Coming home to the heart of wine country

Alumni Reinvent America's First Viticulture Area in Augusta

By Kathy Strickland

David and Jerri Hoffmann in Vineyard

UCM alumni David and Jerri Hoffmann have returned to their roots in Augusta, Missouri.


It's kind of like watching a child grow,” UCM alumnus Jim Anderson, ’86, says of the Missouri wine industry, which consisted of about 25 wineries when he became executive director of the Missouri Wine and Grape Board 25 years ago.

The state now boasts a $3.2 billion industry, with more than 130 wineries, 1,700 acres of vineyards and nearly a million tourists each year.

The grapes grown in Missouri are not the same varieties as the more well-known vinifera, such as Cabernet, Chardonnay and Merlot, which are commonly grown in California wine country. While vineyards in the center of the state are at roughly the same latitude as Napa Valley and Sonoma, one big difference in Missouri is harsh winters, which can kill the vines, and high humidity, which can lead to insect infestation.

In fact, it was a blight caused by microscopic insects called phylloxera that led to the creation of French-American hybrids grown in Missouri, such as Vignoles and Chambourcin. These pests made their way across the Atlantic in the late 1850s or early 1860s, wreaking havoc on French vineyards. In 1870, Charles Valentine Riley, Missouri’s first state entomologist, discovered that the state’s native grapes were particularly resistant to phylloxera. Missouri sent 10 million specimens of rootstock to French farmers, who grafted it to their vines to create heartier breeds. Charles is often credited with saving the French wine industry.

Just two decades before the blight nearly destroyed France’s well-established wine industry, Missouri wineries were just getting started. German immigrants settled the town of Hermann along the Missouri River and planted grapes because the soil and weather conditions were similar to that of their native Rhineland. The region was producing wine commercially by the late 1840s, and a decade later the area boasted more than 60 wineries, producing more than 10,000 gallons a year. By the 1870s, Stone Hill Winery, established in 1847, had grown to become the second largest in the country and third largest in the world, rolling out more than 1 million gallons a year.

In the late 1800s, Italian immigrants established vineyards in the Ozark Highlands near St. James. By the turn of the century, there were more than 100 wineries across the state producing 2 million gallons a year. Missouri’s wine industry was second only to Ohio until Prohibition brought it to a screeching halt in 1920.

When the 21st Amendment repealed the nation’s ban on alcohol in 1933, wine production restrictions were lifted, but the industry had suffered a fatal blow. The tables had turned, and European wine had reclaimed its historical stake in the market. The Old World vinifera once saved by American rootstock became the wines of choice for those fortunate enough to afford them during the Great Depression. The Depression ended with the second World War, which had a cultural impact on those who served overseas.

“When our military came back after World War II, they’d been in Italy, Germany, France and Spain, where they were still growing grapes and making wine,” Jim says. “So they brought that interest back with them, and in the 1950s you see this rebirth in California, and then in the ’60s in Missouri.” 


Montelle Winery Panorama

The Augusta Appellation

Mount Pleasant Estates in Augusta was among the first Missouri vineyards to reestablish itself in the 1960s. Founded by German immigrants in 1859, Mount Pleasant overlooks the Missouri River Valley and boasts nine varieties of grapes grown on 125 acres about an hour west of St. Louis.

In 1980 the 15-square-mile area surrounding Augusta was named the first American Viticulture Area (AVA), even before Napa Valley in 1981. In choosing Augusta over the seven California districts that applied for this distinction, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms cited the region’s unique soil, climate, local grape varieties and long history as one of America’s first wine districts.

In 1984 the Missouri Wine and Grape program was established, and a state viticulturist was appointed to help revitalize the industry. Four years later, Augusta Winery opened, and in 1986 Mount Pleasant’s Vintage Port became the only Missouri wine ever to claim a gold medal at the International Wine and Spirit Awards in London.

UCM alumni David and Jerri Hoffmann, ’74, have deep roots in this land. Growing up in nearby Washington, just across the river from Augusta, they were high school sweethearts. David’s father drove a milk truck, and the family did not have hot running water for most of his childhood.

“We started out incredibly poor, and that was a gift, not a curse, because it makes you hungrier, it makes you more ambitious, and you work harder because you didn’t know what it was like not to work hard,” says David, who made his fortune in executive recruiting and real estate.

At the age of 25, he took out a loan to buy a golf course in Washington and also invested in rental properties. In 1989 he founded DHR, an international executive search and leadership consulting firm with more than 50 locations. He then formed Osprey Capital LLC, which has more than 100 locations in 27 countries. The Hoffmann Family of Companies now encompasses more than 90 businesses with 280 locations worldwide.

The Hoffmanns have invested in places they love, including Avon, Colorado, where they helped revitalize the downtown area and developed the base of Beaver Creek ski resort. In Naples, Florida, they purchased restaurants and shops downtown, transportation and tourism companies, recreational businesses, a golf course, Hertz Arena and the Florida Everblades hockey team.

With their sons, Geoff and Greg, now taking over the day-to-day business operations as co-CEOs of the Hoffmann Family of Companies, David and Jerri are entering a new stage of their lives. Their parents still live in the Augusta area, along with other family members and high school friends. The location is also close to their alma mater and friends they met at UCM. Inspired by the Paramount series “Yellowstone,” starring Kevin Costner, David thought long and hard when the world stood still in 2020 about what place he would fight to protect.

“I thought, where do I feel passionate enough about to put it all on the line to save the land?” David says. “Colorado is gorgeous, but it never felt like home to me. We like Naples a lot, but if you think of the history that Jerri and I have together back here, it’s about the land. This is home, not just another development.”

The Hoffmanns relocated to a home on the bluffs of St. Albans, overlooking the Missouri River. Greg and his family followed suit, relocating from Chicago.



Painting the Town 

When the Hoffmanns started investing in Augusta, the tiny town of just over 250 people did not even have a gas station. They have invested more than $150 million in more than 50 properties, including bicycle shops, eateries, a furniture store-turned-boutique and an amphitheater that seats 500. They bought nurseries and landscaping companies, then put the employees to work beautifying the town.

In nearby Marthasville, the Hoffmanns transformed the original stone buildings of a 19th century German seminary campus into the Chateau Hoffmann, featuring 18 luxury rooms in addition to employee housing. Future plans include a five-star hotel off the Katy Trail, with 106 rooms, a pool and spa, a worldclass dining facility and a conference center.

In January 2021, the Hoffmann Family of Companies acquired Augusta’s 50-acre Knoernschild Vineyards and 90-acre Balducci Vineyards with nearby golf course. In February 2021, they purchased Augusta Winery, in the heart of downtown, and Montelle Winery, which offers beautiful views of the river and countryside. In March 2021, they purchased the historical Mount Pleasant Estates, the oldest winery in Augusta, with buildings dating back to the 1820s and a wine cellar that was constructed from local limestone and handmade bricks. After just one year under their management, these four Augusta wineries were distributing a million bottles of wine in 16 states and expecting to double production in 2023.

Each winery has a unique brand identity, which David and Jerri believe is important to maintain. The wines keep their own labels, and the Hoffmanns entrust the winemakers to do what they do best. To establish their brand, they have given each winery its own color. Mount Pleasant is rosé, a nod to its original hue, and Augusta is antique red to represent the town’s historical charm. Montelle, which sits prominently on top of a steep hillside ridge, is “halfway to heaven” in a soft shade of yellow, and Balducci is a warm, happy orange since the winery and its silo glow in the spectacular Missouri sunsets.

“What better way to freshen things up than with a new coat of paint?” Jerri says, noting that their business model is to build on a company’s success versus tearing it down and starting over. “We take something that’s really good and try to make it a little bit better. Our vision is to revitalize the charm and history of Augusta.”

The Hoffmanns’ goal is to make the first AVA a renowned wine destination, similar to Napa Valley or Tennessee’s Blackberry Farm. Through a synergistic approach, they are investing not only in infrastructure but also in the full experience of Missouri wine country. They have acquired a local bus company and offer complimentary trolley rides to each of their four Augusta wineries. They also offer ATV tours and a river cruise aboard the 105-foot luxury yacht, Miss Augusta, sister to Miss Naples and Princess Naples in Florida.

When the Hoffmanns started giving boat tours on Oct. 1, 2022, they predicted having around 750 customers in the first month. Instead, they served 3,300 passengers in October. The cruise offerings have expanded to include private charters, afternoon sightseeing cruises, sunset dinner cruises, eagle-watching tours with St. Charles County park rangers onboard and monthly wine-tasting cruises where passengers hear directly from the winemakers.

Miss Augusta Yacht


Sustainable Growth

At all of the Hoffmann-owned wineries in Augusta, grapes are grown using sustainable viticulture, meaning their practices are ecologically sound, energy efficient and socially supportive.

Before becoming executive director of the Missouri Wine and Grape Board, Jim Anderson was a state horticulture specialist with the Missouri Department of Agriculture for 10 years. He majored in Agriculture Business at UCM and still works closely with Missouri farmers and state commodity organizations for beef, pork, corn, soybeans and wine.

Jim lauds the sustainable practices used by various grape producers across Missouri, including drip irrigation, soil conservation, bee pollination, natural pest control, solar power use, hand-harvesting, recycling and composting. He also notes that the state’s industry is conducting research on wine grape cultivars and advanced breeder selection to grow grapes that are disease resistant, have inherent tolerance to pests and can adapt to environmental change.

The Missouri Restaurant Association, Missouri Division of Tourism and Missouri Conservation Federation are all invested in a successful agriculture and agritourism industry. These groups partner with the Missouri Wine and Grape Board to educate residents and visitors about sustainability.

“Local wine is an ideal pairing for local food because it’s coming from the same soil,” says Jim. “I think people are open to that now. They want to be surprised by local food, wines and brews. They want to feel good about keeping their money in Missouri and eating in season.”

More than a century since Prohibition drained Missouri dry, the state’s wine industry is back — and bigger than ever. UCM alumni are playing key roles in the renaissance.

The child has come of age, but, as the Italian proverb says, “age and glasses of wine should never be counted.”

Balducci Wine Glass Augusta


Did you like this article? We'd love to hear your feedback at



explore More issues of UCM Magazine



CoverThumbSpring32Spring 2023

CoverThumbFall22Fall 2022

CoverThumbSpring22Spring 2022

Fall 2021 Magazine Cover ThumbFall 2021

Magazine Cover Spring 2021Spring 2021

Fall2020 Magazine Cover ThumbnailFall 2020

2020 Spring Magazine CoverSpring 2020

UCM Magazine fall 2019 cover smallFall 2019

2019 WinterSpring 2019

2019 WinterWinter 2019

2018 FallFall 2018

2018 SpringWinter 2018

2018 FallSummer 2017

2017 SpringSpring 2017

2017 WinterWinter 2017

2016 FallFall 2016

2016 SummerSummer 2016

2016 SpringSpring 2016

2016 WinterWinter 2016

2015 FallFall 2015

2015 SummerSummer 2015

2015 SpringSpring 2015

2015 WinterWinter 2015

2015 WinterFall 2014




Take Mo on the Go!

Download this PDF of our actual bobblehead Mo, created by a student-led company, Raise “MO” Money, in the IBE program at UCM. Then print and cut him out and take a selfie to share on social media with hashtag #MoOnTheGo. If you're going on a trip, Flat Mo the Mule makes an easy travel companion. We'd love to see your photos!

Flat Mo Smaller

You may also email your high-resolution photo to, along with the full names and graduation years of everyone pictured and the location of the photo. 

You and Mo could be featured on our social channels or in UCM Magazine!


Join the Conversation

Connect with UCM Magazine and the UCM Alumni Foundation. Share your story ideas, comment on what you read, submit news for Class Notes, and engage as a volunteer in a variety of ways. 

Address ChangeS

CLICK HERE to update your contact information to be sure you always receive every issue of the magazine, printed and by email. 


CLICK HERE to submit your updates for the magazine’s Class Notes, your submissions continue to be our most frequently read section.


Email to tell us what you think about our latest issue and to share your comments on stories. Your letter may be published in an upcoming Comments section of the magazine. 

Have a great idea for UCM Magazine? Email with the details.

Make a Difference

Join our community of more than 100,000 alumni and be a powerful force benefiting the University of Central Missouri. Your gifts support scholarships, academic programs, faculty development, research projects, facilities and equipment upgrades.


is often the outstanding tuition needed for students to complete their degrees.

Make a Gift

$1.46 Million

from the endowment supported student success in FY20.

Learn More

Share Your Expertise

More and more alumni are volunteering time on campus to support student success!

Volunteer Now

Make a Gift Today

Join the Conversation

Share a story, submit a Class Note and 
connect with UCM alumni on these channels:

Contact Us

University of Central Missouri Alumni Foundation
PO Box 800, Smiser Alumni Center
Warrensburg, MO 64093

Phone: 660-543-8000 |

About the Alumni Foundation | UCM Home | Policies | © 2022