Taking Flight at Nighthawk Winery
About five years ago, Don and Cathy Warring were brainstorming around the idea of starting their own vineyard and winery at their home in Paola, Kansas. The more they discussed it, the more unrealistic it seemed. In the middle of one of these “dream” discussions, sitting in their car, a huge Nighthawk flew right in front of them. Cathy had never seen one so close before, with all of its markings clearly visible. Don and Cathy took that Nighthawk as a sign that they should indeed go ahead with plans to plant a vineyard and open a winery. Not only was the beautiful bird a decisive factor for them that day, it also provided them with their winery’s name.
Prior to purchasing the land in Paola, the Warring’s lived in the Brookside neighborhood of Kansas City. They had decided that they wanted to get out of the city and live in a more rural area to raise their two small children. Eventually, they found the perfect spot to call home. After living on their picturesque acreage for about 15 years, they wanted to do something with the property but couldn’t decide exactly what that should be. “I wanted to do something on our land,” Cathy said. “Eventually we decided on a vineyard because we thought, ‘Grapes don’t have to be milked twice a day.’” So that is what they did.
Located just a few steps from their strawbale home, NightHawk’s tasting room is a newly constructed building where people can come to try a variety of the wines that Cathy has created as the master Vintner. “The important thing for us is meeting people,” Don said. “Our winery is a place for people to come and hang out with other like-minded people. They can chat, enjoy the scenery; and of course, enjoy some wine.” They have recently finished an event space attached to the tasting room to accommodate parties of any kind.
When one makes their way down a few gravel roads to NightHawk they can expect to be able to try between five and eight different wines, depending on the season. For both Don and Cathy; their favorite is the Cabernet Franc, a full-bodied dry red wine with a spicy aroma and peppery accents. They also took home two awards from the 2013 Kansas Grape Growers and Winemakers Association Conference. In the “Sweet Rose” category, their Sunrise Blush took home the “Best in Class” prize. This semi-sweet blush, Cathy’s favorite wine to blend, has strong citrus notes. But the big winner was their Chambourcin, an aromatic, flavorful, dry red wine that pairs well with dark chocolate. This wine was awarded the “Kansas Wine of the Year” by the KGGWA, a tremendous feat, especially for such a new winery. Other varieties that NightHawk offers range from sweet to semi-sweet to dry. The Warring’s want their wines to be for everyone. As Don said, we want to appeal to a variety of tastes and have a balance of wines for all palates.”
While you can make your way to NightHawk for a free tasting by yourself or small group (groups of ten or more are subject to a $5 per person charge, which is refundable when used to purchase a bottle of wine), you can also take the Miami County Trolley and visit NightHawk and the three other wineries on the Somerset Wine Trail (Somerset Ridge, Middle Creek, and White Wind Farms) for $18 per person. According to Don and Cathy; all four wineries have a great relationship with each other. To celebrate this year’s harvest on the Somerset Wine Trail, all four made their own version of a nouveau style wine that was released just before Thanksgiving 2013. Grown with Chambourcin grapes, Somerset Nouveau is a dry red wine with a delicious tartness and aroma. (Author’s note: I’m not a sophisticated wine drinker, but I really enjoyed Somerset Nouveau.)
At the tastings, Don, Cathy, or one of their volunteers will be happy to serve you samples of their wine while describing what flavors and aromas you might notice in each one. They welcome patrons to bring in outside food to the winery, and have picnic tables for those who find a wine to their liking and want to purchase a glass while enjoying lunch. Besides being able to purchase glasses of wine while sampling, the NightHawk tasting room features an assortment of locally made products for sale, such as handmade NightHawk-Iogoed towels, stained glass coasters, and soap. Plus of course, visitors can purchase bottles of NightHawk wine.
During the warmer months, local musicians can often be found on the lawn or patio performing for visitors who are enjoying the views, the company, and, naturally; the wine. This last spring, NightHawk was both the starting and finishing points for Miami County’s first “Tour de Vino”, a bicycle wine tour of the Somerset Wine Trail wineries that will become an annual event. They also take part in Paola’s annual Art and Wine Stroll, with this year’s version taking place on July 12, as well as DeSoto’s Winesong at Riverfest each June, quickly becoming a popular event in the area.
The motto of NightHawk Vineyard and Winery is printed on that back of every bottle of their wine. It states, we create the timeless marriage between good wine and friendship by bringing together like-minded people to share the riches of our vineyard.” That really is what is most important to Don and Cathy. As Don put it, “People need to slow down. Our winery lets people take a drive out of the city and enjoy the company of others and relax. I like to think of us as the ‘Unwind Winery.’”
Located at 16381 West 343rd Street, Paola Kansas, NightHawk is open Fridays and Saturdays from 11:00 AM until 5:00 PM, and Sundays from noon until 5:00 PM. They also are available by appointment by emailing them at NightHawk firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 913-849-3415.