North of Kansas City, Missouri, the temperature swings to the high seventies. Bright cumulus clouds linger in a blue sky.
In the countryside on the outskirts of Platte City rises the home of Jason and Colleen Gerke, who own and manage Jowler Creek Winery. They produce wine from three grapes: Norton, Vignoles, and Traminette. Their winery is gaining a reputation for eco-attractive practices, including using bat and owl houses to help manage pests, and letting sixteen sheep mow their grass and control weeds.
I grew up in California. Santa Maria was my home town. My parents would always drag me around to wine tasting on weekends, and events at wineries. I then went to Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo. I could either take chemistry or wine making as a science. As a twenty year old, what are you going to do? I had a lot of fun in class.
Colleen did a full-time internship in Kansas City and that’s when we actually connected. Once we got together we’d go to tastings. We started, as a hobby, making some wine.
We got a chance to move out in the country here. That’s when we started planting grapes. Two hundred and fifty vines. We enjoyed it. Started planting each spring for a number of years. That’s how it evolved.
There are different facets. That’s why I love it. I’m not just a farmer. I’m not just a salesperson going door to door. And I’m not just an artist creating something for the public. You get all three together.
Neither of us really wanted to be in the city forever and raise kids. We drove out here and found the house. The first thing we thought was – this would look pretty if we put vines along the driveway. Thought it would be like a landscape, not a farm or business. Still was a hobby and we expanded the next year and put more grapes in.
Then we got thinking, well we love wine to drink. We can make decent wine. Why not try a winery? We started with Norton, Missouri’s state grape. That’s what really turned me on back here.
Parents? They thought – Missouri? What kind of wine can you make? Then we had them taste it for the first time. They were pretty impressed. Mom, she’ll gobble down the Vignoles when she’s back here. She loves that. Thinks it’s every bit as good as what she can get in California.
I can taste wine and say I don’t like it or let’s tweak it, and he’ll actually figure out how to do it properly. We both work on everything. The good thing is we do it together. That’s the fun of it. We can go out in the evenings and be there pruning together and enjoying nature.
One thing we stress is that wine should be fun. We’re not trying to be the double gold winner in the San Francisco Open Wine Contest. We’re just trying to make enjoyable wine. We always say it’s wine that will go good with local foods. That’s our philosophy. It’s good wine, it’s fun to drink.