Meet Kansas’s Black Wizards of Wine
The state of Kansas, The Sunflower State, is known as the fictional home of Dorothy from The Wiz and The Wizard of Oz, its location midway through the country, and in the nineteenth century it was a territory known for a robust grape-growing and wine-making economy. Enslaved labor often cultivated the grapes used for wine.
In 2021, three new (to many of us) winemakers are flourishing as Kansas winemakers, bringing diversity to the industry but also lending diversity to the ways in which people enjoy wine. Let’s meet these wizards of wine.
Zydeco Meadery in Wamego, Kansas is a family-owned and operated meadery that makes ‘wines’ or mead from honey, fruit and botanicals such as lavender, which is a centuries-old process. Eric and DeAundra Depradine create meads reflecting every aspect of their family heritages, travel experiences, and the influence of some good people who have supported them throughout their now 10-year journey as winemakers that began in Louisiana. Their current mead offerings include odes to zydeco and Louisiana Creole and Acadian cultures, variations of t’ej (an Ethiopian mead) and hibiscus (a Trinidadian mead), and seasonal fruit meads. The most popular meads are Eric’s grandmother’s hibiscus and mauby meads, which are a big part of Trinidadian culinary history. Website: https://www.zydecomeadery.net/
Jenny Dawn Cellars began as a “what if” question asked by its founder Jennifer McDonald, who wondered why the wine industry didn’t cater to African American wine drinkers. One question led to another and in 2016, McDonald established the foundation of what would become the state of Kansas’s first Black woman-owned wine business. Jenny Dawn Cellars operates an urban winery and tasting room in Wichita, Kansas, selling wine to a diverse customer and expanding to emerge as a contender as a winery. Several of McDonald’s wines have won awards. Her wines have received Best in Class, Gold, Silver and Bronze medals from the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, Texas International Wine Competition, New World International Wine Competition and Kansas Grape Growers and Winemakers Association. Wines can be shipped to 37 states. Website: https://www.jennydawncellars.com
Simply Sangria Wine Company is another Wichita-based wine company that is family-owned and operated. Since 2018, retired law enforcement officer Brian Miller has been selling his secret recipe of three sangria blends and table wines from a storefront and at a farmers market. Miller began a love affair with sangria 12 years ago after trying it on vacation. He was inspired to make his own special sangria, using locally-sourced wines and his own secret recipe of spices and fruit. Encouraged by family, he moved forward to open his own business that is growing in popularity and profit. Website: https://www.simplysangriawine.com/
The Depradines, Jennifer McDonald and Brian Miller operate three wine businesses with three unique specialties, signaling an evolution in wine entrepreneurship. Visit their websites for more information, and remember to pay them a visit for a purchase when traveling to their cities.3