TWO SISTERS from the city inherit a large cattle farm in the Ozarks. It sounds like the start of a culture-shock sitcom, but where some might find humor, Steffie Littlefield and Cyndy Keesee saw an opportunity. After years of puzzling over what to do with the family land in Potosi, MO., the siblings planted a vineyard and turned their estate into a thriving winery. “It’s a complete business from the ground up—literally,” says Littlefield. “It’s been a fun learning experience.”
Ninety minutes south of St. Louis, near a bend in the Fourche a Renault Creek, Andrew S. Knapp founded Edg-Clif ranch nearly 80 years ago. His granddaughters, Littlefield and Keesee, spent their weekdays in school at Mary Institute and their weekends on the farm, watching him manage his 3,000 acres. They inherited the property in 1986. “We found ourselves owners of a cattle ranch and not in a position to run it at the time,” Littlefield says. To hold onto it, they leased it to a neighboring bison farm.
An afternoon visit to a winery near Ste. Genevieve inspired Littlefield to pursue grape growing. A landscape designer by trade, she figured she could plant a vineyard to help defray the farm’s upkeep costs. “I wanted something that would add value back to the property,” Littlefield says. Her sister who was living in Colorado at the time, was receptive. “She said, ‘I think I’d like to move back and be part of this,’” Littlefield recalls.
They enlisted professional help by touring wineries across the state, taking classes and requesting assessment from a University of Missouri agricultural extension agent, who thought their terrior* was perfect. “We’re in a little microclimate that is well-suited to this,” Littlefield says. The first grapes were planted in 2008 and the first harvest came in 2010. All five wines submitted to the Missouri Governor’s Cup in 2011 received medals.
By their second year in production, the operation was paying for itself. Littlefield is in charge of the viticulture and Keesee oversees the wine-making. “I’ve always been the resident cook,” Keesee says. “I have a good palate and a good nose. Those are really important when you’re making wine.” Their husbands contribute plenty of help, and the Littlefield’s middle daughter, a marketing professional, designs bottle labels that incorporate images of vintage Edg-Clif buildings. A barn-turned-tasting room is in the works. Edg-Clif wines are sold at The Wine Merchant, Friar Tuck and the Webster Groves Straub’s, as well as at summer food truck events in town.
Reviving their family farm has given Littlefield and Keesee great satisfaction. “I feel inspired by the land itself, and what has gone before us,” Keesee says. “We’re proud we’ve found a wonderful use for the property.”