Set beside a broad grassy square in rural Paola, Kan., New Lancaster General Store offers a step back in time paired with wine tastings and a large modern inventory of locally produced food and beverages.
Art from local craftspeople decorates the space too, including metalwork with steel and weldable materials, created by their neighbor, Guinotte Wise.
According to the store’s web site, the building previously served as “a meeting place of the Kansas Anti-Horse Thief Association. It was also a post office, creamery, telephone office, gathering place for the community and a place for farmers to bring in their produce and eggs.”
Kristin and Stephen Graue, owners of Middle Creek Winery at Graue Vineyards in nearby Louisburg, lovingly restored the 1874 building before it reopened. Little has changed structurally, except for the addition of an ADA-accessible bathroom. The Graues also received permission from the Kansas Historical Society to paint the original tin ceiling pale blue.
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Two 1,000-pound sections create a massive antique wood tasting bar. It was retrieved from a building on Southwest Boulevard in Kansas City. Another piece of history decorates the back room, which the Graues offer for private parties as long as visitors bring their own food and buy some wine.
A decorative wooden door with large stained glass inset came from a Pleasanton, Kan., hotel, where Harry Houdini had stayed.
On a recent balmy Sunday afternoon, approximately 10 people sampled wine during my visit. The store serves as another outpost for the winery. Typically a red wine drinker, I tried the Norton as well as Chambourcin and a delicious port — Cheyenne Red, which won best of class in Kansas last year.
While sipping samples I perused a huge array of artisan foods, from Kansas Seal flour and bread machine mix in cloth sacks, to gallon jugs of Louisburg Cider, plus their Lost Trail and Cream sodas.
There were Blackberry Hill Farms jams and 20 pieces of old-fashioned candy sold for $1. Pure maple syrup sat beside a vintage-style “bread box” while private labeled red raspberry wine bread mix, dip mixes and other goodies filled a cloth-draped basket.
The store felt like an antiques emporium with food, beverages and art pieces on the side. From floor to ceiling there were old-fashioned dish towels and Coca Cola memorabilia, tin pots and metal trays, small antique tables and sewing baskets, and multiple wrought iron trivets decorated the party room.
As I finished my wine tasting Stephen thanked me for coming and suggested that, next time, I visit the winery.
Bicycle winery event this weekend
On Saturday, New Lancaster General Store will be one stop in the Miami County, Kan., Bicycle winery event, Tour de Vino. Participants can ride a short course or ride gravel along an 80-mile circuit that comprises the Somerset Wine Trail.
The $45 entry fee includes free tastings at the store, Nighthawk Vineyard & Winery and Somerset Ridge Vineyard & Winery, a logo glass and water and snacks at each destination.
After the ride, all wineries will sell wine at Miola Lake in Paola and a free meal is included. All proceeds will benefit Paola Pathways, a trail system under development.
Lisa Waterman Gray is a freelance writer based in Overland Park. She specializes in food and travel writing.