Although Kansas may not have the same reputation for wine production as states such as California and Oregon, it has a long history of viticulture. Prior to the Prohibition in the early 1900s, Kansas and neighboring Missouri made up one of the largest winemaking regions in the United States.
Today, Kansas is home to excellent wineries along three main tourist routes: the Glacial Hills Wine Trail, Somerset Wine Trail, and Kaw Valley Wine Trail. While there are several award-winning winemakers on these trails, the following are two exceptional wineries to begin exploring wine country in the Sunflower State.
Holy-Field Vineyard & Winery
Located in Basehor, outside Kansas City, Holy-Field Vineyard & Winery has 14 acres planted with 10 grape varieties. Its wines have won several awards over the years, including 12 awards from the Jefferson Cup Invitational Wine Competition. The award-winners include several vintages of Vignoles, a white wine that features honey and fruit flavors. The 2017 vintage won the Jefferson Cup and several other awards, and the 2018 vintage won the Silver Medal at both the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition and the Pacific Rim International Wine Competition.
Red wine lovers can try the Cynthiana, a peppery wine aged in American oak barrels. The 2017 vintage took home the Gold Medal at the Indy International Wine Competition and the Silver Medal at the Jefferson Cup Invitational. Another award-winning wine from Holy-Field is the Yogi Berry. The 2018 vintage of this blackberry-flavored wine won the Silver Medal at four major wine competitions, including the Florida International Wine Competition and the Indy International.
Holy-Field Vineyard & Winery hosts a number of events, including Picking Sundays in August and September. Guests can sign up to help pick grapes, with a new varietal picked each Sunday. After the picking, the winery treats guests to a buffet in the Banquet Room. Visitors can then observe the crushing of the grapes and taste the juice created during this process.
The winery also hosts several events throughout the summer, including concerts, murder mystery dinner theater, and dueling piano entertainment. To learn more about Holy-Field Vineyard & Winery, visit www.holyfieldwinery.com.
Somerset Ridge Vineyard & Winery
Located south of Kansas City near the Missouri border, Somerset Ridge Vineyard & Winery produces 12 different grape varietals. Many are varietals of vitis vinifera, the European grape species most often used in winemaking around the world. However, the winery also grows Cynthiana-Norton grapes, a cultivar derived from vitis aestivalis, a species of grape native to North America. The winery’s other varietals are European-American hybrids. Somerset Ridge began planting in spring 1998 and now has over 8,000 vines.
The winery’s diverse selection includes several dry reds, including the Ruby Red, which features blackcurrant and raspberry fruit flavors. Aged in American oak barrels, this wine was a finalist at the Jefferson Cup Invitational Wine Competition. The winery’s reds also include the Flyboy Red, which is named after the late Lt. Col. Arch Tucker, one of the U.S. Air Force’s first jet fighter pilots. This red wine blend is ideal for those who enjoy Pinot Noirs and Merlots.
In addition, Somerset Ridge produces three dry whites, including a Chardonnay that is aged in American oak barrels and features tropical fruit notes and a dry finish. The winery’s Chardonel, a derivative of Chardonnay, is a dry white with a finish of green apple and pears. The final dry white is the Traminette, which features a floral bouquet and tropical fruit flavors.
Also offering semi-sweet reds, Somerset Ridge produces the Concordia, which is made exclusively with Concord grapes and contains grape jelly flavors. Other semi-sweet reds include the Buffalo Red, which won the Best Red Wine award at the Kansas State Fair; and the Buffalo Blush, a refreshing pink wine that’s ideal for summer.
The winery’s semi-sweet whites include the Jefferson Cup-winning Oktoberfest. This German-style wine was recognized as one of the 20 best wines in the country. Another excellent option in the semi-sweet white category is the off-dry Riesling, the first such wine to be produced with grapes grown in Kansas. Meanwhile, the Buffalo White features delicious tropical fruit flavors and a silky-smooth finish.
Somerset Ridge also produces several dessert wines, including an apple wine called Avalon, which is made with apples grown nearby at Louisburg Cider Mill. The Citron is similar to limoncello and is made with organic lemons, white wine, and brandy. Finally, the winery makes a Tawny Port and Ruby Port, as well as a wine called Ambrosia, which is created with Traminette grapes.
In addition to offering tastings, Somerset Ridge Vineyard & Winery hosts a number of concerts and musical events throughout the year. To learn more about the winery’s products and browse upcoming events, visit SomersetRidge.com.
The above two wineries are only an introduction to Kansas’ many excellent winemakers. When visiting, be sure to stop by some of the other wineries along the state’s three designated wine trails. You may find that the Sunflower State becomes one of your favorite destinations for touring vineyards and sampling excellent, award-winning wines.