White Mule Winery: A Taste of Community
July 20, 2020
In 1861, Charles (Charlie) Schlottach's great-great-grandfather literally followed wagon wheels from Germany to central Missouri, serving as a blacksmith along Missouri's "iron road" near Owensville, Missouri. Charlie’s grandkids are now the sixth generation of Schlottachs to grow up in this community. All three of Charlie's children and his wife, Karen, work at White Mule Winery or on the family’s farming operation. To say the Schlottachs have roots would be an understatement.
White Mule Winery is a celebration of those roots, their community and Missouri agriculture as a whole. From the winery's name which was to honor the farm's previous owner who was known to farm with a pair of white mules well into the '80s, to the walls of their winery which are clad with local barn wood, White Mule is an ode to central Missouri's heritage and sustainability.
If you visit the winery located next to the sharp turn on Highway 50, you'll likely see the current team of white mules "Margaret" and "May" enjoying retirement. You'll also see a family-run business that thrives on the Schlottach family tradition of good food, good wines and good conversations.
Charlie can vouch for all of these because his family has played a role in each step. The Schlottachs sustainably produce most items offered at White Mule Winery. Nearly every steak comes from their own cattle raised in the rolling hills and processed in their own harvesting facility. Many of their wines come from the vineyard they planted 17 years ago, and the conversation is always flowing between White Mule patrons and the friendly Schlottach family and staff.
"We just talk about our community, our collective community and what we're trying to do to be sustainable and share those values. We think that those old-timers have a lot of things right with how they eat well, sip well and communicate with each other," Charlie says. "We sit down, communicate, and celebrate life."
If you were to join White Mule for one of their Friday steak dinners, you'll likely see Charlie and be invited to their outdoor grill to see your steak be prepared over hot embers from oak wine barrels, as he recommends to pair your steak with their Norton, which also carries oak notes.
"When you know what you know about the wine you're serving them and the food you're serving them, it's really rewarding because you know the quality of it," Charlie says. "It's tremendously rewarding when your customers are satisfied. They come back, and then they send their friends."
While the White Mule may seem rural, it is the gathering place for its community. It proudly hosts local meetings, counsels, celebrations and even weddings. This is what the Schlottach family hoped for when they created the winery, because they've long known the importance of the community they know, love and have served for nearly a decade.
Serving his community and promoting Missouri agriculture is nothing new for 65-year-old Charlie. He spent nearly 20 years selling cattle feed, followed by 17 years in politics. While serving in the Missouri House of Representatives, Charlie realized more and more Missourians were asking the right questions about their food. In White Mule Winery, Charlie saw a way to provide an answer, build a family business and promote his community.
"I have never seen any better opportunity for rural Missouri with what we have to offer with value-added agriculture than what we have right now," Charlie said. "When you have a story to go with it and you can stand behind your product, it is a powerful thing and people appreciate it."
Stories always abound at the White Mule Winery, whether they're about food and wine or celebrating the latest happenings in the community. Stories bring Missourians together, and as Charlie will tell you, some of the best ones are often shared with neighbors.
"See what is in your own community. Check what is in your backyard. There are hidden places with foods and wines that can surpass your expectations. Sometimes local is just as good as anything that you can find around the world," he says. "Stay near home; check it out. Your friends and neighbors will probably be there, and they're probably there now."