Sharon and Dan Kauffman have a thriving vineyard in Fort Morgan, growing grapes that will explicitly thrive in this particular environment.
Dan is the winemaker and Sharon assists and helps with the sale and management of the winery they recently opened this year. They have traveled extensively to learn about grape varieties and to chat with other wineries about the best way to grow one of their own.
Their property is a third generation farm and has always been farmland, and they continue to cultivate 400 acres of corn and alfalfa. The only thing that has changed is that from 2018 they started planting vines on the land to coincide with their passion for wine.
âIt keeps that farmland in agriculture, but it doesn’t take land for what northeast Colorado is known for with corn and alfalfa,â Sharon said.
They now have 400 vines which are cold varieties and can withstand temperatures below 20 degrees and will have a late bud break. This means the bud will not break until mid-May to avoid the late spring frosts that can occur in this part of Colorado.
When most people think of wines from northeast Colorado, they might think more of fruit wines, but the Kauffmans grow real grape wines, harvest them, and bottle them themselves.
âSome of our challenges have been the early freezes in September, like last year, which can be detrimental to fruit trees and vines here,â said Sharon. âThe biggest challenge that grows here is the time taken by the vines. It’s just Dan and me and it takes a lot of time and work.
One unique aspect the Kauffmans have discovered is that while they may hire extra hands to help them harvest their corn and alfalfa, they have to be extra careful with their vines. At the moment Dan is the only one who really takes care of the vine and makes sure it grows properly since he has taken the time to study how to do it.
âLots of tries by mistake,â Dan said. âI’ve done a lot of research, but then it’s about doing it. We visited several other wineries and wine growers which was very helpful.
âEverywhere we’ve been, whether it’s Italy, Arizona or California, everyone is very willing to share,â said Sharon. âThe wine industry is a small industry. The industry as a whole wants to grow, so it’s ready to help people get started.
The vines that the Kauffmans planted in 2018 weren’t harvested for the first time until 2021. So unlike other farming activities where people see a comeback every year, the wine industry takes a lot of patience. .
âThe winemaking process is another labor of love,â said Sharon. âThe return on this investment is very different from the rest of our farm with alfalfa and corn. Dan has been a farmer all of his life. We have these people who are just natural and I think Dan is natural with that. He can be in that vineyard and figure out what needs to happen. Some people cultivate by data and he by instinct. I think when you have a passion for something, that instinct becomes natural.
When the Kauffmans first planted their vines, it was at the same time that they were redeveloping their stable into a wine estate. They would quickly overtake that space in two years and decide to build Country Road Vines and Wines, located at 16985 County Road 21 in Fort Morgan.
They didn’t expect to grow up or become the cellar they are today; it all really started with a passion and as Sharon says it’s a labor of love.
âWe really thought going from home to the stable, it would still be a little hobby,â said Sharon. âEven though in 2019 we were allowed to sell, it was thanks to the warm welcome from the community and the wine drinkers or eager wine drinkers that we decided to make more wine. We wanted a space to give back to the community. It really was a space and the result was the surprising number of travelers and visitors traveling to our area for weddings, funerals, etc. who always have this downtime so it’s a ideal space for this.
Another aspect the Kauffmans like to capitalize on is that when people come to their cellar, they sit right around the corner of County Road 21 and County Road R, which is a busy intersection for the trucks. People can hear and feel the movement of agriculture in this community.
âWhat a great space to be able to talk about agriculture,â said Sharon. âYou can see 300 trucks go by and the smell of it, good and bad, people often wonder why. This gives us the opportunity to talk about agriculture. We are at the heart of agriculture in Fort Morgan. The Kraft dairy farm is only a mile south, and then they haul that product to Leprino, which is a mile northwest. Then, three kilometers south of the dairy is Dinklage Feed Yards, a livestock feed facility. These cattle are then processed at Cargill, which is a mile west of us, and then on the way to the cellar people walk past Keith Bath’s corn flaking operation, where he processes incredible amounts. of flaked corn for dairies.
The Kauffmans are proud to live in Fort Morgan and recognize the history of agriculture throughout their community. They are also excited to find a different way to bring people into the community with their vineyard and to have the opportunity to expose and educate people to the world of agriculture.
âWe now have the opportunity to bring tourism to the region and we can talk about agriculture and the importance of agriculture and where food comes from,â said Sharon. “Mary Kraft of the Kraft Family Dairies was able to provide me with children’s activity books that I give to the children when they come, which allows them to color and learn.”
While the Kauffmans love wine, they especially enjoy this process of making and creating wine together. It has been difficult at times, but they are thrilled to be able to share their passion with so many others now.
âBeing together, doing something that hasn’t been done before has been a challenge, and then the pandemic created its own challenges, which really made us think outside of our original business plan,â Sharon said.
âIt’s really about doing something that’s never been done before,â agreed Dan.
âNow we get other people who saw that this happened and asked where our vines come from and how long, so I think we could see more wine grapes being grown,â Sharon said. .
They built their cellar specifically to help keep the best wines possible. The cellar measures 4,800 square feet and includes an auction room where wine is tasted and sold, as well as a back patio if people like to sit outside and watch the fields. Then there is the production room, which is kept at 70 degrees, and a storage room, which is kept at 58 degrees and has no windows or additional light, as sunlight can spoil the wine. .
Together, Sharon and Dan take care of all the corking and bottling of every bottle of wine they make, which can be a lot of work, but it’s something they really enjoy.
They are excited to be able to share their passion with the people of northeast Colorado and Fort Morgan in particular – a place where they were both born and raised and are honored to be able to continue their family’s farming tradition with their own. torsion.