By Don Bradley
The sun rises above the scraggly pines and finds the humped white bonnets of the covered wagons below the ridge.
Horses graze nearby, the prairie grass glistening of dew in the early light.
Inside a wagon, the travelers stir (about two hours later). One turns on SportsCenter. Hey, it’s Monday morning, a lot to catch up on.
The specially designed, Conestoga-esque wagons have air conditioning, king-size bed and a bathroom with Tropical Beach soap. If you demand historical authenticity, pioneer hardship and a plate of beans, they might not be for you.
But for the 99 percent of mankind who do like comfort, access to Wi-Fi and fresh-baked blueberry muffins, the wagons are a key attraction at Isinglass Estate, about an hour south of Kansas City near La Cygne, Kan.
The place was started seven years ago by a couple, both Yale University grads, who still can’t decide whether Isinglass is a winery that’s also a resort or the other way around.
The new tasting room and 40 acres of grapes lean toward the winery, but with cabins in the woods, horseback riding, fishing and polo, yes the horse kind, it can qualify as a resort, too.
“We encourage people to bring children and not a lot of wineries do that,” said owner Brandon Vore.
He was in the computer science program at Yale. His wife, Sarah, studied medicine. They punted both fields, and some later endeavors, to make wine on a 600-acre piece of land where the Marais des Cygnes River flows through Miami County.
What did they know about making wine? Nothing.
But they learned using Google and a lot of info from the University of Minnesota. They got pretty good at it.
“Not a lot of people in Kansas City know about this place,” said Destiny Welch, estate services manager. “But they’re going to.”
She’s from Nashville. The story of how she came to Isinglass begins with the night she stole her grandmother’s dune buggy. The way she tells it, the whole thing makes perfect sense.
Isinglass also has a bunch of horses, Kunekune pigs, Baby Doll sheep, dwarf Nigerian goats and one Tibetan yak.
On a recent afternoon, Brandon Vore fired up a utility 4-wheeler and gave a tour of the property. He talked about growing up in Stilwell and meeting Sarah at Yale. They got married, started a few businesses, sold most of them, and five kids later this is where they ended up.
“This was mostly just hayfield when we got here,” he said loud enough to be heard above the bumpy ride. “We were living in the suburbs and wanted a lifestyle change, to get out of the city. We found this property and could live on site.
“We thought about horses and wine and decided we could put the two together.”
He passes the sheep and goat pen, the old barn that would inspire the winery and then through the vineyard that last year produced 75,000 pounds of grapes.
He credits Sarah for the wine that is starting to draw crowds on weekends.
“She got it down,” he said. “She always wanted to live on a resort and if it pays for itself, even better.”
The 4-wheeler soon enters the woods and goes past two of the cabins on the property. One sleeps six, the other eight, both with outdoor cooking and seating areas.
The ride turns around at a 23-acre fishing lake.
On the other side of the property is a cabin for some employees to live in, including Destiny Welch.
The night she made off with Grandma’s dune buggy in Nashville led her to a place with horses and that started a new life for her. She later came into contact with the Vores and she loaded up her horses and dogs and moved to Miami County.
“They pretty much adopted me,” she said Sunday in the new tasting room as visitors gathered to watch the Chiefs game. “They really take care of their employees and…look around…there’s nowhere I would rather be.”
Later, from up on the ridge at the covered wagon, the lights go dark at the tasting room below. The Brianna is corked and the flatbread pizza oven turned off.
Then, it’s just you, the prairie, a fire and a covered wagon. Moonlight lights the grape vines in the distance. It’s quiet.
After a while, you put out the fire (turn off the propane), go inside and maybe find a movie. Check out streaming options and maybe find an old western about a wagon train.
That’s when you’ll see an old guy with a grizzly beard serving up a plate of beans.
For more information about Isinglass Estate, go to www.isinglass-estate.com