Gary Hoover has been a winemaker for 20 years, but you are unlikely to find him working with grapes. After stints as a dairy farmer and a professional chef, Gary founded Endless Summer Winery in Hermann, Missouri, with his wife, Lois, and their son Mark. The small, family-owned business opened in 2011 and only produces non-grape wines.
“I love making wine,” says Gary. “It started as a hobby that I did from home, and it grew from there. I have never gone after grape wines, and I have no plans to change that in the near future. I am more interested in what I can make with other fruits and uncommon ingredients.”
The Hoovers make 2,000 gallons of wine each year in their 900-square-foot production space. They do their own bottling and labeling, and sell their wines at their tasting room. Endless Summer offers shipping to Missouri-based customers. The wines are also available at some retail locations in Hermann, Independence, Sedalia, Excelsior Springs, and St. Charles and St. Louis counties. Visitors to the tasting room receive free samples and are welcome to bring their own food. The winery's covered picnic pavilion provides an ideal spot to enjoy Hermann's picturesque countryside.
Endless Summer's signature product is its pecan wine. Gary develops the unique wine using American Native pecans that are USDA certified organic. The pecans, which are grown in southwest Missouri, have a sweet taste that distinguishes them from the nut's southern variety. Gary cooks the pecan pieces in a 40-gallon pot to extract their flavor. Before the fermentation process, he removes the pecans from the liquid and adds golden raisins for body. He sweetens the finished wine with Vermont maple syrup before bottling. The result is a light, nutty wine that has subtle flavors of butter.
“It took me nine years to perfect the pecan wine,” Gary says. “There was a lot of trial and error. It's a labor of love.”
Pecan wine makes up 15 percent of Endless Summer's inventory. Their other seasonal wine selections include cherry, raspberry chipotle, blackberry, pear, peach and strawberry. Their bestseller is a semi-sweet pineapple wine. Customers often buy the 375-milliliter bottles of jalapeño-raisin and habanero-raisin wines for cooking. Gary says his elderberry and blueberry wines appeal to fans of traditional grape varietals.
“The elderberry has the spice of a Chambourcin or a Syrah,” he says. “The blueberry has notes of chocolate.”
Gary sources the majority of the winery's ingredients from Missouri farms. He takes pride in not adding any artificial flavoring, coloring or juices to his wines.
“When you taste the whole fruit, there is more complexity to the flavor of the wine than when you use a juice or a concentrate,” he says. “People appreciate that we do it this way. It is a lot of extra work, but it is worth it.”
That extra effort is what Gary hopes will get people to let go of their misconceptions about fruit wines.
“Some people think that all fruit wines are too sweet, and they won't even give them a chance,” he says. “We try to stay in the middle with semi-sweet and semi-dry options. People are usually pleasantly surprised when they taste our wines.”
Endless Summer Winery is curently open Sunday through Tuesday and Thursday through Saturday from 10am to 6pm from April 1 to October 31. It is open Sunday through Monday and Thursday through Saturday from 10am to 5pm from November 1 to March 31. The winery is closed on Thanksgiving and Easter and from Christmas through New Year's Day.
Endless Summer Winery, 11 Grosse Lane, Hermann, Missouri, 573.252.2000, endlesssummerwinery.com