“My doctor said I need glasses (so I got wineglasses…).”
That’s a paraphrase of a light-hearted saying posted on a sign in a wine tasting room in rural Kansas, where an innovative family is producing wine and using it to create new opportunities.
Allen Schmidt and family are owners and founders of Resurrection Vineyard near Hays. The vineyard is located on the fifth-generation family dairy farm where Schmidt grew up. He went to the University of Kansas then earned a master’s degree in school psychology at Fort Hays State before joining the Army and earning a master’s from the U.S. Army War College.
Schmidt served in the Army Medical Service Corps for 32 years, including 12 years in the Army Reserve, and retired as a colonel.
Schmidt left the service in 1981, returned to run the dairy, and then was recalled to the Army. He completed his active duty career as the deputy commander for readiness of the Army Reserve Medical Command, with responsibility for 27,000 soldiers in 165 locations.
After his second stint in the Army, Schmidt and his wife, Ellen, returned to Ellis County permanently. They have nine children and 21 grandchildren with more on the way. Schmidt served in the Kansas Senate and on the Kansas Board of Regents, among other organizations.
He now serves part-time as planned giving officer for Developmental Services of Northwest Kansas, a non-profit charity that serves persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities. For more information on that, see www.dsnwk.org.
The family dairy closed in 1995, but family members continued to live on the place while renting out the farm ground. Schmidt’s son Brett lives there with his wife, Ashley, and their children. Brett founded an intergenerational day care in Hays.
One day Brett came to Allen and told him that he would like to raise grapes and make wine on the farm. Allen wasn’t sure at first, but then he thought about how this could restore activity on the farm while preserving its rustic culture.
“It’s bringing the farm back to life,” Allen Schmidt said. With that in mind, and as a faith-based family, they chose the name Resurrection Vineyard. The winery opened as a commercial operation in 2017.
The old dairy barn has been converted to the winery. Even the previous dairy equipment is being used, in some cases. A former milk weigh jar, for example, is now used in bottling wine. The milking parlor has been converted to the bottling facility with modern bottling and labeling equipment. “Brett is the winemaker,” Allen said.
The bulk tank room has been converted and used for wine-tastings, which Allen and Ellen host by appointment. Resurrection Vineyard offers five dry wines — a Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, and Riesling — and seven sweet wines: Moscato, Risen Red, Blueberry Pinot Noir, Sweet Legacy, Misty White, Strawberry Sunrise and Apple Blast.
Allen Schmidt and his family are remaking the farmstead as well. Two grain bins have been ingeniously converted to housing. A new structure will incorporate another grain bin and will provide lodging, beginning with the grandkids. “That’s been my dream, having a place where the family can gather,” Schmidt said. He already conducts a grandkids camp in the summer, where the kids can get outside to play and learn on the farm.
Resurrection Vineyard wine is available online and through local stores. It is offered in traditional bottles and resealable plastic containers.
The vineyard is located in a rural area just north of Hays in Buckeye Township, which has a population of 391 people. Now, that’s rural.
“We came back to develop a gathering place for family, friends, and community,” Schmidt said. “We have a lot of fun.”
For more information, see www.resurrectionvineyard.com.
We commend Allen and Ellen Schmidt, Brett and Ashley Schmidt, and all those involved with Resurrection Vineyard for making a difference by revitalizing the farm and creating this new winery. As another saying goes: “Wine a little, laugh a lot.”
And there’s more. Remember the son’s intergenerational day care? We’ll learn about that next week.