Michelle and Joe Boulware, the new owners of Meramec Vineyards Winery, are passionate about their mission to serve excellent food and drinks, to support local establishments and to give back to their community.
In 2017, the Boulwares bought the property (originally Meramec Vineyards) when the previous owner was ready to retire. They rebranded the restaurant with a flair of Southern hospitality and a modern farmhouse appeal, offering home cooking in an upscale winery setting. To the menu, they added burgers that Joe (and customers) call “phenomenal,” as well as salads, wraps, and unique sweets like a Belgian waffle board served with jam and whipped cream and a root beer float piled high with salted caramel ice cream and dusted with gold powder.
Joe loves meeting new people and “relating over a glass of wine.” The Boulwares also offer a complete craft beer line from a variety of distributors throughout Missouri as well as a line of moonshine, mixed drinks, wine slushies and cocktails.
The most popular drink is the colorful and creative sangria, offered in flavors like honeysuckle, white peach-ginger and lavender-berry. The winery has a consistent line of wines but also creates new blends often, including a romance red (a sweet red wine) that's currently in production.
Recently, the Boulwares added kombucha to their menu, sourced from Spring Branch Kombucha in Springfield, Missouri. They explained that “part of our mission is finding what people like, and kombucha is a way to offer something non-alcoholic that fits the flavor profile.”
During COVID-19 shutdowns, the Boulwares moved their menu online, hoping to make the menu more user-friendly so that customers could order beer, wine or moonshine for a “socially-distanced drink.” The new-and-improved online menu uses an app that is linked to the restaurant’s website and Facebook page.
Michelle says that “the most rewarding thing is to use the restaurant as a platform to reach other people in need.” When the schools and senior center closed due to COVID-19, she says “we were able to fill part of a need in the community, and with donations, we distributed sack lunches to seniors and children in the area – around 60 lunches a day for about 10 days while the school worked out logistics to take that back over.”
While the restaurant has reopened for dining, the Boulwares’ commitment to the community remains. They support a variety of local charities, and on Sundays, 10 percent of their proceeds are donated to the charity of the month. Their “Pups and Pints” event donates partial proceeds from beer and wine sales to a local animal rescue and encourages customers to bring their pups along to join in on the fun.
During mild weather, the outdoor patio has a beautiful ambiance with a koi pond, fire pit and a water feature. On the outdoor stage, live music is played throughout the summer. The Boulwares hope the music will “encourage more people in the area to come out and get in on the wine and beer scene.”
Whether outside on the patio or while enjoying indoor dining, a favorite on the menu is the pimento dip (served warm with bacon, green onions and pita). Joe says the award-winning burgers are loaded so high with toppings that they barely fit in a carryout box: they’re “messy and delicious.” Pulled pork nachos, chicken bacon ranch or Buffalo chicken wraps and housemade hummus are also crowd-pleasers. To accommodate guests with allergies, gluten-free substitutions are offered.
As a family-run business, the Boulwares’ priority is to “be with our family, in our community, doing as much good as we can.”
Meramec Vineyards Winery is currently open Sunday and Monday from 11am to 6pm, Thursday through Saturday from 11am to 8pm and closed Tuesday and Wednesday.
Meramec Vineyards Winery, 600 State Rte B, St. James, Missouri, 573.265.7847, meramecvineyards.com