Courtesy Adam Puchta Winery
Steeped in history
Many wineries claim to be the oldest. Near Sonoma, California, Buena Vista might seem a good bet for the oldest winery: It’s been around since 1857. Few of its peers have such longevity. There are more than six thousand wineries and wine brands in America but only a few dozen or so that can trace back their pasts to the nineteenth century.
Buena Vista deserves its rarefied distinction, but it doesn’t deserve to be called America’s oldest winery. That distinction should belong to Missouri’s Adam Puchta Winery, which may be able to say it’s been around since 1839. It’s possible that 1839 is the starting date; records are always a bit scanty on matters having to do with alcoholic beverages. I’m sure it has nothing do with drinking.
The Puchta family had a farm in Missouri back then; they might have made wine. There’s proof that in 1855, Adam Puchta bought land in Hermann and started a winery, and the family has been making wine ever since. Nobody can top that longevity, certainly not as a continuously owned family winery. That continuity was in jeopardy numerous times: Adam Puchta himself left the family to sell cattle out west. With money in hand, he leased a chunk of land and went gold digging. His return home took him through Nicaragua—a threatening and wild jungle of beasts, prospectors, get-rich-quickers, and just plain dangerous men.
But he returned, bought land, planted grapes, and made wine, including one called Riefenstahler, named after his wife, who later died in childbirth. His good work would go to naught: Prohibition killed his wine business in 1920, though the family saved most of the equipment and continued to make enough wine to keep the neighborhood happy. It wasn’t until 1990 that the winery began creating commercial wine again.
Today, Adam Puchta’s winery is stronger than it’s ever been. Great-great-grandson Tim Puchta has been running the show for years; he has one of Missouri’s most sought-after brains in the business. Tim’s got a stable of Nortons; not simply content to make a big table red, he has a Norton Port (actually two of them), two different table Nortons, and a Norton he splashes with a bit of berry juice.
The Adam Puchta Traminette is tangy and perfumed, as the grape can be at its best. Tim’s new Chardonel, Vignoles, and Vidal Blanc have balance and pretty fruit as well. In truth, it wasn’t so unusual to make win back in 1855; people needed something good and healthful to drink, and wine lasted a lot longer than grapes. But what has happened to Puchta’s winery since those times is a lot rarer and a lot finer.
Visit adampuchtawine.com for more information