Historic Caenen Castle in Shawnee reopens as a restaurant, farm winery outlet

After extensive renovations to the historic building, Carla and Daniel Dyer (pictured) have opened Caenen Castle in Shawnee. The farm winery outlet and restaurant is located at 12401 Johnson Drive. 

After three years of standing vacant, Caenen Castle in Shawnee has reopened under new ownership as a farm winery outlet and restaurant.

Carla and Daniel Dyer became owners of the historic building in September 2019. After extensive restorative work and renovations, they have turned the space into a farm winery outlet located in a restaurant.

Located at 12401 Johnson Drive, Wandering Vine at the Castle had a soft opening for private events Oct. 15. The restaurant opens to the public on Friday.

The whole affair to purchase the historic building was quite random: As a married couple for the past 41 years, the Dyers both grew up in the Kansas City area — they’re high school sweethearts from Bishop Miege — and have traveled the world and visited many places. 

The Dyers aspired to open a winery one day. When they began looking for some real estate opportunities, Caenen Castle was the first option to pop up in their search.

Built by Remi Caenen more than a century ago, the house is thought to be modeled after a French or Belgian castle, according to the Johnson County Museum. Photo courtesy Johnson County Museum.

At the time, they lived in Florida and had no plans to return to the Midwest. But after touring the space two days before the auction — and considering their family and friends who live in the Kansas City area — it seemed like the perfect fit.

“When we came in here, stepped in this building, it was like, this is what we’ve been imagining,” Daniel said. “The building is magical. It’s truly an extraordinary place. It has an extraordinary history, and it just feels like exactly what we are trying to do, the atmosphere.”

Carla noted that Shawnee city staff was “very open, very friendly” in discussing their vision for the space. And while the couple waited at the airport for their return flight to Florida, they placed their bid and won the auction for the historic building at $875,000.

“We’re pretty sure we’re the only people who have ever bought a castle at an airport counter before,” Daniel joked.

“I looked at him and said we just bought a castle, and he says, yes my lady,” Carla said, smiling.

Built by Remi Caenen more than a century ago, the house is thought to be modeled after a French or Belgian castle, according to the Johnson County Museum.

Some of the renovations include heating and cooling improvements, repairs to the roof and stone walls, adding a cold room, and enclosing the overhang facing the terrace in the back. That area in the back creates the space for the farm winery outlet.

“We have invested in the building so that it will have many generations,” Carla said. “The building itself is such an important part of the history of the community that we’re the owners, but we’re also the curators. We feel like this building is part of the community, and we want to make sure that it’s always here and part of the community.”

Wandering Vine at the Castle will feature select wines from Grace Hill Winery, a farm winery in the Wichita area. Photo via Grace Hill Winery’s Facebook page.

Customers will be able to purchase from a selection of nearly one hundred wines from local, American and international wineries, including Grace Hill Winery, a farm winery in the Wichita area, as well as selections from across the United States and around the world. The Dyers said their operation is the first of its kind in Kansas.

“At our winery, you wander the world while you’re tasting the wines,” Daniel said.

The Dyers’ nine wine flights feature local and international brands from the United States, Italy, France, Spain, New Zealand, Argentina, Australia and Germany. Guiding guests through the wines is Chris Valentine, general manager of the space and a certified sommelier who served at The Restaurant at 1900 in Mission Woods.

The menu features a selection of small plates, and the restaurant will also offer dinner by reservations. Led by Chef Hannah Winnett, who trained at Johnson County Community College and recently served as sous chef at Verbena in Prairie Village, the cuisine pays homage to the historic trails that passed through the Kansas City area.

“We built a cuisine that is what we call American West, and it takes elements from Kansas City, Santa Fe, California and Oregon,” Daniel said.

Staff go through health screenings and are required to wear masks, and customers are asked to wear masks when not seated to eat and drink. The tables are spaced apart or separated by physical barriers to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

The space is available for private bookings and restaurant reservations. Reservations can be made at (913) 379-1300.