Sold-out conference in Topeka a sign of excitement
Though not on the same level as California’s Napa Valley or regions of New York and Washington state, Kansas nonetheless is developing a reputation as one of the nation’s leading areas for vineyards and wineries.
More than 150 attendees turned out for the 28th annual Kansas Grape Growers and Winemakers Association conference, which concluded its two-day run Saturday at the Ramada West, 605 S.W. Fairlawn.
Bob DesRuisseaux, owner of Prairie Fire Winery in Paxico and one of the conference organizers, said business is booming for wineries in the Sunflower State.
As evidence, he said, this year’s conference was a sellout, as all spaces for attendees, vendors and the Saturday night banquet were snatched up.
“There is a lot of excitement,” DesRuisseaux said. “Our industry is growing. There is a lot of interest in winemaking in Kansas.”
The annual conference featured workshops on a wide array of topics ranging from recovering from drought to improving wine quality.
A key, DesRuisseaux said, is that winemakers in Kansas see each other as “allies” rather than competitors. When one winery excels, the others around it are likely to do so as well.
He said grape growers and winemakers are encouraged to share what they have learned with others in the same field, so as to help the entire region prosper.
DesRuisseaux said winemaking is becoming a leading source of agritourism in Kansas, and that he “consistently” gets calls through the week from people who are driving through Kansas and want to stop at his winery.
“Everyone’s finding out there is great wine in Kansas,” DesRuisseaux said. “Consumers are coming out and experiencing it.”
He said out-of-state visitors typically find out about Kansas wineries by reading about them on the Internet or hearing about them through word of mouth. Additionally, many wine connoisseurs hear about Kansas wine when a commercial enterprise from the Sunflower State wins or scores high in international competitions.
The end result of the boom in Kansas winemaking is that it is good for the state’s economy, he said, as it drums up people who will make a point of coming here for wine and visits to vineyards.
When people come to a winery, DesRuisseaux said, they not only purchase wine but also gasoline, food from restaurants and other products.
“We’re very tourism-driven,” he said. “It really draws people into our state.”
At present, Kansas has 33 farm wineries, which are spread out across the state.
James A. Wolpert, a professor emeritus in viticulture and enology at the University of California at Davis, was among the presenters at this weekend’s Kansas Grape Growers and Winemakers Association conference.
A widely published author and noted expert in winemaking, Wolpert said he was impressed with the wines he sampled during a Friday night event at the conference. He told conference attendees the wine he sampled was as good as any he has tasted.
“The proof is always in the glass,” he said, “and that’s what I found last night.”
The original article can be found here: http://cjonline.com/news/2014-01-18/wineries-putting-kansas-vineyard-map