Published March 24th, 2016 at 4:24 PM
First Friday has always been about openings – a chance to experience something new from an artist’s palette. On the First Friday in April, it will finally be your palate’s turn. KC Wineworks (1829 McGee Street), a new tasting room and winery, will hold its grand opening next Friday, April 1, at 5 p.m.
“We wanted to make wine in Kansas City and showcase wine in Kansas City,” said tasting room manager Lindsay Clausen. “We want to introduce people to how we like our wines and we hope they like them too.”
On a recent Wednesday, Clausen is behind the gear-shaped bar in the new winery’s tasting room. Her husband, James Lowery, is giving an impromptu tour to staff from the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce. The winemaker leads them through the clean and modern space with stained concrete floors, Edison bulb chandeliers, and white walls. He gestures to the barrel room, where wine from the last two harvests is being held in 10 barrels made of Missouri white oak.
The grapes are from Missouri growers, including his parents’ land a little over five miles outside of Macon, Missouri. His parents, Jeanne Hunt and Robert Lowery, are the owners of KC Wineworks. Robert Lowery grew up on the farm outside Macon, hand-milking 35 cows alongside his father and brother.
He bought 160 acres of land in 1974, which, by his estimates, had been used for subsistence farming for close to a century-and-a-half. Robert planted the first grapes on a few hills in 2003. Over the past decade, he’s winnowed his experiments from 16 varietals down to four: Norton, Vignole, Chardonel, and Chambourcin.
“We’ve got heavy clay, which is not the best grape growing soil in the world,” said Robert Lowery. “We’re just trying to produce the best thing with the crop we have.”
Lowery had sold grapes to other wineries for a number of years, but it wasn’t until James moved back to the area that the family considered producing its own wine for sale. A former commercial diver, James spent the past three years immersing himself in the world of wine making. He served as an assistant at the Stone Pillar Vineyard and Winery in Olathe, Kansas, and spent several months at a winery in New Zealand before building out the program at Silver Leaf Vineyard in Macon.
“We wanted to highlight that Midwest wines can be well presented whether they’re dry or off dry,” said Clausen. “James is not going to try and force the grapes to do something they don’t want to do.”
They’ve named a pair of their staples, Crossroads Red & White, after the neighborhood. The Crossroads White is a blend of Vignoles, Vidal Blanc and Chadonel grapes. KC Wineworks will also be serving a pair of charcuterie plates – one for each of the Crossroads blends – created by The Sundry.
“The Crossroads was a perfect fit for us because it’s all about collaboration,” said Clausen. “Wine making is collaborative. And here you this maker culture with craft breweries, distilleries, and artists. It’s this great blend.”
In addition to wine, KC Wineworks is also producing cider. Apfel is a crisp cider, inspired by the current trend of sour beers. It’s made with apples sourced from Missouri orchards. While the wine behind the bar will be available by the glass, as well as in tasting flights (four hand-picked by James Lowery for each First Friday), the cider will only be available in bottles.
While Clausen manages the tasting room and adjoining event space that looks onto the barrel room, her husband James will oversee the storage cellar and production facility in back. A sparkling Chambourcin Rose is in next on the docket and a reserve Norton from the 2014 harvest is also in the works.
“Wine is an art form and we’re right in the middle of the arts neighborhood,” said Clausen. “We got in where the creative juices are flowing and there is lots to inspire us.”
The new winery’s grand opening is next Friday from 5 to 9 p.m. KC Wineworks will be open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday (on Fridays other than First Fridays), and 12 to 6 p.m. Saturday.
— Jonathan Bender writes about food trends for KCPT’s Flatland, and is the founder of the Recommended Daily.