A wise friend once told me that life is too short to drink bad coffee or cheap wine. I may be guilty of drinking bad coffee on occasion, but fine wine isn’t something I’m willing to compromise.

You don’t need to travel far to experience the best wine the Midwest has to offer. You will just need to drive a short 20 minutes west to the heart of the Flint Hills in Paxico.

Founded in 2008 by Bob and Julie DesRuisseaux, Prairie Fire Winery is a daytime getaway for wine connoisseurs and enthusiasts who want to enjoy the simplicity and taste of a really good and not-too-pricey bottle of vino. Whether you are looking for a sweet bottle of red, a crisp white or anything in between, you will find your favorite libation at Prairie Fire.

Bob DesRuisseaux has been making wine for over 20 years. DesRuisseaux grew up around wine and started making his own varieties to carry on his French ancestors’ love for producing and enjoying a good tasting beverage. He and his wife Julie purchased 60 some acres of land in the beautiful Flint Hills to fulfill their dream of owning a vineyard and running their own winery.

When asked what goes into a good glass of wine, DesRuisseaux simply states, “You have to start with good grapes, without a doubt. A good bottle starts in the vineyard. You can’t make good wine out of a poor product.”

With 15 labels from which to choose the options are plentiful. The beauty of variety, along with the opportunity taste before buying relieves you of the expectation of  falling in love with the first label you try.

DesRuisseaux explains developing a taste for wine best when he says, ‘… [he prefers to] convince someone to drink the kind of wine they enjoy, not the kinds we enjoy.”

I love the idea that there is something for all wine lovers, and maybe a couple of labels for those who are not so keen on the idea. I can almost guarantee that after a tasting, anyone can find something they will enjoy.

I was pleasantly surprised while tasting the amazing assortment of whites and rosés, that my typical “go-to” sweet white didn’t end up my favorite of the Prairie Fire selection. After learning the process and actually taking the time to sip and taste the different essences of notes and smell the aroma of each variety, I fell for a drier selection. A couple of my favorites include the Traminette Semi-Dry, which is a white that has floral notes with a hint of spice and the Prairie Punch, a blush variety with hints of honey and citrus. Bob and Julie treated us with a sampling of their Vidal Blanc sparkling wine, which is definitely something to gush about.

DesRuisseaux prides himself on his sparkling labels (“Brut,” a dry wine, and “Doux,” a sweet counterpart) being the first varieties in the state of Kansas to uphold the Methode Champenoise, the traditional method to make Champagne from the region of the same name in France. Of course these varieties cannot be considered “Champagne” due to the fact that the grapes do not come from the region, but I can imagine DesRuisseaux’s sparkling wines could give even the most traditional wine producers in Champagne something to talk about.

In the coming months, Bob and Julie plan to open a tasting room on their ranch just minutes outside Paxico, where wine lovers can come together and eat, drink and be merry while enjoying the breathtaking view of their vineyards in the Flint Hills.

The couple also has plans to expand their vineyard (more grapes equals more wine) this spring. They would like to try their hands at beekeeping and eventually produce the ever-popular variety of honey wine called mead.

Bob and Julie only use choice, locally grown grapes to make their award-winning wines using centuries-old techniques to create the best locally made wine I have ever tried. They are a delight to chat with and have a vast understanding between them concerning the connection of good company and fine wine.

Enjoy tastings everyday Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 12-5p at their Downtown Tasting Room, located at 103 Main Street in Paxico, where they share a space with Prairie Ghost Art Gallery. You can stop in any day of the week to take a bottle home with you.

Read Bob’s blog and order online by checking out their website at www.prairiefirewinery.com or find them on Facebook and Twitter for updates. Cheers and enjoy!

[ Story by Erin Wynkoop, April 15, 2012 | Photography by Megan Rogers ]

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