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Archive for Sunday, September 17, 2006

State Fair organizers hope to offer wine next year

September 17, 2006

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— Although a state law allowing the Kansas State Fair to sell wine by the glass went into effect July 1, wine lovers still couldn't buy a glass of their favorite drink at this year's fair.

Fair officials considered selling wine by the glass but decided not to after realizing that it would require a third-party vendor to set up and manage a wine garden.

Now, fair and Kansas wineries are working toward offering wine by the glass at next year's fair.

"When we do it, we really want to do it right the first time," said Fair Manager Denny Stoecklein. "We didn't want to do something in a hurry just so they could sell wine."

The only chance to get wine at the fair is a wine tasting event held for a few hours on opening night. Stoecklin said the event always was popular.

"As I would walk past that building over a couple of hours, there was always a line outside the door, and the line inside the building was consistently strong," he said.

Bruce Dozier, of Dozier Vineyard and Winery in Ellinwood, said he was disappointed he couldn't sell wine by the glass at this year's fair but he planned to participate in next year's wine garden.

Another Kansas wine producer, John Brewer of Wyldewood Cellars Winery and Gift Shop in Mulvane, said he wasn't surprised wine by the glass wasn't available at this year's fair.

"We could have slopped something together, but we didn't want to do that," Brewer said. "We wanted to do it right."

The law that approved wine sales by the glass at the fair included other benefits for Kansas wineries, including shipping directly to out-of-state customers and tamperproof wine "doggie bags" at restaurants.

But the state fair provision was important because it will allow wineries to show off another homegrown product, Brewer said. The industry is still small in Kansas, with wineries producing a total of 60,000 to 70,000 gallons.

"It's going to be a very nice thing but it's not something that any of the wineries are counting on for sales," Brewer said. "It's more advertising for the industry than it is for direct sales for our own winery."

But Brewer said he would like the fair to evolve into helping wine sales.

"Ohio is not known to be a major wine state, but at the Ohio State Fair each year they sell 300,000 gallons of wine in 10 days," he said.

To catch up to the Ohio fair, Stoecklein said the Kansas Legislature would need to pass a law that also allows the sale of bottles of wine.

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