Tuesday, October 4

kristin & stephen

Kristin & Stephen | Winemakers
Service Industry Detour
Seven years ago, Kristin and Stephen found a grapevine on their land, an Old Wild Hedgerow. When they bought their Louisburg property in 1995, they had no intentions of starting a winery. But just for fun, they decided to restore the grapevine and in the process of bringing it back to life, got hooked on winemaking. Both went to school to learn enology and came away with completely different perspectives, showing that there is no one way of making wine. It's all about the passion from the people who make it.

By day, Kristin is Vice President of Finance and Administration for The Family Conservancy and Stephen is a Human Resources Director for Comanche Construction in Olathe. But when they punch the clock at the end of they day, it's all about their grapes and the agriculture and chemistry of wine making. Kristin is the vintner while Stephen the cellar rat, does all the heavy lifting.

"This year was tough," Kristin says. "The hot weather has mummified the grapes and harvesting takes a bit longer." What she means by "a bit" is that it takes twice as long. First, you have to cut the grapes from the vine and then remove the dried grapes from the bunch. "I'm lucky that Katrin (her daughter) brings all her friends out here to help us pick."

In addition to growing and tending their young vineyard, they also play host to visitors who stop by their tasting room every weekend. Kristin knew she would enjoy working the vineyards, she just wasn't so sure she would like being open to the public. "I found out that the people part is what I love," she says. "The people are so interesting and want to learn. I didn't know I would like that part so much." Between her job in the city and her life on the farm, Kristin says she has the best of both worlds. 

With their 40-hour work weeks and work on the farm, there's not a lot of time to laze about and watch television. Kristin and Stephen had placed most of their belongings in storage while their home was being built and way, way back at the end of the storage unit, was the television. Placed there by accident, they lived without reality television, commercials and sitcoms for an entire year, and afterwards, realized they didn't need it. "We don't have TV at all," Kristin says with a laugh. "We missed the whole Seinfeld thing."

Stephen definitely does not need television: he writes poetry, paints, is a musician and teaches the art of t'ai chi. He is also a witty and funny facebook netizen. His on-line persona allows him to be someone different than he is in normal, every day life.

Stephen said they had a kid out at the farm last year, about eight or nine-years old, who had never seen a walnut before. "What's this?" the boy had asked. "A walnut," Stephen said. "Can I have it?" the boy said, completely covered in walnut ink. He told this story with a big smile and that joy of teaching and sharing is evident in both Stephen and Kristin. There is no artifice about the winemaking couple. Dressed comfortably and casually in jeans and t-shirts with green aprons, they seem to have mastered the art of living simply.

You can visit Kristin and Stephen most weekends at the Graue Family Farm. They are part of the Somerset Wine Trail and during the third week of October, they will also be part of the annual Miami County Farm Tour. You can taste their wines, check out their vineyards, meet their farm dogs and maybe, just maybe, Kristin and Stephen will let you have a walnut of your own. 

  Make KC Better » Kristin: I would try to improve the outcomes and learning conditions in the KCMO School District. Good education is a basic building block for children's futures, and impacts all of our communities in the long run! Stephen: I would make KC better by smiling and spreading happiness to those I meet and try not to take serious things so seriously. 


Kate O. said...

Oh, I love this post.

Two brothers. One camera. said...

Out of the many wonderful posts this is my favorite one, by far. Great Job T+L.