NEW MADISON — Kennedy Vineyard is expecting to soon start a brewery at that location, 3911 State Route 722. They are naming it Big Rock Brewery.
“Everything is in place,” said Louisa Kennedy who co-owns the business with husband John. “We’re just waiting for the licensing. The licensing could take up to 100 days.”
She said they opened the vineyard three years ago in April, after having bought it four or five years ago. It was part of John’s family’s farm.
“He is the son of Barbara Kennedy, who started this in 2002,” Louisa said. “She grew the grapes, made homemade wine and started the vines.”
Before moving here, the younger Kennedys had lived in Dublin, Ohio, and John still works in Columbus, commuting from work to home daily.
“We moved over here [Darke County] in 2015 and moved to the farm house in 2016,” said Louisa. “John grew up here and was born on the farm. His mother is living with us. John, who is 43, went to school in Arcanum and then went to the Navy. He always wanted to come back home.”
It was her husband, she said, who wanted to take the vineyard to the next level by selling the wine on the property.
Then, to please some of their customers’ requests, they now have decided to start a brewery, featuring craft beers also at the vineyard.
“We’re laid back in this relaxing atmosphere and a lot of people were asking for beer,” Louisa said. “The winery started out as a taste and dine and, in the summertime, people sit out on the patio and listen to music. We have live music here, with lots of local artists, but mostly acoustics.”
She said their staple beer will be Oatmeal Stout, a dark beer. There will also be a seasonal beer, maybe something with pumpkin in the fall and a summer shanty in the summertime. The other two beers will fluctuate…with perhaps a lager or a lighter or darker beer.
Once the brewery get puts in operation, there will be four types on site.
“John is brewing it,” she said. “It only takes 30 days for beer to brew. He’s learning from people who have helped other breweries. It will be made here just like the wine in another building. The wine ferments in this other barn, where there is a walk-in cooler. Pretty much, we did everything from scratch.”
She went on, “People can come here, taste here, drink and purchase a growler [a glass jug] to be served in glasses. They can keep the growler they purchase or they can bring it back in when they return.”
Two hog roasts and two weddings have been held thus far at the vineyard She said another hog roast is coming up June 3. Dubbed Wine and Swine, it will feature the Vineyard’s homemade food with proceeds going to the organization, Food Adventurers. Tickets are $25 each for the meal, a bottle of wine and music all day on the stage outside.
The licensing for the brewery, she said, could take up to 100 days.
“We want to do more weddings,” she said. “We saw a need for people in this area. We want to educate people about wine.”
The vineyard also hosts a lot of charity functions, with the last one being for House of Hope. The first one, she said, was for their opening and later that year there was a fall harvest festival for area farmers.
They are proud to be using local products.
“Our main focus here is to stay local,” she said. “We get our apples from Downing’s Fruit Farm, and our juice from the Midwest because there is not enough here.”
Their offerings center around Ohio grapes…Concord, Steuben, Catalpa, Niagara…the main ones her mother-in-law grew, because these grapes are conducive to the Midwest.
“We bought bigger tanks, made bigger batches,” Louisa went on. “We have 11 wines we’re featuring. We are particular. We make young batches and don’t add sulfides. When you drink ours, you don’t get a lot of additives. We stay pretty pure.”
Wine offerings at the vineyard are red wines: KV Sunset (dry), Twisted Oak (dry), Lone Cedar Red (dry), Darke Night (semi-sweet) and Red Neck Girl (sweet); white wines: Emerick Sky (semi-dry), Riesling (semi-sweet) and Love At First White (sweet); fruit wine: Blackberry (sweet) and Apple of My Eye (semi-sweet); and Blush Wine: Resilient (semi-sweet).
The KV Sunset wine and the Resilient are limited and Apple of My Eye is seasonal.
They name their own wines.
“Emerick Sky was named after a nearby road, and we named the one Cedar Red because Barbara didn’t want us to tear down the cedar tree, so we saved it and named a wine after it. KV Sunset was our special wine off of our grapes that we harvested in 2015. There was not enough to make it in 2016.”
Husband John chose the name Red Neck Girl, and she said it is their sweetest most popular wine. As noted before, they have held wine-tasting events at their establishment.
“We bottled 10 cases of Blush Wine and sold each bottle for $20 which went to the Epilepsy,” she said. “We lowered the price to $12 and now $1 of it goes to Epilepsy.
Their wine is available in several local businesses, Sutton’s Super Valu in Arcanum, Teaford’s and McMiller’s, both in Greenville and Catz in Verona. A couple of restaurants carry our wine….the Merchant House in Greenville and Schlechty’s Bar and Grill in New Madison.”
Not only do the Kennedys serve wine and eventually beer, they also offer food to the customers. They have flat bread pizza made by Louisa, homemade soup made by Cheryl Ganger and meat and cheese trays from Winner’s.
Louisa is going back to school for viticulture, the study of the vines, and oenology, the study of the wine. Husband John, she said, has learned from his mother as well as his sister and brother-in-law, who have a winery in Grove City, Ohio.
Food and wine tastings are available on site during regular business hours. The vineyard is open 6 to 9 p.m. Thursdays, 4 to 9 p.m. Fridays and 2 to 10 p.m. Saturdays. Special events are held there. It is available for weddings and private parties.
The Kennedys have been married almost nine years. they have an 8-year-old daughter Keira and Louisa, who hails from southern Indiana, has a daughter, Shayla, who is 20 and in college.
“This is a lot of work for two people, just John and me,” Louisa said. “We’re real excited. I love doing it and we have gotten good reception from people on Saturdays, especially.”
She did note, however, they get volunteers to help them bottle wine and pick the grapes.
“And, they always leave with lunch and a bottle of wine,” she said of those volunteers.
Those wanting to know more about the vineyard can visit their facebook page or their website. There is a separate site for the brewery.
This writer may be reached at 937-569-4315. Follow her on Facebook and join the conversation and get updates on Facebook by searching Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.