Photos and story by Diane Cannon Piwowarczyk *
When David and Jerri Hoffmann drove through Augusta last fall, the nugget of an idea formed to transform the first American Viticultural Area (AVA) in the U.S. into a world-wide destination. In most scenarios, ideas stay in the idea stage. But with the Hoffmanns, that nugget of an idea has grown into a rapid-fire buying spree that now encompasses 1100 acres and an anticipated $125M investment. "It keeps growing!" said David Hoffmann in a recent interview. "We keep adding things."
Once a property is acquired, work begins almost immediately: new paint, new siding, new roofs, etc. But as with any renovation project, it's what's hiding within some of the older structures--mold, bad wiring, termite damage--that eat up a timeline and increase the budget.
The renovations at Mount Pleasant, for instance, included replacing termite-ridden floors, removing mold in two cellars, and improving drainage and ventilation systems. The ballroom and crush lounge were also updated, and a high speed Wi-Fi network has been installed.
At Montelle Winery, trees were removed to open up the view and a vineyard will be soon be planted in that spot. Jerri Hoffmann, recognizing the public concern about the tree removal, compared it to a painting, "Much like the artist at the Augusta Plein Art Festival, looking at their painting in the first hour, you might ask 'What in the world is that?', but by the time they are finished, it's a beautiful painting. These projects are in progress and we ask for people's patience."
A two-pump gas station is expected to open in September at 225 Jackson Street. The pumps are located behind the building and are hidden from street view; customers will pay via a kiosk or with cash at The Emporium across the street. The Augusta Emporium, a general store at 5595 Walnut Street, opened July 1 and will soon include a coffee shop. A floral shop is planned for the lower level of the building, with access from Jackson Street.
The Kickstand, at 5533 Water Street, a bicycle rental shop, opened July 10. The Hoffmann Hotel, in a historic building next to the bike shop, is undergoing significant rehab. Other properties still under renovation include: The White House, at 5567 Walnut Street; A Cigar and Wine Bar, 5573 Walnut Street; and the Blue House (an Air BnB) on Jackson Street.
The Hoffmanns extended their purchases into Warren County with the recent acquisition of the Emmaus Home Campus in Marthasville, Town and Country Nursery in Dutzow, and just announced, a letter of intent to purchase Ferguson Valley Nurseries near Dutzow. The acquisition of the two nurseries will add much needed staff for work on the vineyards, properties, and golf course.
The Emmaus Home Campus is an historical property, built in the 1830's - 1859. The property will become Martha's Vineyard and Winery and feature an 18-room boutique hotel plus housing for hotel and maintenance staff. Grapevines will be planted in the front of the property. There are eight historic buildings on the campus. Among their numerous properties throughout the world, David Hoffmann stated this just may be their favorite. "When you walk up these roads and take in the stone buildings and the chapel, you feel like you have walked back in time to 125 years ago. It is breathtaking."
The Hoffman Lodge Hotel is proposed to be built in Augusta between Church and Jackson Streets. It will have 53 rooms, seven suites, conference and meeting rooms, a spa, yoga room, lounge, restaurant, indoor/outdoor pool, and walking path to town. Five acres of vineyard will be planted on the property, and much of the wooded areas will be retained. The proposal is currently working its way through the St. Charles County approval process. NOTE: A tethered hot air balloon will not be located at the hotel property or in Augusta Township. It is still under consideration for another location. A helipad will also not be located at this site.
Along with building renovations and upgrades, the Hoffmann's have been busy adding sculptures throughout Augusta and their wineries, commissioned from multiple artists, depicting the American frontier and Indian heritage. A search is underway for sculptures to depict Augusta's German heritage. A self-guided electronic sculpture walk and booklet are being developed. New playground equipment courtesy of the Hoffmann's will be installed in the Town Square this fall.
A major "behind the scenes" investment has been a state-of-the-art wine sample analyzer in the lab at the Augusta Wine Company to help wine makers monitor pH and acidity levels. The new technology provides almost instantaneous results on samples that in the past, sometimes had a multi-day turn-around.
Coming attractions include a 5-Star restaurant, The Italian Laundry, in the historic home at Balducci Vineyards. The name is a play on Napa Valley's French Laundry. An amphitheater and 12-hole championship golf course are also planned for the site.
The Miss Augusta, a luxury yacht, will set sail on the Missouri River this fall. She is 105' long, three stories high, and can carry 250 people (150 people for events). The yacht is larger than the previously announced boat and includes a 3rd level sundeck. Passengers will board at Klondike Park – from a temporary floating dock until a permanent dock is built. Jerri Hoffmann said, "We are so proud of the history of our state, and it's all about the river, it started on the river. It's so cool to see this again."
A hunting lodge and gator vineyard tours are planned for property off Nahm Road. Additional activities may include canoeing, fishing, controlled bird hunting (such as pheasant or quail), and a 1947 restored vintage boat for the lake. NOTE: Tour guests will be shuttled to this site. Gator tours will not cross Hwy. 94 or drive in town.
The Emporium is the central reservation hub for all activities and reservations (636-228-4724): Miss Augusta, gator vineyard tours, carriage rides (returning this fall), picnic lunches, dining reservations, hotel and BnB reservations. Future attractions include an antique car museum, zip line, glamping, horseback riding, wagon rides and more. David Hoffmann stated, "In all, we expect about 50 different attractions. We want people to spend the weekend, stay at the B&B's, enjoy the wineries and all of the activities."
When asked about traffic concerns, David Hoffmann said he expects the trolleys to alleviate much of the traffic. "We've already seen 300-500 riders a weekend." He said. The Hoffmann Family of Companies expects to bring 500 to 1000 jobs to the area over the next three years. Job opportunities can be found on the company website: www.HoffmannFamilyofCompanies.com/careers/
. 2. . 3-4: Sculpture's of American frontier and Indian heritage at Mount
David and Jerri Hoffmann in one of the renovated wine cellars at Mount Pleasant Estates.
The renovated ballroom at Mount Pleasant Estates.
Sculptures of American frontier and Indian heritage at Mount Pleasant Estates.
New gas pumps behind Hoffmann Gas and Gator.* *Photo courtesy Mike Berkel.
The Hoffmann Hotel, on Water Street.
Kickstand Bike Rental.
Future Cigar and Wine Bar on Walnut Street.