PAOLA, Kan. — You don’t have to fly across America to visit wine country. About 45 minutes south of Kansas City, you’ll find Somerset Ridge Vineyard and Winery.
“We had customers in last weekend, and they sent a note to their friends in California saying, ‘Sorry, you can’t be with us. We’re out in Ka-Napa!’ And what a great name is that? Ka-Napa!” said owner Cindy Reynolds.
“Ka-Napa” may seem new, but the Midwest has a rich history of producing wine.
“I think what a lot of people don’t know though is that before Prohibition, the Midwest, particularly Missouri and eastern Kansas, were responsible for growing the grapes and making the wine for 90 percent of the United States,”
In fact, Cindy and Dennis Reynolds made history when they bought Somerset’s land more than 20 years ago. Somerset Ridge was the first winery in Miami County since statewide prohibition was enacted in 1881.
“It seemed like a fun idea to get out there and plant 8,000 grapevines. Honestly, I don’t think we knew what we were thinking,” Cindy said.
Their idea aged well. Somerset Ridge has more than 9,000 grapevines and they continue to add on more acres every year. And their kids are successful wine makers in the real Napa.
“We really think of ourselves first as farmers, you know, we grow the raw product that we turn around and use to make wine,” Cindy said.
They’re also boundary breakers, showing visitors that Kansas has a lot more to offer than rolling hills.
“A lot of folks talk about sunflowers, tornadoes, and buffalo when they come to Kansas. I think it’s a new realization that this amazing soil we have can produce so many terrific things,” Cindy said.