Fifteen years ago, Ken Krause was well on his way to a great little vineyard. His grapes were thriving in Fieldstone’s rocky soil and a push to liberalize state winemaking laws had proved successful.
Then – on May 30, 1992 – county workers sprayed for weeds using 2-4-D. The herbicide, which is especially deadly to grape plants, drifted over his carefully nurtured grapes, ruining Ken’s 65th birthday party and effectively dashing his dream.
It was at this point that Ken, as one friend put it, “took a very lemony experience and turned it into a very lemonadey situation.”
Efforts to revive his prized crop failed. But several years later, while visiting Australia, some high-density orchards caught his eye. Those espaliered trees planted just 6 feet apart required exactly what remained of his vineyard: trellises and drip irrigation lines. He returned to Kansas, purchased dwarf root stock and covered the barren hillside with apples and pears, adding occasional rows of blackberries to accommodate air flow.
That move is reaping benefits, notes his wife, Nancy. “You get production faster, three to five years versus seven to 12 for the bigger trees.” Also, because dwarfs don’t grow higher than 8 feet, they’re great for their U-pick operation. Customers easily glean most of this fruit.
Fieldstone still grows a smattering of grapes. And though he loved having a vineyard, Ken says one of the best wines he ever made came from his Asian pears.
“It was one of the most wonderful wines I’ve ever had. I made 125 gallons – and I drank it all,” he declares, with typical hyperbole.