Join our Northeast News staff this summer as we hit the road and share with our readers a new weekly feature on where to go and what to do, just a few miles or hours away from home.
For our next adventure, Creative Art Director Bryan Stalder takes his wife Christian, on a short trip where they enjoyed a nice lunch, a casual bicycle ride, and wine tasting.
Folks looking for a fun escape from the noise of Kansas City may enjoy a short visit to the Katy Trail State Park and the Les Bourgeois Vineyard in Rocheport, MO. Rocheport is a small town along the Missouri River. It was founded in 1825, and its proximity to both the river and the railroad made Rocheport a busy trading post for travelers and indigenous tribes in the surrounding area. Today, Rocheport attracts visitors with wine, recreation, and history.
Traveling east on I-70 just shy of two hours, Rocheport is one of the last exits before you reach Columbia, MO. You’ll want to get started on the road by mid-morning to make it in time for lunch.
Recently, my wife and I traveled to Rocheport on a Saturday and had an early lunch at the Bistro on the Blufftop, a restaurant at Les Bourgeois Vineyard. This popular restaurant is only open Thursday through Sunday, so we made reservations in advance. Although the crowd in the dining room was sparse when we arrived at 11:15, the hostess asked us if we had made reservations when we arrived, and by the time we had finished eating, there wasn’t an open table in sight.
My wife Christian and I ordered a charcuterie board and a wedge salad, which we shared. Our server offered us a menu featuring wine, beer, and cocktails, including seasonal cocktails that we saw many other guests at the restaurant enjoying, but our primary destination for the day was the Katy Trail State Park, a bicycle trail spanning nearly the entire state of Missouri from east to west, which runs directly through Rocheport, so we decided to hold off on the alcohol until the outdoor recreation was behind us.
The charcuterie board featured a selection of cured meats, cheeses, pickles, fruit chutney, and crackers. My wife requested extra pickles and our server kindly included those for no additional charge. The wedge salad was topped with a steak, graduating our light lunch into a complete and satisfying meal.
For the two of us, lunch came to $52.45, which included a 20% tip.
If the Bistro on the Blufftop can’t get you in for lunch, or if the fare exceeds your budget, the Meriwether Cafe and Bike Shop in town also serves food and alcohol.
The Meriwether Cafe and Bike Shop, located on 1st Street, further into the town of Rocheport, offers food, bicycle and helmet rentals, and other gifts. The Katy Trail runs directly in front of their shop, so you can sit on the patio and watch folks of all ages travel along while you eat, and accessing the trail from their rental shop couldn’t be easier.
Katy Trail State Park is a former railroad line that was donated to the state of Missouri in 1988. It has been converted into a trail that is traversable for pedestrians and cyclists. The first section of the trail opened in Rocheport in 1990, and it remains a great access point to the state park for visitors across the Midwest who are seeking outdoor recreation. Today, the trail is 240 miles long and it runs between Clinton, MO and Machens, MO with 26 trailheads and four fully restored railroad depots along the way. Rocheport also has a railroad depot, but it is a replica which was built in 1994. It now serves as a trail head for the Katy Trail, and it includes public restrooms.
Many advanced cyclists ride across the entire trail throughout the year.
My wife and I rented two bicycles from Meriwether Bike Shop, and started off riding about a half mile west on the trail. We crossed the bridge over Moniteau Creek and went through the Katy Trail tunnel. Beyond the tunnel, we started down a wooded path, but turned around, shortly. The sky was clear, and it was a beautiful 66°F afternoon. On a warmer summer day, the shady path to the west may have been more appealing. Instead, we opted to ride for about four miles to the east.
The trail east of Rocheport runs alongside the bluffs overlooking the river, and under the I-70 Missouri River Bridge. When we reached an historic site marker that explained that the Lewis and Clark expedition camped nearby in 1804, we stopped to have a drink of water, and make our way back to the Meriwether Bike Shop to return the bicycles.
The trail is level, great for casual riders, and there are plenty of benches along the route where you can stop to rest, drink some water, and enjoy the scenery. My wife and I rode about nine miles in two hours with very little effort. The bike rentals cost us $40.00 for two hours. With some items from the gift shop, our total came to $56.96.
We made a quick stop in town, where we browsed the Stockton Mercantile Gift Shop, and a small art gallery called Off The Trail. We also peeked inside the Rocheport General Store, which is not actually a General Store, but a great looking restaurant that we may try on a return visit.
Finally, we were ready to enjoy some wine. Next to the Bistro on the Blufftop, the Les Bourgeois Vineyard has an A-Frame outdoor wine garden overlooking the Missouri River. Summer Music on The Blufftop, a free live music event, takes place at The A-Frame every Sunday at 5:00pm from June through September.
Alternatively, we chose to visit the Les Bourgeois Tasting Room, which is located a little further outside of town, right off of I-70, which we passed on the way into Rocheport. The tasting room offers tours of the winery where their winemakers show you their growing, fermentation, and bottling process. Les Bourgeois wine samples are offered to guests on the tour.
My wife and I have toured a number of breweries, distilleries, and vineyards in our years, so we skipped the tour this time and got right to the drinks. The winery ferments a range of sweet and dry wines, including white, red, and blush. We curated a sampling of eight of their wines, and even grabbed a few bars of chocolate and mixed nuts from the gift shop to pair with our drinks. The tasting room also offers beer and cocktails for those who aren’t keen on wine, as well as non-alcoholic beverages.
My wife and I enjoyed the experience comparing the wines on the patio, paired with sweet and salty snacks. The wine tasting included two souvenir wine glasses. When we finished, we purchased a bottle of their white chardonel wine for $25, which brought our total to $75.17.
Those looking to make a longer trip may look into some of the Bed & Breakfast or Short Term Rental options available in town, but unlike a traditional hotel, I would recommend booking these rooms in advance.
Before heading back to Kansas City, we browsed the gift shop at the Les Bourgeois Tasting Room, and I came across a greeting card produced by Hammerpress in Kansas City which summed up our day trip to Rocheport, MO very simply: Double thumbs-up! We hit the road and made it back to Kansas City via I-70 by 6:00.