On our annual trek north to Helen's family farm in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan we like to remain overnight in Anamosa, Iowa, which is on the east side of the state. Anamosa is pretty much like both Lansing and Leavenworth in that a state prison is a major factor in the town.
We go to Anamosa to stop in for supper at Daly's Winery and Bistro in their old downtown. It is the kind of place that I would want to operate locally if I had the money and the gumption to take the chance to start something like this and carry it through.
It is supposedly the only combination winery and fine-dining restaurant in Iowa. The owner greets you at the door and will either send you over to the seating area or ask you about your interest in wine. They make all of the wine that they sell at Daly's. They buy the fruit and juices from wherever they can get it.
Growing fruit is an agricultural process while making wine is a biochemical process and you seldom find a place where they do both on the same property unless they have a lot of land and they have very knowledgeable workers in both arenas. It is not uncommon for wineries to buy all of their juice.
My idea is to have a restaurant in Leavenworth at which the local school district would provide the chef and the students to work the restaurant side of the operation. I taught at a vo-tech school in New Jersey where a professional chef taught the kitchen skills and the students made the meals. I don't believe that they served the meals at the tables, but this could be done if there was a restaurant that cooperated to train students in the service industry while they were also learning to cook and bake.
Because there are complications with alcohol and the age of students, I would also have a program, like they do in Walla Walla, Washington, where the local community college taught wine making. In my opinion, there are opportunities for young people to learn a skill like wine making so that they could either work at a winery or someday operate their own.
The Walla Walla community went from a minimal number of wineries to now where the wine-making class is a major function in the community and they have numerous wineries. It also encouraged local land owners to grow the fruits necessary to feed the wineries since most wineries purchase their fruits or juices and do not raise them for themselves.
A good winery program can bring life to a rural economy by adding a symbiotic relationship between farmers and winery operators. When the fruits are grown locally, it also reduces the costs for transportation. I buy lots of fruits from local producers and I even go to Overbrook, Kan., to pick fruits. I also buy from a vineyard in California through a program at one of the wine-making shops in Kansas City. A bunch of area wine makers buy a small amount of grapes or juice to use at home. This way we can make a good vinifera grape-based wine without growing it ourselves.
Page 2 of 2 - These kinds of programs take cooperation and organization and I find that Missouri is very big in putting together the growers and makers. They even conduct wine-making workshops and fruit growing seminars so that people can get together to become successful at both fruit growing and wine making.
Will it ever happen in Leavenworth County? I don't know, but I know that it is happening elsewhere in the country and it could happen here. I hope it does someday.
Matt Nowak lives in Lansing and works as a natural resources manager.