Make a day of it with specialty tours and activities in Platte County, MO
By E.J. Lando
Rolling green hills and perfect blue skies? Check. Two hundred-plus days of sunshine a year? Yep! Food, fun and adventures to be had by all? Definitely! On a recent visit to Kansas City, I detoured to Platte County on a gorgeous weekend. Even though Platte County begins just 15 minutes from downtown Kansas City, it feels worlds away from the hustle and bustle. I got my idyllic escape without an exhausting road trip—the best of both worlds! What’s more, Platte County has gone all-in on one of my favorite travel adventures: tours! Consider it—someone else has gone to the trouble of figuring out the best, most interesting experiences and packaged them up in a convenient way, and all I have to do is show up and enjoy? I’m in!
When you think of Missouri, you may not expect to see acres of thriving grapevines and picturesque tasting patios, but this trip will change your mind. Platte County is home to dozens of award-winning wines, and there is no shortage of delightful tastings in gorgeous locales.
Jowler Creek Winery, Missouri’s first “green” winery, offers wine flights in their on-site tasting room and wine garden, with sweeping views of their seven-acre vineyard. Charcuterie boards are available to pair with their award-winning wines. Plus, their commitment to sustainable farming means you might be able to catch a glimpse of the sheep that roam the vineyard, “mowing” the grass during the growing season. And if you’re looking for a place to stay, the winemaker’s house, just steps from the tasting room, can be found on Airbnb.
Just 40 miles north of Kansas City, Riverwood Winery’s tasting room offers full, partial or complimentary tastings of their wines, including seasonal bonus wines like hot spiced wine or wine slushies. Their tasting room is located in a repurposed schoolhouse, built in the 1950s, which makes for a fun setting. With wine and food pairing experiences, a whiskey bar and chocolate liqueur cups, there is something to tempt everyone! We got lucky and visited on one of their live music nights, which was a blast!
Pirtle Winery has complimentary tastings, wine by the glass and a life-changing wine slushie, which you can enjoy in their wine garden, wine cellar or back patio. They’re kid- and dog-friendly, and I got to say hello to several good pups while snacking on the picnic basket available for purchase from their tasting room. You can also get the slushie mix to take home, which I highly recommend.
If you’re looking for a generalist experience, with wines from all over the state (and the world!), you have to check out Wines by Jennifer in Parkville, and Weston Wine Company in Weston. Wines by Jennifer is “part wine shop, part wine bar, all fun,” and they live up to their motto. Located in a turn-of-the-century home in historic downtown Parkville, Wines by Jennifer is a three-story experience with rooms dedicated to each of the major wine regions in the world. Visitors can also indulge in a specialty appetizer that rotates each week to pair with the tastings. Meanwhile at Weston Wine Company, you can enjoy $1 tasting pours or build-your-own flights with three tastings and three small bites, like mini cupcakes, cheesecakes, dips and cheeses. Be sure to check out their event calendar, since you might be able to catch a Harry Potter-themed wine tasting night, murder mystery party or trivia night!
If you’re more of a beer and bourbon person, Platte County has a great lineup for you, too! Holladay Distillery still uses the same recipe from their founding in 1856, when the Holladay brothers opened a distillery at a limestone spring first discovered by Lewis and Clark. Their distillery tour gives you a peek into how they make their bourbon, from that limestone spring all the way to their bottling plant, with tastings along the way. But their real standout is the night tour—led by lantern, as the founders would have done—with the bonus additions of cocktails, appetizers and a bourbon tasting.
Ten miles north, just 15 minutes from downtown Kansas City, you’ll find SD Strong Distilling. Well, you’ll find part of it—the bulk of the operation occurs 65 feet underground, the world’s only distillery located in a cave. The constant temperature and conditions, which never change so far underground, make for outstanding, high-quality flavors. A tour with them takes you underground into their distillery, where you can taste the vodka, gin, rye whiskey and bourbon they create in a space like no other.
The historic underground pub rooms and secret cellar make this a tour like you’ve never experienced before.
Weston Brewing Company is well worth a Saturday evening. Their brewery tours run about an hour and showcase the current brewery, historic underground cellars, the secret fourth cellar and a tasting. And if you think you’ve seen one brewery tour, you’ve seen them all, think again! The historic underground pub rooms and secret cellar make this a tour like you’ve never experienced before. And when you’ve finished your journey, complete with generous tastings, pop across the street to the O’Malley’s 1842 Pub. They serve Weston Brewing Co. beers, along with dozens of others, in a fantastic underground pub setting that hosts live music every weekend.
Green Dirt Farm is known for award-winning sheeps’ milk cheeses, and I was thrilled that they added a creamery and farm tour to their already impressive operation. Their farm tour gives you a glimpse of what goes into running a world-class farm and sheep dairy and gives you a guided look at their farm, milking parlor and cheese kitchen. Standing in the field, with the flocks of sheep and picturesque barns of a real working farm, you’ll feel worlds away from downtown Kansas City—impressive, considering it’s not even an hour’s drive! To conclude the tour, a tasting in their retail shop in Weston will be the highlight for any cheese lover. And don’t skip out on the incredible homemade ice cream they make in-house—I even took some to go!
Any combination of these incredible tours would make for a fun, delicious adventure in Platte County! I honestly couldn’t choose a favorite if I tried—there’s something unique and compelling about every place, and I plan to come back again and again, with new things to discover each time.