Wines from Kansas
If you’re from this area, you may already know that lots of wine was produced in Kansas and Missouri prior to Prohibition. In fact, in the 1880s Missouri was the largest producer of wines in the US. Since Prohibition ended, Missouri has recovered nicely and now has over 125 local wineries. Kansas was slower to recover due to more restrictive state laws, however, those laws were loosened recently to promote agri-tourism, and now Kansas wineries are booming. With a climate and soils similar to Missouri, Kansas is a great growing area for wine grapes.
Aubrey Vineyard (Overland Park, KS)
2010 marked the acquisition of approximately 200 acres in southern Overland Park, Johnson County, Kansas. Much of the land was and still is being used by crop and livestock farmers. On the way back from a trip to Napa, we realized the land could also be used to grow grapes, make wine, and host events. Along with one of Kansas City’s most renowned architects, area for the first five acres of grapes was marked out. Plans were submitted to the Overland Park zoning committee, and Aubrey Vineyards made it’s mark in history by getting approved to become Overland Park’s first winery. With the help of another local winery, the trellis, watering system, and grape plants were installed by May of 2012. Approximately 3100 grape vines were planted. The vine seedlings were selected from ideal winemaking varietals that thrive in this climate. The initial planting covered 5 acres. Successive plantings in 2013 and 2014 increased the size of the vineyard to 11 acres. It takes about 3 years for the vines to start producing a significant quantity of grapes, so we had our first Overland Park harvest in the fall of 2015.
The area where the grapes are planted, just south of River Ridge, is one the highest elevations in this area and has gentle slopes of fertile, loamy soil that is low in clay content. This is perfect for grape vines. The high location affords breezes on most days which ward off vine diseases, and the slopes and porous loam keep the soil well-drained.
Pictured above right: Year old vines in the morning sun. June 2013.
Early Vintage Years for Aubrey Vineyards
While waiting for the Overland Park vines to mature, early hunts for winemaking equipment and Kansas grapes allowed the team at Aubrey Vineyards to discover a former Kansas winery and mature vineyard near Oskaloosa, KS and an additional mature vineyard in Tonganoxie, KS. Grapes grown in these two locations were harvested for Aubrey Vineyard's early vintages and used to start wine production at the Overland Park, Kansas location.
History of the Land of Aubrey Vineyard
Prior to the mid 1800’s the Overland Park land was occupied by the Black Bob tribe of Indians that had split off from the Shawnees. Their reservation was situated in the southeastern part of the county, at the sources of the Blue and Tomahawk creeks, consisting of over 33,000 acres lying in Oxford, Aubry, Spring Hill and Olathe townships. After the Civil War, the Aubrey Vineyards land was sold and deeded to the former owner’s family from whom we purchased the land. They said General Ulysses Grant signed the land deed. There are stories of wagon-train trails and Indian artifacts being found on the land. There are even stories of Quantrill’s raiders hiding out in the ravines on the land before his raid in Lawrence, KS.
Although the Aubrey Vineyards land is part of Overland Park, much of the surrounding land is part of Stilwell, an unincorporated community in the Aubry Township of Johnson County. Research indicates that the township was probably named after Francoise Xavier Aubry, a famous French-Canadian trail merchant and explorer. His last name was spelled with an “e” before the “y” by the early mapmakers, and many of the places that were named after him, such as Fort Aubrey, Aubrey Cutoff, Aubrey Landing and Aubrey Peak, were spelled with the “e”. According to Wikipedia, both spellings are of French origin. While naming the vineyard, we ran across this piece of history and thought the name “Aubrey” saluted not only the French known for their outstanding wines, but also the local history of this part of Johnson County.
Pictured right: Vines' first winter at sunset. December 2012.