Overland Park's first winery impresses with award-winning hybrids.
Making local wine is easy. Grow some grapes and crush them, then put the result in a bottle. It’s making good wine locally that makes for a challenge, and I’m always happy when I find a new source in either Missouri or Kansas for the kind of wines that can make Kansas City proud.
My introduction to Aubrey Vineyards, came when an old customer came through the door. This time, he came toting the wine bag of a sales rep, and he announced that our roles were now officially reversed, and I was the customer. Ryan Oldham serves as Aubrey Vineyard’s tasting and sales coordinator, and though I tasted with my usual skeptic air, when we were through his lineup, nearly half a dozen different wines found a home with me.
Last year, the winery submitted a number of wines to The Jefferson Cup Invitational, a wine competition I have judged for many years, and blindly tasted they fared extremely well, winning multiple awards. Its tawny port-style wine was one of only a few wines from across the country to win the coveted Jefferson Cup. I decided it was time to learn more about this rapidly growing project.
The winery sources some fruit from out of state; cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay are secured from partner vineyards. I was excited to learn that they have 11 acres in southern Overland Park planted to a variety of hybrids. There are plans for a tasting room and event space in the vineyards, but with that not yet online, and winter being the least scenic time to walk the vines, I joined Oldham and Karine Hellwig, manager of sales and marketing, at the tasting room in downtown Overland Park.
And what a tasting room! You’ll find it tucked in the middle of Vinyl Renaissance & Audio at 7932 Santa Fe Drive.
“It’s great for helping people discover us,” Oldham says. “The record store has a lot of live shows, and people here to check out music also get to try our wines.”
The tasting room is open seven days a week, and tasting is free. There’s a full assortment of wines on display, and the fourth vintage for the winery is being bottled and readied for release.
From left: Karine Hellwig, Lucas Bell, Josh Webb and Ryan Oldham
“A lot of the wines are estate wines,” Oldham says. “The vinifera grapes are from partner vineyards out of state, but the hybrids are all from our property. We’re hoping to see more hybrids developed. The more, the better.”
“We have about 20 varieties planted,” Hellwig adds. “All of them are in commercial production. We’ve been averaging about 10,000 cases per year, with production increasing with each vintage.”
The winery has three lines of wines: Premier, Trail Rider and Varietals.
“We’ve got a series of sweet blends with fun-loving labels,” Oldham says.
The core of the winery’s production is the mid-tier Varietals series, with an upper-tier called the Premier.
“Those are geared toward drier drinkers,” Oldham says, though the new semi-dry chambourcin is a standout, and the award-winning tawny port is in this line. There’s also an option for a custom-designed label. For an extra $4 to $5, a buyer can add a colorful label from the assortment Aubrey has in-house, or choose to design their own and bring it in themselves.
“One customer put together a special label to propose to his now-fiancee,” Oldham says.
This is a fast-growing operation, and, based on the trophy shelf in the tasting room, one that is already on well on its way to being a real Kansas success story.
The crew at the tasting room was kind enough to show me a wide assortment of their wines. These were all fun to taste and definitely recommendable. These are available at the tasting room and at many local retailers.
Chambourcin Rosé ($12) – One of the great hybrid varieties, chambourcin makes a bright red and a lively rosé. The Aubrey version is just a hint off-dry, with bright strawberry fruit and a faint hint of grape jelly.
Chambourcin ($18) – A personal favorite of mine from Aubrey, this has oodles of raspberry and strawberry fruit. A pinot drinker’s wine.
Trail Rider Red ($14) – Shows more sweetness and flesh, with lush grape and black cherry fruit.
Catawba ($14) – This light red could almost be a rosé. Catawba is one of America’s most famous grapes, and the Aubrey version has enough juicy acidity to balance its sugar. Think of gourmet strawberry preserves.
Trail Rider White ($14) – Just a hint of sugar here. Bright tropical fruit and hints of honey. Very fresh.
Traminette ($18) – This is a touch sweeter, but still enough acidity to keep it lively. White flowers and ripe peach with a clean finish.
Vidal Blanc ($14) – Intense flowers and a little stony. Off-dry, with peach and pear and a mineral-y close.
For more information, visit aubreyvineyards.com.