Whether you are a true wine aficionado, choose your wines based on how pretty the bottle looks, or fall somewhere in between, anyone can get out and enjoy tasting and learning about wines.
But what can be even more fun, is learning how the wine gets from the vine, to your table. There’s a whole system to growing and harvesting wine grapes and I had an opportunity to experience that first-hand, literally, at a wonderful winery in the Kansas City area.
Set on picturesque, rolling limestone hills in Somerset, Kansas just 45 minutes from downtown (downtown Kansas City, Missouri and Kansas City, Kansas), Somerset Ridge Vineyard and Winery is a great city escape. A family-owned artisanal operation led by husband and wife proprietors Cindy and Dennis Reynolds, the vineyard and winery sets the stage for production of their over 8,000 grape vines that produce 13 different varieties, including traditional European varieties such as Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and all American Cynthiana-Norton, among others.
In addition to being one of the few commercial vineyards in the Midwest that grows both vitis vinifera (a common European grape cultivated in many varieties) and hybrid vines, they Reynolds use sustainable farming methods without the use of pesticides or synthetic fertilizers. They also prune their vines and harvest their grapes entirely by hand to improve the quality of their wines.
This is where I came in on a beautiful, early, sunny Sunday morning when several friends and I drove to the vineyard, joining about a dozen other wine enthusiasts to spend a few hours harvesting their plump Traminette (a kind of sweet white) grapes. After giving us an overview of where to find the grapes, how to snip them (how not to snip our fingers in the process!) and where to place our full palettes, we set off amongst the verdant rows of this hybrid whose main parent grape is the French/German Gewurztraminer.
For the next two hours we snipped, laughed, met new people and really embraced this exciting new (to me anyway; some of the other wine-lovers come very year, they love it so much) way to understand and gain a greater appreciation for the pastime which plays a major role in many places and cultures around the world.
Somerset’s grapes include Chardonel, Chardonnay, Aprhrodite (a cross between Cynthiana and a popular grape from Portugal), and Cabernet Doré (a cross between Cabernet Sauvignon and Cynthiana that yields a white wine). Reds run deep here, encompassing some outstanding (as we found out later in the tasting room) wines such as their Chambourcin, Zinithiana, Cabernet Franc, Cynthiana (Norton), Crimson Cabernet, Chancellor and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Our “prize” for the day, as if sampling their wines was not enough, was enjoying a sumptuous lunch prepared by their special event, in-house chef (Cindy’s mother) al fresco on their outdoor patio with a guitarist/vocalist and a cool summer breeze as our backdrop. Like all vintners I have met over the years, the Reynolds truly love what they’re doing and enjoy the opportunity to share knowledge about wine and wine production.
Their tasting room is open Wednesdays through Sundays. In it you will also find a wide variety of wine accoutrement (openers, stoppers, cheeseboards and knives, and the like), fun wine t-shirts (I particularly liked “You had me at Merlot!”), olives, oils and tapenades, and other wonderful kitchen, serving and boutique gifts.
We’ll head out to the vineyard in our next adventure here!