When life gives you a family farm near Wichita overrun with wild elderberries, you make elderberry wine.
That’s the formula that helped John Brewer shift out of a career running a high-tech scientific equipment business 20 years ago to running what he described as the largest winery in Kansas.
And this October, he’s opening a shop at 7930 Floyd St. in downtown Overland Park to sell his Wyldewood Cellars wine and jams.
Brewer said his first taste of success occurred with the spiced elderberry wine he entered in a California competition in 1995.
“Elderberries were growing wild on our family farm and that’s what got things started,” he said. “I won best non-grape wine in the competition.”
Since then, Brewer and Wyldewood have gone on to win over 500 medals for its wine, both grape and non-grape.
The family farm in Mulvane, nine miles south of Wichita, is now home to a tasting room and retail sales store. The firm also has shops in Wichita and Paxico.
Wyldewood obtains most of its grapes and other fruit from 50 different growers. It does have a 4-acre test plot where its own grapes are grown.
“Where the fruit comes from is irrelevant,” Brewer said.
He learned his craft from other growers, and also through his experience as an international wine judge traveling the world.
Brewer said he had a shop at The Legends shopping district in Village West for five years before closing it in 2011.
This time, he believes he’s found a much better location to sell his products.
“We needed a tasting room in the Kansas City area and Overland Park has a really neat old-town area,” he said. “We found a building that’s a perfect location.”
Wyldewood will sell 40 different varieties of grape and non-grape wines at the 1,900 square-foot shop along with jellies and wine accessories. At this point, the shop will be open Monday through Saturday from 11 a.m to 7 p.m.
Brewer said his new shop will offer up to five free tastings to customers. It also plans to offer two-hour wine education classes, and classes where people can sip wine and paint.