Dining With Denise Neil

Wichita woman plans to open downtown winery

Jennifer McDonald said she would launch Jenny Dawn Cellars with two reds, two whites and two fruit wines.
Jennifer McDonald said she would launch Jenny Dawn Cellars with two reds, two whites and two fruit wines.

If all goes as planned in Jennifer McDonald’s incredibly detailed business plan, downtown Wichita will have a winery by 2018.

McDonald, who works full time in human resources but has a passion for wine making, has started a Kickstarter campaign to get the first phase of her plan – an urban orchard – underway. Even if the campaign, which ends on Dec. 4, is not successful, though, she’s moving ahead.

She plans to call her business Jenny Dawn Cellars.

“The whole concept of Jenny Dawn Cellars is to be an urban winery and an urban orchard,” she said. “I want to grow in the city, make wine in the city and sell wine in the city.”

McDonald, who has always loved tasting wine, said she started experimenting with making her own a few years ago. People she shared it with were impressed by its quality, she said. She’s also always been interested in gardening and growing fruits and vegetables, and she decided to enroll in the Kansas State University Master’s of Agribusiness program, earning her degree in 2016. Her thesis was titled “Factors Influencing Premiums on Local Wines: An Exploratory Assessment of Kansas Wine.”

She hopes to raise $10,000 through her Kickstarter campaign, which she would put toward the $30,000 she anticipates it will take to plant an apple orchard near downtown Wichita. She’s eying some empty lots at 18th and Ash, near the Sunflower Community Action headquarters. The apples she grows would be used to make fruit wine, though she also plans to make more traditional pinots, cabernets and Rieslings using grapes imported from California.

Once the orchard is planted, ideally sometime in 2017, she’d turn her focus to getting private investors for the winery. Ideally, it would be somewhere in Old Town and occupy a building large enough for a tasting room in the front and a production facility in the back.

“With the orchard, I want to really engage the community, almost like a social entrepreneurship project,” she said. “I want to expose individuals who may not know anything about agriculture and teach them how to grow and take care of plants and trees, and I want to provide employment opportunities.”

She also wants to be taken seriously as a winemaker, and she’s gotten good reviews for her wines. She’d start with a list of two reds, two whites and two fruit wines, she said.

“I want it really to be a community place where people want to go,” she said.

You can check out McDonald’s business plan at her website, www.jennydawncellars.com, where you also can donate to her Kickstarter campaign and watch her progress.

Stay tuned for updates.