Archive for Thursday, May 13, 2004

Winery celebrating 10-year run

From humble beginnings, Holy-Field emerges as producer of award-winning wines

May 13, 2004

In 1986, Les and Michelle Meyer began growing grapes on their 14 acres of land simply because they wanted to make their own wine. In 1994, the father-daughter combination began making wine for more people than just themselves.

"When we started the vineyard, we had maybe 400 plants," Michelle said. "Now, we're up around 12,000."

The Meyers are the owners and operators of Holy-Field Vineyard and Winery, 18807 158th Street, one of the most recognizable and successful businesses in Basehor. This summer, Holy-Field will celebrate its 10-year anniversary.

According to experts, the Meyers, like wine, get better with age. Judges at competitions ranging from Florida to California -- the Mecca of wine making in the United States -- have sung Holy-Field's praises.

So far in 2004, the winery has earned 34 awards for its vintage wines. This year also has brought national exposure to the winery, outside of the standard-fare industry competitions.

A feature on the Fine Living Network is scheduled to air sometime soon; a television commercial is on the tube now and then there are spots in Discover Mid-America Magazine and the Kansas Get Away Guide.

If your winery is surrounded by the rolling hills of the Nappa Valley or among the chateaux of Bordeaux, you might expect that kind of exposure. When it's seated next to a U.S. Highway and neighbored by cornfields, it's a different story.

But, as has been the logic of the Meyers in their 10 years, bigger doesn't mean better. That philosophy has helped the Kansas pair compete with wine producers from bigger, more traditional wine producing regions.

"A lot of people think bigger is better," Michelle said. "We don't. We think that better is better. We think that quality is better."

From humble beginnings, this competition-slaying winery was born.

In 1986, Les and Michelle Meyer started growing grapes for their own winemaking. However, their crop production outweighed what they could consume themselves, so they started selling grapes as produce.

When that didn't make a dent, the Meyers faced a dilemma: what to do with a surplus of fruit. Barring a move into the jelly business, that meant only one thing -- producing wine for connoisseurs and everyday consumers alike.

"As the vineyard grew, we exceeded what we could make," Michelle said. "We started selling grapes but we had more volume than market and we couldn't make a living selling just grapes so we added wine.

"It's been a real evolution that got us here."

In 1994, the Meyers acquired a federal license to produce wine. Despite its widespread acclaim, Holy-Field's founders are still the winery's primary labor force.

That, along with the winery's philosophy of quality over quantity, won't ever change, Michelle said. In the next 10 years, she said, you can expect Holy-Field to resemble what it does today.

"We want to stay a boutique-style winery," Michelle said. "We plan to be here, right here on this corner."

Throughout the summer months, Holy-Field Vineyard and Winery will host "Summertime Music Series," a series of jazz concerts with catered food. The first concert in the series is set for May 23.

Reservations are necessary and anyone interested should contact the winery at (913) 724-9463.

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