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By Natalie Rooney
Our first stop was A&K Cooperage in Higbee, Missouri. Forty years ago, the Kirby family started the cooperage and has kept the business in the family since then.
Matt Kirby showed our group around and explained the process of how a barrel is made.
“It starts with the tree,” Kirby says. The cooperage uses 75- to 100-year-old Missouri white oak trees for their barrels. After cutting the trees, the wood ages for two years.
The next step is to joint the wood, or cut the sides so they’re rounded and able to be formed into a barrel. The wood is then toasted over a fire, which brings out a vanilla flavor.
The barrels are leveled with shaping rings next, and ready for lids to be put on. A&K fills the barrels with water, pressurizes them to check for leaks, sands it, puts the logo on with a laser and wraps them in Mylar to prevent mold before shipping.
Kirby sells his Missouri white oak barrels all around the country for $350 a barrel.
Next to the cooperage is Cooper’s Oak Winery, another family-owned business, which sells a variety of wine, some with titles of family members such as “Lucy’s Luscious Rosé” and “Michelle’s Sweet Red.”
About the class
Students in the Wine Country Writing class, taught by Nina Furstenau, will be getting a chance to examine not only wine culture and how to write about it, but also how wine is produced and agricultural issues in the vineyard. During this four-day field reporting trip to Missouri wineries in the Ste. Genevieve, Augusta and Hermann areas, students will see A&K Cooperage in Higbee, watch Missouri oak barrels being produced, talk with winemakers and vineyard managers, and learn directly from experts in the field. Join the class with their blog series as they meet the people behind the Missouri wine industry.
- Wine Country Series: Montelle Winery
- Wine Country Series: Adam Puchta Winery is 157 Years Strong
- Wine Country Series: Crown Valley Winery’s large production system
- Wine Country Series: Wine and biscotti at Cave Vineyard
- Wine Country Series: Family tradition, variety of bratwurst at Stonie
- Wine Country Series: Jerry Smith of River Ridge Winery
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