EUDORA — BlueJacket Crossing Vineyard and Winery is one of Kansas’ many businesses making up its vibrant, but often underestimated, wine country. The “fly-over state” may not be hailed as famous as northern California but BlueJacket Crossing’s owner built his business with local heart, and California cred.
Kandaya “Pep” Selvan grew up in the Kansas City area and attended the University of Kansas. With a degree in architecture, Selvan headed to northern California to run a design-build firm. Some of his work included helping to build wineries.
After some time, Selvan moved back to the Kansas to take care of his aging parents. Coincidentally, his parents owned farmland and didn’t know what to do with all of it. After years of taking classes, interning and working at various wineries, Selvan finally felt ready to start his own. And so, he did.
Melody Stratton, the winery’s events and marketing manager, said BlueJacket Crossing was established in 2002 when the first vines were planted. It took about five years before they had a good harvest and so the first tasting room wouldn’t open until 2008.
Selvan, who is now 72, has managed BlueJacket Crossing’s eight acres of land with the help of his family. They initially started out with Norton grapes and added more common grapes such as St. Vincent, seyval, chambourcin and vignoles to their vineyard.
A majority of the vineyard’s products are grown at home and require a lot of hard work.
“Everything starts in the vineyard. [It’s] the most important part of what we do. That’s how you know your product is going to be high quality,” Stratton said.
By buying something grown in Kansas, Stratton said consumers are supporting a truly localized industry.
Not only is BlueJacket Crossing a family-owned and operated winery, its wines have also won awards in the Jefferson Cup Invitational Wine Competition.
Stratton said what makes its winery unique is its constant innovation.
“We are always trying to develop new ideas and products, and stay really fresh with our education and make sure we’re doing the best we possibly can,” she said.
Selvan also said there are an infinite number of wine possibilities and they have many machines for different winemaking techniques — this makes the innovation possible.
BlueJacket Crossing is one of many wineries in the Kansas Viticulture and Farm Winery Association. Philip Bradley, a representative from the association recently testified in Topeka in support of a state grape bill. The bill would designate chambourcin as the official state red wine grape and vignoles as the official state white wine grape.
With this bill, Bradley said the association hopes “to share the rich history of wine and grapes” in Kansas.
While Stratton said there are other grapes that are worthy contenders, she said vignoles and chambourcin are some of her favorite to work with.
“I definitely understand why they picked those grapes. They distinguish [Kansas] a little bit from Missouri as well.”
Workers at BlueJacket Crossing pride themselves on its locally grown products and how they can revolutionize wine. Stratton said the winery has such a wide variety of styles to accommodate taste that there is bound to be something for everyone.
“We would really love to see more people out exploring all of the vineyards,” Stratton said. “Going to small vineyards and wineries like this is one of the best ways to learn anything about wine.”
Angel Tran is a University of Kansas senior from Wichita majoring in journalism.