Story by Dave Eckert
You might not realize it, but it’s grape harvest time across the metro. While not as powerful or pervasive as, say, California’s wine industry, the wine biz in Missouri and Kansas is still big. How big? Well, according to missouriwine.org, the Missouri wine industry has a $1.76 billion impact on the state’s economy. And, if you didn’t know it, prior to prohibition, Missouri was the second largest wine producing state in the nation.
Across the state line, I had the chance to visit with Dennis Reynolds, the co-founder of Somerset Ridge Vineyard & Winery in Paola, KS, one of many local wineries that Kansas Citians have the opportunity to partake from. He shared some insights on the challenges and rewards of winemaking in this part of the country.
“This is our 16th harvest. I’d say the biggest lesson we’ve learned in that you can make really good wine here, but you have to have the right grapes in the right location and pray that you get the right weather conditions,” Reynolds shared.
Photo courtesy of Somerset Ridge Vineyard and Winery
Red Fox Winery in Urich, Missouri knows this too and chose their location as it has a very distinct climate, soil, elevation and land profile which helps develop and accumulate sugars and acids. The hot summer sun during the day along with the awaiting cool night helps develop the grape flavonoids color (anthocyanins) and mouthfeel (tannins) primarily in red varieties, while enhancing the aroma (monoterpenes) in the white varieties, shared Nick Jaberian, who owns the winery along with his wife Mina.
“It’s not as easy to grow grapes and make wine in Kansas and Missouri as it is in California, but it can be fruitful,” Reynolds stated. “On the white side, we plant Chardonnay and Viognier along with Traminette and Chardonel. Our best red grape is Cabernet Franc, and then there’s Norton, which many believe is a grape native to North America, and Crimson Cabernet, which is a 50-50 cross of Cabernet Sauvignon and Norton.” Reynolds is particularly excited about the prospects of his Crimson Cabernet, a wine that’s already garnered some medals in competitions, including a double gold.
Another award-winning winery can also be found on the Kansas side. HOLY-FIELD Vineyard & Winery in Basehor, KS has been perfecting their process over the years, resulting in winning numerous domestic and international awards for their fine wines. With their first vines planted back in 1986, their annual harvest is now about 7,000 gallons of wine made from their ten varieties of grapes.
As the weather has transitioned to warm days and cooler nights, the harvest has begun at the local vineyards, starting with white grapes. They will be wrapping things up in October when the reds are picked, including Somerset’s Cabernet Crimson. I hope Reynolds saves me a bottle or two of that Cab Crimson as I’d really like to try it. Cheers!