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Grace Hill Winery adding more space

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Monday, July 23, 2012, at 5:16 p.m.
  • Updated Monday, July 23, 2012, at 5:17 p.m.

Grace Hill Winery is expanding with a new 6,000-square-foot production building that will allow for more wine, more room for wine tastings and possibly give owners David and Natalie Sollo their garage back, too.

“We’ve kind of run out of room,” says Jeff Sollo, who manages the business for his parents.

Currently the winery, which is in Whitewater, has a production building that has a tasting room and a cellar and a separate events center with a patio and observation deck.

Jeff Sollo says “there’s a fair amount of equipment it takes” to make wine, such as tanks and barrels and presses, and that’s what will be moved into the new production building when it’s ready this fall.

“It’s going to kind of be a gradual move over to the new building,” he says.

When all the production equipment is out of the current building, Sollo says they’d “like to expand our tasting room as well to undo that bottleneck.”

David Sollo joked in a news release that the new building will allow him to park his car in the garage now “instead of having it filled with various grape growing and winemaking equipment.”

He also said the extra space should allow increased production so “we won’t sell out of some of our more popular wines like Dodging Tornados and Peckerhead Red so quickly.”

The vineyard, which is about 20 minutes from Wichita, opened in 2009 and has eight acres and 14 varieties of wine.

Before adding the 2,000-square-foot event center in 2011, Grace Hill was mainly a retail outlet for the wine that the Sollos grow, press, age and bottle. The winery offers free tastings and tours and rents the event center, which has a patio that can seat about 40, for parties and corporate events. The Sollos also hold wine education classes there.

It’s harvest season at Grace Hill, and Jeff Sollo invites anyone who is interested in picking grapes to check the events page of the winery’s website, www.gracehillwinery.com, for details about helping on upcoming Saturdays for the next month or so.

“You get wined and dined at the end, which is a lot of fun,” Sollo says, “and you meet a lot of cool people in the process.”

The World, and Wichita

A franchisee is looking to bring as many as three Freebirds World Burritos to Wichita.

Overland Park-based FB Midwest Development is the first franchisee of the chain, which is based in Texas and California. The franchise group has the rights to develop Freebirds locations in Missouri, Kansas and Nebraska.

“We’re signed up initially for 27, and hopefully we can get more territories,” says Bryce Katz, COO and partner.

He says the restaurant is similar to Chipotle Mexican Grill, with a big focus on organic items such as grass-fed beef and hormone-free chicken.

Freebirds has what Katz calls “very, very fresh” burritos, burrito bowls, nachos, quesadillas, salad and seven kinds of salsa.

The franchise group’s first restaurant opened recently in Mission, which makes the 77th Freebirds site nationally.

Katz says his group hopes to open in Wichita in 2013.

“We’re going to start looking now.”

Even once the group identifies sites for Wichita restaurants, Katz says, “We’ve got three more around Kansas City that we’ve got to knock out first.”

The Mission restaurant is in 2,500 square feet, but Katz says 2,800 square feet “is about our sweet spot.”

He says the group prefers end caps, though it doesn’t have drive-throughs.

Freebirds debuted in 1987. When current owner Tavistock Restaurants USA bought the company in 2006, that’s when rapid expansion began.

Katz says that’s what his group plans as well.

“The sky’s the limit.”

You don’t say

“Getting pretty crazy.”

– How Jeniffer Kang describes the last-minute details before the early August debut of her Juni’s Cafe, a Korean restaurant opening in Comotara Center

Carrie Rengers first reported these items on her blog. Be among the first to get her business scoops at blogs.kansas.com/haveyouheard.

Got a hot tip or a quirky story? Call Carrie Rengers at 316-268-6340 or e-mail crengers@wichitaeagle.com.

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