Deep in the woods of Ste. Genevieve County, Cave Vineyard is a one-of-a-kind tourist attraction and a family business that caters to the wine tasting crowd.
Marty and Mary Jo Strussione, along with their daughter Laura Oliver, run the business full time with help from the rest of the family. The family started the vineyard in 2001 and the winery in 2004 and currently cultivates and harvests 15 acres of grapevines.
“It was a retirement project,” Marty said. “We make all of our own wine and we bottle it here. Mostly grapes grown here. Occasionally, we bring in something else from the neighborhood. It’s all local grapes and 99% grown on the property. We have five varieties of grapes. It’s pretty much a family operation. We have four daughters, three son-in-laws and nine grandsons. Everybody, until they go to college, has something to do with working here.”
The family estimates an average of 400 customers on Saturday from August through October with about half that on Sunday. They are open year-round, seven days a week, except during extremely bad weather. The hours generally are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., with winter hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Laura listed the product line they carry besides wine. “We take pride that everything we offer is either made here or locally. Our cheese and sausage is done here in Ste. Genevieve, from Oberle Meats and Baetje cheese. Mom makes the biscotti, we bake bread and have sangria that we make on Saturdays; we really want to keep everything as local as possible.”
Marty added, “We do beer and we are also getting into spirits. We’ve haven’t started selling our spirits, we have about 25 barrels of brandy put up, we intend to do whiskeys as well.” The spirits will be available once the aging process is completed.
The beer is brewed by S.I.L. or Son-In-Law Brewery. One of the sons-in-law is the master brewer and the other two help when they are able.
The Brandy Room was added a couple of years ago to accommodate events such as weddings. “There’s space for up to 200 people,” Laura said. “Our outdoor pavilion is perfect for birthday parties, showers, little reunions, things like that. Of course we have the cave on the property. That’s why most people come, to see the cave, which is a unique picnic area.”
Saltpeter Cave is about 100 feet across and 35 feet tall, can seat 100 people for an event and has a small pond in the center. Weddings or private parties can be held in the cave, although not during the winery’s regular business hours.
“The main thing is, we want people to come here and not be intimidated about wine,” Laura said. “We hope that they learn a little something about wine while they are here. Also, we want them to see the process, which is why we built this room this way, so they can see us working down here.”
Mary Jo brought up the biscotti for which Cave Vineyard is becoming famous.
“It was a family tradition. Marty grew up dunking his biscotti in wine. We continued it in our family. We thought it would be a great idea, to try to get people, instead of dunking it in coffee, to dunk it in wine,” she said. We match up the flavor of the biscotti with the either red or white wine. We use Marty’s mother’s recipe for two flavors, the anise and the almond. Then I’ve expanded on that.”
Laura added, “Kind of like an adult milk and cookies. Mom’s bread on Saturdays, the bread sells out like that.”
Marty explained Cave Vineyard has its own unique take on a certain type of wine called the Dry Norton Rosé or First Time Blush.
“Blushes and rosés are now considered the same thing,” he said. “Last year I was short on Chambourcin grapes. So I made my blush out of Norton grapes. Turns out, everybody loved it. This year, I’m doing it again.”
To contact Cave Vineyard, 573-543-5284 or cavevineyard.com
Mark Marberry is a reporter for the Farmington Press and Daily Journal. He can be reached at 573-518-3629, or at email@example.com
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