TOPEKA — Kansas is known for its rolling fields of wheat and sunflowers, but it may soon be home to a growing number of vineyards thanks to the introduction of a Senate bill on Wednesday proposing the designation of official red and white wine grapes.
The bill was introduced on Jan. 29. No one spoke in opposition of the bill.
The Chambourcin grape, proposed to be the state’s red grape, is a French-American hybrid grape and the Vignoles grape, the proposed state white grape, is a hybrid grape as well and also known as “Ravat 51” after grape breeder J.F. Ravat.
Sen. Bud Estes (R-Dodge City) joked about sampling the wine of the proposed official grape varieties.
“Perhaps, if the committee is going to pass this we should have samples, so we know what we’re talking about,” Estes said.
Bob DesRuisseaux, viticulturist and CEO of Prairie Fire Winery in Paxico, said during the meeting that the grape varieties are native to Kansas, and are the state's most commercially-produced varieties.
His support for the bill comes from a marketing perspective to not only appeal to local wine buyers, but also to grow his business.
“We continue to expand our markets outside so that we can define the styles that we want and what’s representative of what we grow here versus our global competition,” DesRuisseaux said.
Currently, there are about 50 wineries and vineyards in the state. Most are located in the eastern half of the state, with only three locations west of Salina.
The principle bill sponsor is Tom Holland (D-Baldwin City). The co-sponsors of the bill are Larry W. Alley (R-Winfield), Molly Baumgardner (R-Louisburg), Kevin Braun (R-Kansas City), Marci Francisco (D-Lawrence), David Haley (D-Kansas City), Julia Lynn (R-Olathe), Carolyn McGinn (R-Sedgwick) and Mary Ware (D-Wichita).
If enacted, the bill will be published in the Statute Book on July 1. The enactment will have no fiscal effect.
Olivia Schmidt is a University of Kansas senior from Lawrence majoring in journalism.