At the end of a gravel road off Highway M in Fairdealing, Missouri is a surprise most people in Ripley County aren't aware of. Grapes of Held Winery & Vineyard, owned by Fred Held of Doniphan, boasts 5 ½ acres of Cayuga, Chambourcin and Norton grapes. Held (who might be considered a self-taught 'grape farmer') almost single-handedly tends the grapes from vine to bottle.
His interest in the grapes began when he worked for Southern Pacific Railroad and made frequent trips to California for his job. A co-worker would take him to wineries and encourage him to try the wines and differentiate between the 'notes' (notes describes the flavors) of each wine. At first, Held admits, he couldn't really taste the citrus, buttery or spicy finishes of the wines. Then, after several visits to the wineries, he discovered what his co-worker had been telling him. He could taste the 'notes'. This led to Held reading books, lots of books, about the different varieties of grapes, growing grapes and making wine.
When a love of the Current River brought him to Ripley County to live after retirement (this writer uses the term 'retirement' very loosely), an opportunity to buy the vineyard arose, and Held took that opportunity in 2007. With friends and family (son Kyle and daughter-in-law Mindy of Jackson, Missouri) to help, the first harvest took place in 2007. The nearly 18 tons of grapes harvested were sold to wineries around the state. Depending on the variety of the grape, harvest usually takes place from mid-August to September. After harvesting, the grapes are crushed and de-stemmed and then pressed and fermented (white grapes) or fermented and pressed (red grapes).
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