In 1974, Curtis and Martha Bourgeois purchased 15 acres of blufftop property on the Missouri River near Rocheport.On the property was an old, rustic A-Frame with no running water or indoor plumbing. After the addition of a well, and other minor renovations, the Bourgeois' and their four children moved from Columbia into the tiny structure, where they lived for nearly two years while their new home was built.
Years later, after their older children were off to college, the Bourgeois' and their youngest son, Stephen, planted a vineyard on the hilltop in front of their blufftop home. Their intentions were to beautify the property. It wasn't until after the first significant grape harvest in 1985 that the Bourgeois' casual hobby of making homemade wine showed the potential to become more than a diversion.That year's five-ton harvest yielded nearly 500 gallons of red wine, which was made at a small winery in Rolla. The following summer, the family renovated the abandoned A-frame, outfitting it with a sales counter, coolers and a small food kitchen. They placed some modest ads in the local newspapers, announcing the "Les Bourgeois Winery" was open for business.
In October 1986, Les Bourgeois sold its entire sole vintage, "Jeunette Rouge," in just two months. That same year the eldest son, Curtis Bourgeois, Jr. returned from an internship at a New York television station and took a managing interest in the family business.In 1987, the family tripled production to 1,500 gallons and expanded the Les Bourgeois line to include Pink Fox, Seyval, and Jeunette Rouge. By the end of November, they had once again sold all the wine they had produced.
Over the next four years, the family acquired its own winemaking equipment: an old fashioned crusher / stemmer, fermentation tanks, and a small bottling line. During harvest, grapes were crushed in the driveway; the garage housed the barrels and fermentation tanks, and when it was time to bottle, the bottling line was set up (in the kitchen), then dismantled and stored.
By its sixth year, the operation had outgrown its domestic locale. In 1991, when production reached more than 7,000 gallons, the company purchased seven acres of property and a 10,000-square-foot brick building just off I-70 at the Rocheport exit, and converted this into a winery. An adjacent 10,000 square feet of abandoned hotel space was claimed for warehouse space.This strategic purchase cleared the way for the extraordinary growth that followed, with production skyrocketing to more than 20,000 gallons annually. In addition to fruit harvested from their own vineyards, the company entered into lease agreements with other grape growers to support their ever-growing higher production demands.To overcome the seasonal limitations of the A-frame, in 1993 the company entered into a wholesale agreement with Boone Distributing, a local distributor of wines and spirits. It wasn't long before Les Bourgeois wine appeared on grocery store shelves and restaurant wine lists in nearby Columbia and surrounding communities.
The company owns seven acres of commercially zoned property on the northeast corner of Interstate 70 and Route BB, which houses their 20,000-square-foot winery and storage facility, in addition to a 180-acre farm, 35 acres of which is planted in grapes.
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