MILLERSBURG, Mo. — A resident duck at Serenity Valley Winery doesn't jingle when she walks, but maybe one day, she will.
Jezebel had a minor mishap with a Christmas ornament as a young bird.
"She swallowed a jingle bell," said Regina Ruppert, who owns the property with her husband, Lee.
Ruppert said there were five ducks under suspicion when the ornament went missing, but none of them jingled while waddling. This necessitated a trip to the vet to reveal the guilty culprit — determined to be Jezebel. She seems no worse for the experience.
"That's why she's the only duck with a name," Regina added.
Since the Rupperts purchased the acreage that would become Serenity Valley Winery in 2011, it's become a popular attraction and a serene haven for the former St. Louis-area couple.
"This is our retirement," Regina Ruppert said. "My husband's been making wine since 1993. This is his passion."
The house and a pole barn perfect for winemaking were already built. Some improvements have been made to create a gorgeous venue for events, including weddings and parties.
Last summer, the Rupperts received a U.S. Department of Agriculture low-interest loan through the Callaway County Chamber of Commerce, used to invest in local businesses looking to be expanded or created. The program, according to Bruce Hackmann, economic development director at the Callaway chamber, was the second loan make through the USDA Intermediary Business Relending Program.
"It's a revolving loan fund administered by the chamber through the USDA," Hackmann said, adding the Playhouse Bistro in Fulton was the first loan made. "The whole idea is to build a revolving loan fund that can continue to fund projects going forward."
The Rupperts used their loan to install a huge, all-weather tent with an easily maintained concrete floor.
"The tent is 40 by 80 (feet) and it's bolted into concrete," Regina Ruppert said. "It's great. I had 420 people in for a (Mizzou) mom's weekend, with two buffet lines."
The wine-tasting room also was updated and several bathrooms, including those ADA compliant, also were added. Seven bathrooms are now available to guests.
The couple initially opened their winery in a strip mall near St. Louis, but the mall failed to attract other anchor businesses.
"I say it was visibly invisible," Regina said.
They couldn't get out of their five-year lease, but in 2011 when the found the 60-acre property at 1888 County Road 342 (just off State Route J), they jumped to buy it.
"It was open and grassy," she said. "We loved it."
Lee, formerly a project manager for IBM, retired about a year and a half ago and is now a full-time winemaker.
"We're starting to grow grapes," Regina said. "We ferment and bottle, and everything is made here. These are all (Lee's) recipes."
Serenity Valley Winery offers 18 varieties, mostly with fruit accents. "Spring Blossom," a green apple riesling and "Serenade," a peach/apricot wine, are silver medal winners. "Sigh No More," a raspberry cabernet sauvignon, won double gold at the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition in New York last year.
The Rupperts' participation in local activities is much appreciated, according to Tamera Fitzpatrick, executive director of the Callaway chamber. For example, Serenity Valley donated a case of wine for Thursday's "Sip and Shop" event in Fulton's Brick District.
"Serenity Valley is a beautiful estate, and if people haven't ventured out that way, they should," Fitzpatrick said. "It's a little piece of heaven."
Serenity Valley Winery quickly became part of the community, hosting various chamber gatherings as well. This summer, two events this summer are being planned.
First is a strawberry festival, planned 4-8 p.m. June 10. There will be more than 20 vendors, food and more, and the event will raise funds for Central Missouri Honor Flight.
"That is going to be huge," Regina said, adding the winery will be serving strawberry wine and margaritas.
This event is being co-sponsored with Cherie Rutter of Cherie's Cake Boutique of Columbia.
"We don't have a clue how many people are coming," Rutter said. "We could have 100; we could have 1,000. But the more we have, the more veterans we can send on an honor flight."
Volunteers are also needed to help with the event; contact Regina.
There also will be a long weekend of Light and Shadow activities centering around the total solar eclipse, from Aug. 19 to Eclipse Day, Aug. 21. Sip with the Eclipse parties are planned each day, plus a barbecue competition, hot air balloon glow, live music and a viewing party.
"We're hoping to get more event out here, corporate and business events, graduations and weddings, even a mystery dinner theater," Regina said, adding future plans include another tent and a bandstand for concerts. "We've learned a lot since we've been out here."
Serenity Valley Winery is at 1888 County Road 342, just off State Route J, south of Millersburg. The website is serenitywinerymo.com. For more information and hours, call 573-642-6958.