Growing Grapes, Making Wine, and Celebrating Life – LaChance Vineyards
Desoto, MO/February 4, 2017 (STLRestaurant.News) LaChance Vineyards – Nestled in the gently rolling hills of Jefferson County is a growing winemaking community. Even with a history of German and Italian immigrants in the area growing grapes and making wine for personal use, JeffCo isn’t known as wine country. Ask someone in St. Louis for a great winery and they’ll probably send you to Augusta, or Hermann, or St. Genevieve. And yet, every few years a new winery opens just south of the Meramec River, right on St. Louis’ doorstep. Unlike some of the newer wineries popping up in other parts of the St. Louis area, these Jefferson County vintners are not just blending and bottling vino; they’re growing their own grapes and creating their own wines too.
In 2014 when Harold and Tami Hamby opened LaChance Vineyards (pronounced la-shontz) at 12237 Peter Moore Lane in DeSoto, it was just the third winery in Jefferson County. There are now four running along a trail either side of Hwy. 21 from Barnhardt through Hillsboro and down to this lovely vineyard in DeSoto. LaChance is one of the coziest among them, with a farmhouse and other buildings nestled among well maintained gardens. Their dining room has a large stone fireplace and big windows overlooking the vineyards. When the weather is nice there are raised decks, patios, and several lovely, shaded outdoor seating areas.
The small farm in southern Jefferson County had been in the Hamby family for decades. Harold and Tami Hamby moved their family to the farm in 2012 and began the work of building their winery. They now have nearly 5,000 grapevines and plans for expansion. LaChance Vineyards is named after Harold’s great-grandfather, Ferdinand ‘Zep’ LaChance, the son of French immigrants. Despite his poverty, Zep was known for his optimism and sunny disposition. As such, he’s become a source of inspiration for the Hambys and the winery staff.
LaChance Vineyards is a family-friendly destination. With over 80 acres of land and plenty of open space, families are encouraged to visit, play and explore. Picnic baskets are also welcome (but no outside beverages). The vineyard offers live music on Saturdays, and has nice lunch menu that includes nibbles like charcuterie and cheese trays, plus flat breads, salads, soups, and sandwiches.
On Thursdays and Fridays they do dinner (6-8:00 p.m.). Reservations are required. The dinner menu is a small but elegant offering of starters, salads, entrees, and desserts. You’ll find thoughtful items like Baked Brie Toasts with LaChance Blackberry Jam, and Arugula; Watermelon Gazpacho with Crab Salad; a bone-in pork chop with plum sauce, bacon braised green beans, and wild rice; and grilled ribeye with red wine syrup, blue cheese potato gratin, and asparagus. For dessert, choose from the blackberry and almond crisp (made with LaChance blackberries) and vanilla ice cream; blueberry bread pudding with peach cream; or their molten chocolate cake with strawberries and mint. Of course, the staff will be happy to recommend a LaChance wine to accompany each course.
At present there are 14 wines bearing the LaChance label. They run from sweet wines like Lucky Duck and Sweet Lucy (whites), and Sweet Caboose (red), to blushes like A Rose is a Rose’ and dry wines like Crimson Cabernet (red), Doré (white), and Class Act (Norton). The tasting room at LaChance is an inviting space that seats about 50 people. There is a $5.00 fee for tastings, but that includes a keepsake LaChance Vineyards wine glass and five tokens. Each token may be redeemed for a one ounce pour of wine. So you’re getting five ounces of high quality wine for $5, and you get the glass!
LaChance is a popular destination for weddings, bridal showers, and other special events. It’s also a great place to celebrate holidays like Valentine’s Day. LaChance has two casual, yet romantic evenings planned for Saturday, February 11 (5-9:00 p.m.) and Tuesday, February 14 (5-9:00 p.m.) There will be a special pick-and-choose dinner menu offered. Selections include such treats as East Coast oysters, spinach and strawberry salad with fried goat cheese, sour cherry glazed duck, soy braised beef short ribs, cumin crusted lamb chops, molten chocolate cake with strawberry ice cream, chocolate covered strawberries with champagne cream, and red wine poached pears with whipped mascarpone. Choose the dishes you’d like, along with your favorite wine. Come for dinner with your sweetheart, and soak up the romantic ambiance while a violinist plays. Reservations are required.
LaChance is open year round Wednesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., Fridays from 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Dinner Thursday and Friday are by reservation only. But regular visits, including their second annual Mardi Gras party (Feb. 25), are open to everyone!