just as diverse. As Bleile explains, “The wineries around here really don’t compete with each other. A visitor may be in the mood for one type of view or wine one day and a different type the next. What we are doing is promoting the industry and the Lake of the Ozarks. Wineries offer another wonderful way to enjoy the Lake area.”
For more information on the Lake of the Ozarks’ three superb wineries, as well as Lake-area lodging, dining, attractions, shopping, events, holiday activities and more, please contact the Lake of the Ozarks Convention & Visitors Bureau at (800) FUN-LAKE or visit www.funlake.com.