Meet Alex Reynolds, the 31-year-old winemaker who recently chose to return to Kansas to grow grapes and craft the next generation of wines at his family-owned winery. “I want to help propel us to the next level,” he says of Somerset Ridge Vineyard and Winery located 20 minutes south of Kansas City.
After earning a winemaking certificate at UC Davis—a rigorous, internationally acclaimed program tailored to turning out some of the world’s best wine professionals—Reynolds worked at several vineyards in California. But when wildfires consumed swathes of California wine country, the time seemed right for Reynolds and his wife, Ellen, to return to the Kansas vineyard that boasts 9,000 vines and produces over 5,000 cases of award-winning wines.
We caught up with the grape guru to find out five fun things you should know about him:
5) I have a Persian cat.
“I had many cats as a kid, and I’m an animal person in general. My now wife got this Persian cat two weeks before we started dating. I had no hand in getting him, but as cats go, he is pretty exotic. His name is Winnie. I don’t know where the name comes from. I just call him Win. He’s 7 years old and an ornery little bastard, also very affectionate and sweet. He’s very food motivated and a prolific hunter.”
4) I play the guitar.
“I have played live music for years, including with Jayson Kane’s band around town. (Jayson is a frequent musician featured at Somerset Ridge Winery.) My style is classic rock and blues, everything from Jimi Hendrix to the ‘90s. I think Jimi Hendrix is my number-one guitar inspiration but I also like David Gilmore of Pink Floyd and Carlos Santana of Santana.”
3) I average three espressos a day.
“I love coffee. I start the morning with two upfront, then have another one to two at lunch. It’s easy to get a good espresso at home because you can be very precise—the way the beans are packed, then when you turn on the machine to produce the coffee and you can see pressure being applied to the puck for the extraction of the flavor. I guess my habit became full-blown in college. I’ve also been to Colombia and its coffee producing regions.”
2) My favorite wine is Syrah.
“My favorite wine would be the 1990 Jean Louis Chave Hermitage. I had my first bottle in my early 20s. It had been in my parents’ cellar and I was early on in my winemaking career so it was an inspirational thing. It was an eye-opening experience showing me what really great red wine could be in terms of a complex and still display of non-fruit driven character that was earthy, meaty, delicious, and unbelievably complex. You would never think this wine came from grapes, and grapes alone. It was such an affirming moment of the transcendence of great wine. It also affirmed my love for Syrah from the Northern Rhône Valley of France. These wines have continued to be a favorite for me.”
1) I love all kinds of fermentation.
“In addition to fermenting grapes to make wine, I love to ferment my own pickles, kimchi, and sauerkraut. My worst experience with fermentation was a batch of cherries. The best results have come in the form of kimchi and Korean Gochujang pepper paste. I would caution anyone who wants to try their hand at fermenting to jump in, but remember to always use clean vessels and double check your salt additions.”