Although craft beer garners a ton of attention here these days, Kansas City has a rich grape growing and winemaking history that dates to the 19th century. In fact, by the 1870s, Missouri and Kansas together constituted the second-largest grape-growing and winemaking region in the U.S., just behind California.
Prohibition almost destroyed wine production in the Midwest. Thanks to a dedicated group of vintners, however, Kansas City has returned to her pre-Prohibition number of wineries, alongside a healthy mix of vibrant wine bars, wine-driven restaurants and diverse bottle shops.
“We’re seeing a lot of interest in natural wines, and orange wines are finding their way onto a lot of wine lists,” says Ryan Sciara, owner of Underdog Wine Company, a local wine shop. “Orange wines have always been in our store, but we’re making a point to call them out on our shelf tag and not segregate them from other wines, lest people think there’s something strange about them.”
With such variety of offerings, it’s no surprise that Kansas City locals are particularly knowledgeable and adventurous when it comes to wine. Here’s your guide to navigating Kansas City’s diverse wine-scape.
Exposed brick walls, tin-tiled ceilings and hardwood floors will transport you to the quaint bistros of Paris at Ça Va, a bar with around 60 sparkling wines available, a collection of 40 bottles from bubbly’s spiritual homeland of Champagne. On warmer days, enjoy bubbles on the sun-drenched back patio alongside bites that includes caviar, a charcuterie board, pomme frites and beef tartare. Don’t miss the build-your-own mimosa bar during Sunday brunch.
Tannin Wine Bar & Kitchen
Although technically a restaurant, Tannin is known around town primarily as a wine bar. This is due to its extensive, rotating by-the-glass list, with seasonal themes like Riesling & Rosé, as well as a selection of other sparkling, white and red wines, including several natural wines. There’s also a 22-page menu of wines and Champagnes by the bottle. Located in the heart of Kansas City’s Crossroads Arts District, Tannin is within walking distance of art galleries and boutiques.
Somerset Wine and Cider Bar
After they spent nearly 20 years running an 8,000-vine winery in nearby Paola, Kansas, a 25-minute drive from Kansas City, husband and wife team Dennis & Cindy Reynolds opened this urban micro-winery in the Martin City neighborhood. In addition to more space for wine production, they craft their Lucky Dog hard cider here. There’s live music every weekend to enjoy with a tasting bar featuring a collection of dry and semi-sweet white and red wines.
Underdog Wine Co.
If you’re a fan of family-owned, small-production wines, Underdog Wine Co. is the place to shop. With two locations in the Crestwood and Union Hill neighborhoods, this family-run operation samples and selects the more than 400 bottles available for purchase. The team there is determined to offer the best value for your buck. Underdog offers Thirsty Thursdays wine tastings from 5 to 6:30 pm, and audacious sippers should take advantage of their “6 for $60” promotion—six pre-selected wines from around the globe for $60. Offerings rotate monthly.
Cellar Rat Wine Merchants
Located a few blocks from Tannin Wine Bar, Cellar Rat Wine Merchants boasts a selection of more than 1,000 wines, 300 spirits and 200 beers, as well as artisan cheeses, cured meats, olive oils and chocolates. The team also prides themselves on wine education, with tastings held throughout the month, as well as classes on topics like “Rosés from Around the World” and “The Wines of New Zealand.” Don’t miss its “Famous $100 Case” deal that features 12 handpicked, high-quality wines valued from $10 to $15 per bottle.
Gomer’s Fine Wine and Spirits
Rooted in Kansas City since 1969 and with five locations across the metro area, Gomer’s is the original bottle shop around these parts. Head to its Midtown location for the largest selection and a deep offering of aged Burgundy and German wines. Also in Midtown is a free monthly Wine 101 seminar that covers subjects like the difference between “Old World” and “New World” wines, to food pairings and how wine should be served.
KC Wineworks bills itself as the first full-scale production winery in the Crossroads Arts District. Part winery, part tasting room, it crafts its wine solely from Missouri-sourced grapes, producing a dry style of Midwest wine. Try bottlings that include Norton Nouveau or Cuvée Blanc inside its swanky tasting room and bar while snacking on cheese, charcuterie boards and chocolates. During warmer months, check the menu for wine slushies. And if you’ve had a little too much, just hop on the KC Streetcar that’s just a few steps away.
Amigoni Urban Winery
Located inside the Daily Drovers Telegram building constructed in 1909 in the lively West Bottoms neighborhood, Amigoni makes wines from traditional European grape varieties like Cabernet Franc and Chardonnay grown 60 miles away in Centerview, Missouri, as well as California’s Central Valley. Sample five pours in its tasting room for $7, take in a winery tour or try a team-building blending class with hors d’oeuvres and a bottle of the winning blend to take home.
Less than an hour’s drive from Kansas City are plenty of worthy wineries. Twenty minutes northwest of downtown, in Weston, Missouri, is the TerraVox Tasting Room and production facility for Vox Vineyards, which grows its grapes in Kansas City. Vox makes over 20 different Missouri wines from more than 40 different American Heritage grape varieties grown onsite.
Also in Weston is Pirtle Winery, a family-owned operation housed in a former Lutheran Evangelical Church built by German immigrants in 1867. In addition to wines made with locally-grown grapes, Pirtle also crafts fruit wines and mead.
A 30-minute drive to Olathe, Kansas, brings you to KC Wine Co., where the team produces eight wines made from Missouri grapes, as well as traditional and spiced hard cider.
Restaurants with Stellar Wine Lists
Restaurants across Kansas City have upped their wine offerings as well. James Beard Award-winning Bluestem offers a diverse selection of Old World and New World wines by the bottle, as well as pours in three sizes of red, white and rosé by the glass during happy hour.
Find globally inspired shared plates at Corvino Supper Club & Tasting Room, alongside a list of natural wines by the bottle, as well as red, white and sparkling wines. There’s also live jazz in the Supper Club nightly, and a dedicated Champagne and caviar menu for two.
JJ’s Restaurant, in the Polsinelli Building just west of Country Club Plaza, has an 1,800-bottle list from around the world and 30 by-the-glass options. The Antler Room has one of the largest selections of orange wines and international natural wines in the city.
Out and About Drinking Destinations
Looking to enjoy your wine alfresco? Kansas City allows for open consumption in certain public areas of the city, as long as said areas are blocked off from vehicular traffic.
The most popular neighborhoods, spaces and events include the Power & Light District, First Friday’s at both the Crossroads Arts District and the historic 18th and Vine District, and the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts. The only catch is you can’t bring your own outside drinks.
Meanwhile, the annual Heart of America Shakespeare Festival in Southmoreland Park offers wine by the glass or the bottle to enjoy during performances. In the mood for something stronger than wine? Kansas City’s distilling history has become a source of inspiration for some of the most unique cocktail bars in the country. The Monarch is a chic, whimsical bar with a thick, leather-bound cocktail menu inspired by the migratory patterns of the Monarch butterfly. Or, located in a back alley, try the 30-seat speakeasy Swordfish Tom’s for pre-Prohibition era cocktails.