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How a 3rd generation farm grew into a treasured local winery

How a 3rd generation farm grew into a treasured local winery

Posted: October 13, 2021 | By: 21st Century Equipment Staff

The Kauffman family lives on a 3rd generation family farm in Fort Morgan, Colorado. A farm where Dan Kauffman learned to set irrigation tubes at the age of nine, grow corn and alfalfa on the 400 acres and where his love of wine took root.

Over the course of ten years, Dan developed a serious hobby for wine making. Going by the taste and feel of the grapes, he ensures every vintage comes out with a unique taste to satisfy even the most scrutinizing wine connoisseur. In fact, his friends and acquaintances enjoy the free samples so much, they’ve pushed him and his wife Sharon to start selling. So, when their three wonderful daughters—Angela, Alisha and Ashley—left home, Dan and Sharon thought, why not open a winery?

After all, Sharon is the perfect complement (and partner) to her husband. She’s active in the community, currently stands as the President of the Fort Morgan Community Hospital Governing Board and has served on the hospital’s Foundation Board as well. She’s also helping the transition of The Country Steak Out in becoming “The Block” commissary kitchen—striving to help small businesses in the Fort Morgan community. Additionally, she’s also owned and operated Insurance Connection for over 30 years.

By combining their strengths and passion, the couple saw an opportunity to grow their hometown. “We want our area to be a thriving community. Proving good education, healthcare, and social and cultural activities make this an attractive place to live for our leaders and kids after college,” says Sharon. It’s why they wanted to entice wine lovers around the Fort Morgan area with “a place where friends and wine meet.” They called it Country Road Vines and Wines.

In 2018, Dan started their major investment by planting 120 vines, and Sharon started the long process of obtaining a license for a limited winery. The next year, as the business and financial investment were growing, COVID-19 spread around the world. Building timelines tripled and there was limited labor to help with the vineyard and tending to the vines.

In addition to labor challenges, Dan was also working to manage weeds between the vineyard’s wider-than-normal rows with his grandfather’s old beet cultivator. Having always run “green” on the farm, he turned to 21st Century Equipment for a better solution. He worked with Jerry Olson, the Fort Morgan Location Manager, to find the right size tractor, a John Deere 4052M, and tiller, a 62” Frontier Rotary Tiller, for the vineyard’s specific needs.

“It is difficult to find labor. I had the forethought to make the rows wide enough for a machine and tried multiple ways to rid the weeds. Now that I have the right equipment though, it’s so easy,” Dan says. “And that roto tiller was made to work with the tractor and it works great!” adds Sharon.

With the support of their community and 21st Century Equipment experts, Dan and Sharon knew they could succeed through the pandemic. They invested more, planted 168 additional grape vines and focused on spreading the word. While selling wine out of the trunk of their car, Dan and Sharon partnered with local businesses. “Partnerships in the community are everything. That is how Dan and I have toasted the launch of this business,” Sharon says. For example, Sharon’s artwork is on display in the winery’s sales room after partnering with Rebel Girl Kollectables, a studio that holds classes and private parties teaching folks how to make various crafting projects in Fort Morgan.

They also partnered with local vendors to complete the build of their winery, facility and to continue selling their wine. The decor is a homage to Dan and Sharon’s travels as well as the many talented local artists in the area that number over twelve!  While they were a small winery with limited production, larger liquor stores and businesses were now taking notice.

Sharon reflects on the day Village Liquor picked up all of Dan’s wine, commenting on how sad he was. “We have three girls that have left our home. He loves his girls and was sad when they left, but Dan appeared to be very sad to see that wine drive away that day.” she says. Which just goes to show how much pride is in every bottle made at Country Road Vines & Wines.

And while COVID presented many obstacles, the winery officially opened for business on July 4, 2021. Keefe Construction was the general contractor for the project.  A beautiful bar in the sales room was built by Denny Engle and Mike Dahl. Wonderful tables and chairs in the sales room were done by Raised in a Barn, owned by Ritchie Cook out of Weldona.  And the décor is an homage to Dan and Sharon’s travels, representing over twelve local artists!

Dan and Sharon want the winery to be a space that the community can enjoy and are hopeful that others will see that it is possible to take a hobby to the next level.  Most importantly the winery was designed to provide a space for people to gather.  The pandemic has shown all communities how important it is to support local businesses, “stay, play, shop local as much as possible” Sharon says with a big smile.

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