“The original space really only had a function as a tasting room, to introduce people to our wine,” Michael Amigoni says. “Whereas this space allows people to hang out.”
That first location, which opened in May 2007, was a block away, behind the Livestock Exchange Building, at 1600 Genessee. Back then, it was known as Inland Sea — a name that changed in 2010, when the couple bought out former partner John Poston.
“I knew we needed to relocate and I knew we needed more exposure,” Kerry Amigoni says. “I just never thought it would be this spectacular. The bones of this building were beautiful. We just had to pick the right paint.”
That spectacular skeleton was once the Daily Drovers Telegram Building. With the help of the Dolphin Gallery’s John O’Brien, the duo transformed it from an industrial warehouse to a winery. The two-story, octagonal tasting room has a sunlit foyer with cream-colored walls and dark-brown wood. The barrel room, in back, has a more industrial feel, with a poured-concrete floor and wines stored in barrels behind large wooden-and-glass doors. A duo of wine taps dispense small-batch wines not available in bottles (right now: Amigoni’s 2010 Malbec and Unfiltered Urban Bianco).
“It’s more green — there’s less bottles and corks,” Michael Amigoni says. “And the wine is fresh because there’s low sulfites and the temperature is perfect.”
“Lots of people had never discovered us, so we’re not a new business,” Michael Amigoni says. “But we may still be new to a lot of people. I’m actually on my sixth vintage.”
In its new space, Amigoni also offers a cheese plate with cheeses from Green Dirt Farms, and grissini and parmesan crackers from Farm to Market Bread Co. The couple are considering adding a charcuterie plate, with Italian meats from Volpi Foods in St. Louis or Local Pig here in Kansas City. Wine classes, glassware education and cheese tastings are in the works.
“We’ve always believed people should be drinking wine with food,” Michael Amigoni says.
His own olives could one day be on the menu. Amigoni has spent the past two years attempting to cultivate olive trees at a vineyard just outside Centerview, about 35 miles east of Kansas City. The couple purchased the land in 2000 and planted their first Cabernet Franc grapes — a hardy red grape capable of surviving colder temperatures — a year later.
They don't grow Norton grapes, the staple of many Missouri wineries. Rather, the goal is to bring European varietals to the Missouri countryside. Over the past decade, the winery has expanded from Cabernet Franc to Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Chardonnay and Viognier, turning to drip irrigation recently in an attempt to combat the high temperatures. Before the vineyard, the Amigonis had tended to 40 grape plants in their backyard — a pair of plants still grows behind their Leawood home.
“I hope we’re leading the charge that there are alternatives,” Michael Amigoni says. “Missouri and Kansas have a bad reputation for wine. I like to think we’re changing people’s minds one glass at a time. We will never make a sweet wine, just like Boulevard will never make a light beer.”
Amigoni is starting to pop up on local menus, with a dozen restaurants carrying different vintages.
At Room 39, the Blue Bird Bistro and Affäre, the Malbec and Urban Bianco are on tap. But the business remains focused on the West Bottoms, with release parties at the nearby Genessee Royale Bistro, visible from Amigoni’s patio.
“We love this neighborhood,” Kerry Amigoni says. “We love where it’s headed. We ventured out on the edge, and maybe that’s where we still are.”
The new sign should be ready in two weeks. Amigoni is open from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday and Saturday; 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Friday; and 12-5 p.m. Sunday.
Amigoni is also the site of one of Deschutes Brewery’s first Base Camp events. The weeklong series of tastings and dinners — meant to introduce the Bend, Oregon, brewery to the Kansas City market — includes a discussion titled “Hats Off to Homebrewers” 6-9 p.m. Tuesday, July 31. Brewers from Deschutes and Boulevard Brewing Co. are slated to join local home-brewer Pancho Luna to talk beer over a spread of Oklahoma Joe’s, Swagger, Green Dirt Farm cheese and Farm to Market bread. Tickets cost $25. Deschutes representatives are in town from Monday July 30, through Saturday, August 4. See deschutesbrewery.com/events/all/MO for a full schedule of Base Camp events.