The concept of Eichenberg Winery started about 20+ years ago with a dream of Rodgers. He remembered his grandfather's vineyard on the family farm north of Cole Camp and the summers playing there with his cousins. Those grape vines became all sorts of barricades, castles, airplanes, fortresses, tunnels, and mazes in the imaginative minds of those young lads. What he did know, but didn't mean much to him in his young age, was that the varieties of grapes had come to America from northern Germany where his family originated. He did know that they tasted great and he always paid for his overindulgence with an upset stomach. When he became a grandfather, those memories came flooding back and he wanted his grandchildren to have the same opportunity and memories.
So, in 1996, on a cold windy spring day, Theila looked out onto the rolling hills of their place in Cole Camp and saw a very strange site. Rodger was on the next hill, digging holes in the rocky soil and very carefully placing sticks in the holes. After first checking the insurance policy to make sure it did cover psychiatric hospitalization, she went out to find out what was going on. He told her he wanted to try growing grapes and eventually make wine for their family. About 4 years later, after much petting and pruning of the plants, the first crop was harvested. The first "batch" of Diamond wine was made and it was wonderful.
So, as the story goes, the rest is history...more land adjoining their original acreage was purchased, more varieties of grapes planted, more land bought....until eventually 3 acres had been planted with 10 varieties of grapes. Expansion for the vineyard is now on an ever-escalating course. Rodger is the craftsman of the wine, bring each variety to a perfect finish. Theila is the self-proclaimed "cellar rat", scurrying around the production area taking instructions from Rodger on what to do next. (He'll tell you this is unusual.)
The winery building was purchased in September of 2001. It is located in the heart of Cole Camp, one block north, and one block east of the only stop light in town. The building was built in the early 1900's as a blacksmith shop. It was recently nominated for the National Historic Register. As a young boy patrolling Cole Camp on his bicycle, Rodger can remember going into the blacksmith shop and being mesmerized with the forges, lathes, anvils and tools still in use in the early 1960's. Inspection of the darkened original beams reveals the soot from the forge located in the building. The building originally had a dirt floor, but several years ago a concrete floor was added. It also had an open ceiling, but recently a stairway and second floor were added. The floor of the second story is from a hayloft salvaged from an old barn north of Cole Camp. The building's more recent history housed a well-drilling shop with truck repair, an antique shop, and a gift shop.
The name of Eichenberg Winery was born from conversations with our local German Club members and a German/English translation book. We wanted to reflect the area, rolling gentle hills covered with numerous varieties of Oak trees. And we also wanted to reflect the rich German heritage for which Cole Camp is famous. So, Eichenberg loosely translated into English from German means Oak Hills.
As you walk into the front of the winery, you immediately feel welcome and at ease...like you just came home. A picture of Rodger & Theila's family is proudly displayed on the wall beside the tasting bar. Everyone has participated in the success of the vineyard and winery (except for the baby...he's a slacker!). And any spoken interest in the picture will generate names and relationships from either Rodger or Theila. But the ones you don't see are the great friends and family that are always willing to lend a hand at harvest, bottling, or tasting....Jim & Joyce, Ellen & Jerry, Dwight & Jeanette, Ranella. If you enjoy wine, food, and friends, you understand how much all these people mean to the winery.
Stop by the winery in beautiful downtown Cole Camp, sit in our gardens, or under the shelter, enjoy our wines along with a snack tray. Then take a stroll and discover the joys of small town living. Several gift shops and antique shops dot the area within walking distance. We can even set you up with a bed and breakfast if you want to spend the night. Enjoy the town and winery with your friends.
We are located at 103 North Olive in Cole Camp, Missouri. Our phone number is 660-668-3511. We are open weekends only: Friday evenings from 3:00 pm until 6:00 pm; Saturdays from 11:00 am until 6:00 pm; and Sundays from 1:00 pm until 6:00 pm. Special events can be scheduled by calling the winery or faxing a note at the same number. We'll look forward to seeing you.
Rodger and Theila Luetjen