Jenny Dawn Cellars Urban Winery in Wichita

Wine glass at dinner

Jennifer McDonald is no stranger to crushing things. As the owner of Jenny Dawn Cellars in Wichita, she is crushing competitions, stereotypes, and a few grapes too. And she is doing this while introducing premium wines to the next generation of wine lovers also.

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Jenny Dawn Cellars

Growing New Wine Lovers in Wichita

I won’t waste a lot of time telling you that Jennifer started making wine in 5-gallon buckets in her home. Or that she is an award-winning sommelier who trained in Napa. However, You can look all that up here on her website. Or better yet, stop in and talk to her yourself. However, I think it’s essential to share that she is one of two winemakers in Wichita who happens to be black because I just don’t get to say that often enough.

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My friend Rachelle tagged me on a post on Black Enterprise last Friday. I felt compelled to pack up my favorite face mask and hit the road by noon on Saturday. It turned out to be the perfect reprieve from my COVID19 self-imposed isolation. Two hours later, I pulled up in front of the beautiful urban winery in the historic Union Station in Wichita’s Old Town district– so excited and proud before I even tasted a drop of wine.

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Tasting Room

An Urban Winery in Union Station

Jennifer wants Jenny Dawn Cellars to be at the forefront of the Wichita’s transformation. She was confident that by placing her tasting room in an urban setting in the heart of Wichita, she’d be able to anchor her business in the city’s past and future.

Buildings like Union Stations are reminiscent of a time when rail travel connected the country, and travel was a leisurely affair. And while many of these elegant structures have fallen into disrepair, others, like ours, have been restored and serve as a monument to our past strengths and future promise.

The winery is small, maybe ten socially distanced tables. Once you enter, an urban winery is no different than on sprawled over acres of land.  So don’t let that keep you away. I found an open table and sat. A few minutes later, I was handed a menu by a masked staffer.

The room’s design featured open ducts overhead and a fresh color palette with an alternating pattern of light and dark woods. Open and glass-encased shelving displayed the numerous medallions the winery has been awarded. And the light from the large windows and modern pendants warmed the otherwise industrial design of the wine-themed space.

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Wine & Wine Tasting

Produced On-sight & Locally Sourced

I may not be a world-class sommelier, but we are both storytellers. Many great story begin with a glass of wine. If you’ve followed my wine journeys, you know I like both red and white wine. But I prefer white during the hot summer months. Flights, or a 2-oz pour, are a great way to sample the wines before committing to a full pour. Like most new wine lovers, I started with sweet wines, like Moscato. I love Riesling and Cabernet Sauvignon, so I knew I wanted to sample the Sweet and Traditional Flights.

Although the Riesling was a little sweeter than its traditional German cousin, it was still delicious. The Riesling is light with an intense nectarine and apricot aroma. All I could think of was that I wished I had some shortbread or a lemon square while I sipped it.

My other favorites were the Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Red Blend, a combination of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. The winery serves a yummy assortment of cheese with the wines.

All grapes are either locally sourced or from growers in California– for now. All the wines are created on-site. However, the winery has planted an orchard in the city, where they hope to harvest apples, peaches, strawberries, and two grape varietals– Traminette and Brianna in the near future.

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Wineucation

With Jennifer McDonald

Jennifer McDonald started Wineucation back in 2016 as a wine tasting class for her customers and would-be wine enthusiast. Today, it has grown into a monthly food and wine tasting event that grows in popularity: a memoir, a cookbook, and a weekly podcast.

She has the perfect job, I said to her. Her advice is simple. “What are you waiting for?”

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Her book is a testament to the struggles Jennifer endured to see her dream through to completion. From making small batches in 6-gallon drums in her home to training and creating the first six wines in Napa to her ongoing struggles to keep her business going in the time of COVID-19. Her motto of “have faith and never give up” is evident in everything she does.

Wineucation– wine tasting and education– is held on the 3rd Tuesday of every month. Attendees have the opportunity to sample 6 wines paired with three appetizers. For more information, go to Jenny Dawn Cellars here. Or, if you’d like to taste for yourself, let me know what you think in the comments.

Check out a Winery at Olney another urban winery I visited recently.

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