5 Wineries and A Distillery
For many “wine country” brings to mind images of the west coast or the Italian countryside, but few know that Kansas has a relationship with wine that traces back to the nineteenth century.
During that time European immigrants who had settled along the Kansas-Missouri border realized the defined seasons and fertile ground made perfect conditions for growing grapes. In 1861 a Swiss businessman named John Ulrich Smith seized on the opportunity to bring winemaking to Miami County. On his vineyard northwest of Paola, he produced 4,000 gallons of wine a season. Ulrich’s winemaking business became the largest eastern Kansas operation of the time.
The wine boom was unfortunately fleeting, and by the turn of the century the temperance movement and prohibition hampered local businesses.
In the last 30 years Kansas winemaking has made its comeback. Currently local vintners have planted about 20 vineyards throughout the county. While some of the harvest is used for private stock, much of it is used by the county’s five wineries that sell to the public.
Isinglass Estate16241 381th St., Lacygne, KS 66040, www.isinglassestate.com, 913-226-2287
Isinglass Estates is the largest vineyard in Kansas. More than 30 acres of grapes are grown at Isinglass with 38 tons being harvested annually. The tasting room offers wine sampling, wine slushies and hot or cold mixed drinks. The estate welcomes visitors of all ages. Parents can relax on the patio while the kiddos play oversized yard games or go for a pony ride. Families are encouraged to roam the grounds and hike, bike or ride on the trails found around the estate. Those who work up an appetite can grab a flatbread pizza or a few appetizers from the GastroPub Trolley.
Middle Creek Winery4353 W. 351 St, Louisburg, KS 66053, www.middlecreekwinery.com, 913-377-4689
NightHawk Vineyard and Winery
Paola, KS 66071
NightHawk Vineyard and Winery believes that good wine and good company are key ingredients for a good time. While they can’t guarantee the good company part, they do provide the ideal conditions to inspire good conversation. Visitors can sample artisan wines ranging from sweet desserts to full-bodied reds. The cozy tasting room and shaded patio provide a space to spread out and enjoy an afternoon picnic with family and friends. On Saturdays, Chef Josh offers a menu created with locally-sourced ingredients.
Somerset Ridge Vineyard and Winery
29725 Somerset Rd, Paola, KS 66071, www.somersetridge.com, 913-294-9646
In 2001, Dennis and Cindy Reynolds were the first to reintroduce winemaking into Miami County when they opened Somerset Ridge Vineyard and Winery. Since that time their winery has continued to emphasize sustainable and organic practices. Twelve varieties of grapes are grown without pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. All grapes are harvested by hand to ensure the highest quality. When visitors taste their 16 wines, they will taste the care that went into the making of it. Live music on Saturdays and food trucks on Sundays add a little spice to the weekend.
Fossil Spring Elderberry Farm and Winery20171 W. 327th St., Paola, KS 66071, www.fossilspringswinery.com, 913-339-8138
Fossil Springs Elderberry Farm & Winery is the newest addition to Miami County’s wine country and has a tasting room open to the public each weekend . Unlike the traditional grape-based wine, Fossil Springs grows elderberries on their farm in rural Paola. They also make blueberry, strawberry and blackberry wine. All of the wines are made in dry, semisweet and sweet varieties. All wines are made from 100% the fruit juice on the label, no other fruit juice added.
Bull Creek Distillery
20559 S. Lone Elm Rd., Spring Hill, KS 66083, www.bullcreekdistillery.com, 913-515-3578
Bull Creek Distillery’s mission is to be a family restaurant with a fun and laid-back environment, but its passion is to distill the perfect bourbon. This smoky whiskey with hints of oak is produced in small batches. Tastings are offered once a month with limited spots. Anyone interested in being part of the privileged few to taste this limited edition bourbon should keep a close eye on Bull Creek’s Facebook page where tasting are announced.