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Grapes of Grace

Grace Winery in Kansas

This murderously hot summer has been hard on the wheat-growing region where I grew up. Even the backyard tomatoes died on the vine. But the night I arrived, thunder rattled the windows and lightening streaked across the evening sky as sheets of rain moved east across the Kansas prairie to break the 100-plus degree heat wave. Overnight, the air was 20 degrees cooler, releasing my hometown from a months-long air-conditioned lock down.

My mother and her friends celebrated the end of their captivity with homemade ice cream and a buffet of cakes and cookies. Mid-way through my second helping, I was introduced to a neighbor whose daughter has a vineyard and winery outside of town.

All I could imagine was a pitiful disaster. It’s not just hot here. Fierce, blast furnace winds and insatiable insects add to the misery. Summer nights can be as hot as the scorching days. A diurnal shift dramatic enough to rescue over-heated wine grapes? Not a chance.

“They’re doing fine,” the neighbor says, showing me iPhone photos of eight acres of prairie planted to vineyards outside of Wichita. “They’re making some good wine.”

These folks are courageous and undoubtedly a tad touched. But I’m curious. How on earth has a vineyard survived this godforsaken summer?

Tomorrow, I’ll driving out to take a look at Grace Hill Winery. There are no hills around here. Grace, however, can be abundant. – Corie Brown

Corie Brown, the co-founder and general manager of Zester Daily, is an award-winning food and wine writer. "Start Your Own Microbrewery, Distillery, or Cidery," a book she wrote with reporting from Zester Daily's network of contributors, was released by Entrepreneur Books in June 2015.