Kansas college hopes to grow wine industry within state

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MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) -

A community college in Kansas hopes to promote the winery industry in the state by providing space and resources for small wineries getting started in the business.

Highland Community College at Wamego opened a wine incubator called 456 Wineries last month. Director Scott Kohl said Highland received a federal grant in 2016 to start it.

Kohl said 456 Wineries is a part of the school’s viticulture or grape-growing program and enology or wine-making program.

Kohl notes the idea is that businesses move in, pay rent, work on their craft, and then move out to start their own winery.

The facility has a tasting room and space for six winemakers, The Manhattan Mercury reported. It also has a laboratory, where things like sugar and acid levels can be tested.

Each bay has three large tanks and two smaller ones, which Kohl said translates to about 500 cases of wine.

Highland staff are on hand to offer advice and help but businesses are independent from the incubator. Kohl said wineries must bring their own grapes and bottles, but they rent the space and equipment.

“They’re their own business,” Kohl said. “We advise and help as much as we can, but it’s their own business.”

Highland occupies one of the spaces, and Bodine Wine Co. occupies another.

Bob and Joe Bodine, owners of Bodine Wine Co., worked on a family farm in Osage County and were looking to diversify their crop. They became interested in wine making and took classes at Highland to learn more about it. Bob said having the resources is helpful as their business gets rolling.

“That’s pretty invaluable,” Bob said. “It takes away a lot of the risk and fear.”

Kohl said he hopes those new, small wineries working closely together will help them grow. He added that having more wineries in the state could also increase tourism.

“We’re looking to help the wine industry statewide,” Kohl said.

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