New Owners, New Chef, New Menu

Looking for an authentic place for special celebrations or a comfy spot at which to personally unwind periodically? A nearby St. Charles County winery delivers that haven plus more options, now with new owners, selections and menus. Specifically available year-round are breathtaking views of the Missouri River Valley from Defiance Ridge Vineyards’ historic farmhouse located in the middle of the state’s wine corridor.

Rooted in the rolling hills of historic Show-Me wine country, Defiance Ridge’s 42-acre property spans a vineyard, tranquil lake and lush garden landscape.

“You can enjoy a wide range of Missouri wines or one of our West Coast varietals while treating yourself to our seasonal artisan cuisine,” says Trevor Gillentine, operations manager and son of the vineyard’s owner, Chuck Gillentine.

Trevor says his father previously was co-owner of a different winery but had a lifelong dream to own an operating vineyard.

“So, we were fortunate when Wine Country Gardens became available to purchase,” he says.

He assures that Defiance Ridge reflects the team’s combined passions for wine, farm-to-table cuisine, unique events and warm hospitality.
“And no other winery has the same type of space as we do, with so many indoor and outdoor options, this close to St. Louis,” he adds.

In fact, Trevor says they recently hosted their first Harvest Boot Camp to gather their vignoles grapes. Participants were served coffee and doughnuts before spending a morning harvesting alongside the Defiance Ridge vineyard crew. Guests then enjoyed an alfresco lunch on the terrace overlooking the vineyard.  

“Harvest students also receive a bottle of vignoles once the ‘fruits of their labor’ are processed,” he says.

This is the first-ever harvest production year from this winery. Trevor says the grapes were basically growing wild before. Now, he’s working with award-winning vineyard manager and winemaker Tom “Murph” Murphy, who pruned, nurtured and maintained the vines.

Trevor says by press time of this publication, the first of their wine aficionados already may have uncorked those inaugural bottles.

Pairing Food with Wine

As often as possible, Defiance Ridge’s chef Lucas Olson creates meals featuring ingredients sourced from their onsite garden. Their produce ranges from different tomatoes, okra, kale and herbs to snap peas, mushrooms, strawberries, peppers and cucumbers—both English and Japanese varieties.

They host Friday supper specials, farmhouse tasting dinners for intimate groups of only 30 guests, wine club events and barbecue bashes, as well as themed meals that accompany movies to watch while dining. They also sometimes host special meal and travel presentations with wine and food pairings.

“Our style is to keep it American with a Southern-ish flair,” says the chef, who prepares maple-bourbon pulled pork, braised pork belly grits, grapevine chicken salad, sausage skewers, smoked trout, barnyard burgers and even a real green eggs and ham dish.

Although Lucas was used to preparing Bavarian meals for the German winery at which he previously worked, he says he grew up experimenting with food and learning how to handle himself in the kitchen at the side of his cook-wise grandmother. He perfected his skills while attending the College of Culinary Arts at Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island.

“Food has been a big part of my life, so I really enjoy the reactions and expressions that guests have while eating our meals. I try to make our food memorable experiences, by putting a twist on norms or traditions,” Lucas says.

He says, in general, he hopes Defiance Ridge meals prompt fond reminiscing.

The team there is able to handle private events for groups of 400 or 450 guests, with total public serving capacity up to about 600. The food crew also caters.

Various styles of live bands play at the winery on Saturdays and Sundays, and the staff hosts special events such as “Yoga on the Ridge.”

Trevor says they just remodeled and revamped the tasting room a few months ago and still have expansion plans in the back of their minds.

While at Defiance Ridge Vineyards, be sure to search for and admire Heath, the winery’s swan and official mascot. This 17-year-old bird is quite famous, often photographed, and even has his own blog. A few years ago, Heath lost his mate for life, but he’s content to hold down his water fort by himself and defend it against visiting ducks and Canadian geese.

2711 S. Missouri Highway 94, Defiance, Missouri, 636.798.2288, DefianceRidgeVineyards.com