Wineucation Goes Virtual : A Recap of the Last Four Classes - Jenny Dawn Cellars

Wineucation Goes Virtual : A Recap of the Last Four Classes

jennifer mcdonald in winery

At Jenny Dawn Cellars, we believe that wine tasting should be both rewarding and memorable. It should excite the senses, and most importantly, it should be fun. Jennifer McDonald, our founder, CEO, and winemaker is a first level Sommelier and has been hosting an educational in-person wine tasting experience “Wineucation” for the last 3 years.

Jennifer Takes Wineucation Virtual

When COVID-19 came on the scene, Jennifer set out to find a new way to engage wine lovers in Wineucation, virtually. As she’s done many times in the past, Jennifer innovated and was able to create an engaging new virtual learning experience that was memorable indeed! Every Thursday for four weeks Jennifer shared a free Wineucation tasting and education session with the Jenny Dawn Cellars Facebook audience via Facebook Live. People joined in and sipped along from all over the country.

In this virtual series, Jennifer covered a wealth of information including the history of Kansas wine-making, the basics of tasting and evaluating wine, and took a deep dive into all 7 of the wines currently offered at the Jenny Dawn Cellars Winery in Downtown, Wichita. Today we’re sharing everything Jennifer covered in each of those four Virtual Wineucations so anyone who was unable to join could familiarize themselves with our current lineup. Let’s start from the top!

Wineucation Spring Recap

Although many people assume that wine tasting is sipping, swishing, and swallowing – they are often amazed to find out how much more there is to it! Wine tasting is an art, and when done correctly, is quite fun. At all Jenny Dawn Cellars Wineucation sessions, we start by talking about the wine region (AVA), the specific grape varietal, then we dive into the tasting and food pairings.

Wine Regions (AVAs)

An AVA is a geographical area recognized for grape growing that has distinguishable growing conditions, such as climate, soil, or elevation, that differ from surrounding areas. An AVA can be any size (there are no minimums or maximums) and may even cross state or county lines.

Kansas Wine-Making

Those readers that are not Kansas locals may be asking, “Is there a history of wine-making and grape-growing in Kansas?”. The answer is, YES! In fact, in the mid 1800’s, the hardiness of Midwestern root-stock came to the aid of the phylloxera ridden vineyards of Europe (especially, France) that may not have survived otherwise. That’s right, it was root-stock from Midwestern grapes that was used as a graft for European grape varieties, because it had resistance to the phylloxera that was plaguing French vineyards.

At one point in its history, Kansas produced a sizable amount of grapes and has a long history of grape growing and wine making. A timeline produced by the Kansas Department of Commerce shows that in 1901, despite Prohibition, over 5,000 acres of Kansas vineyards were still producing grapes. By 1933, although Prohibition ended, Kansas retained strict laws prohibiting the sale of alcohol and vineyards fell into neglect and eventual decline. In 1985, Kansas passed the Farm Winery Act establishing guidelines for wineries. By 2005, 13 licensed farm wineries in Kansas produced 50,000 gallons of wine from only 170 total acres of grapes. In January 2010, the number of licensed farm wineries had grown to 23 – located mostly from central to northeastern Kansas. Today, there are over 50 farm wineries spanning the entire state.

Kansas does not have any AVAs. We do, however, have a state white grape which is Vignoles and a state red grape which is Chambourcin. French Hybrids or cold hardy vines grow very well here but it is challenging to grow vitis vinifera successfully. There is one grower in northeast Kansas that has mastered it. Many of the Kansas Farm Wineries produce fruit wine, which is what I used to craft our Wichita Moment and Wichita Passion wines. We’ll talk more about that later but, for now, we’ll move on to the process for evaluating wine during a tasting.

What Should I Evaluate When Tasting Wine?

A handy way to remember the steps is the 5 S’s : See – Swirl – Sniff – Sip – Savor

Scroll through the slideshow for step-by-step instructions.

Tasting Notes for the Current Jenny Dawn Cellars Lineup

Now that you are prepared to examine, taste, and evaluate your wines, let’s talk about the current Jenny Dawn Cellars lineup.

2015 riesling

,2015 Riesling

AVA: Clear Lake, Lake County, CA

375 ml bottle


13.28% ABV

Tasting Notes

Appearance : Golden yellow in color

Aromas: Apricot, honeysuckle, nectarine and spiced pears

Body: Light plus to medium body

Taste: Apricot, honeysuckle, nectarine and spiced pears. A perfect balance of acid and sweetness.

Finish: Smooth finish

Lake County AVA

Lake County AVA was established in 1861 and is the region just north of Napa and produces wines in a similar style to Napa. In total, there are 8,800 acres of vine planted in the region.

Best wines: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Tempranillo, Petite Sirah

Special feature: Volcanic soils produce “dusty” wines

Clear Lake AVA

Clear Lake AVA is one of the coolest climates in California, which has led to success with grape varietals like Riesling. Unlike most of the lakes in California, Clear Lake is a natural lake (as in, not made by a dam) which has been shown through studies of its sediments to be 480,000 years old. It’s an active ancient lake next to an ancient volcano (Mount Konocti). The region surrounding the lake was once a hotspot hangout for celebrities (look up Hoberg’s Resort) in the late 1800s including socialite and royal mistress, Lillie Langtry, who purchased 4,200 acres in Guenoc to raise racehorses and grow wine grapes. Unfortunately, the region’s fame dissipated (people have blamed everything from the 1906 earthquake to prohibition to lake flies) and ranchers turned to planting pears and walnuts instead of grapes. More recently, investments have led to improvements in the region including the addition of several wine tourist spots that are worth checking out (including Ceago Winery and Biodynamic Farm and Tallman Hotel).

Grape Varietal

Riesling is an aromatic variety known for its high acidity and floral aromas, which tend to develop in cooler growing regions. It is the main wine grape of Germany but has significant plantings throughout the world. In California, Riesling is also known by its botanical name White Riesling.

Riesling is used to make a wide range of wines from dry to sweet and is sometimes used in sparkling wines. The grape is known to express the place in which it is grown, yet maintains its varietal character. Riesling is often described as flowery, honey-like and complex, as well as spicy and lingering on the palate. Ice wine, late harvest, and botrytized Rieslings are among the most appreciated and age-worthy examples.

California’s Riesling acreage has grown slightly over the last decade from 3,100 in 2008 to 3,900 acres in 2018. However, don’t let those numbers fool you, it’s still very low overall compared to Cabernet Sauvignon that has 91,000 acres of planting across California. Cab Sauv is definitely the king in California.

What’s That Sparkle?

When you open a bottle of our 2015 Riesling, you might notice a sparkly surprise. Tartrate crystals, sometimes called “wine diamonds”, form when tartaric acid (a natural component found in grapes as well as bananas) binds with potassium under cold conditions to form a crystalline salt.

Diamonds are a wine lover’s best friend!

About The Vineyard

The cool climate of Clear Lake, Lake County, North Coast was perfect for the grapes to have a long ripening on the vine necessary to produce botrytis rot or “gray mold” as it’s called in horticulture. Botrytis rot is the bunching of fungal spores that look like “ashes” because of the greyish colour of the spores on the skin of the grapes. In the vineyard, the Riesling grapes dimpled and became high in sugar. The grapes were then picked and put in bins and brought to the winery.

In the Winery

These grapes were basket pressed with a lot of pressure and fermented in stainless steel. Once fermentation and fining was over the wine was bottled. The wine sat and aged in the bottle for 4.5 years.

Recommended Food Pairings

This wine is the perfect match for delicate desserts, including almond cookies, crème brulée and poached pears.

wichita moments

,2019 Wichita Moments


Sweet White


13% ABV

Tasting Notes

Appearance: Light in color. Straw yellow with light hues of gold

Aromas: Green apple, pear, agave

Body: Light body

Taste: Green apple, pear, agave.

A perfect balance of acid, tartness, and sweetness.

Finish: Smooth finish

The Story Behind the Wine

Our 2019 Wichita Moment wine from Kansas is made from Apple Cider but it truly tastes like a Moscato. Jennifer received her Farm Winery license from Kansas ABC on November 7, 2019. That next week she hauled two 275 gallon IBC totes to Rees Farm in Topeka, Kansas to purchase 400 gallons of Apple Cider. Topeka is about two hours north and a little east of Wichita. The team at Rees Farm transferred cider to Jennifer’s tanks directly from their tank. The apples had been pressed the day before so the cider was super fresh.

That same day, Jennifer drove back to Wichita, unloaded the totes and immediately checked the BRIX to determine how much sugar was in the juice. The BRIX were a little low so Jennifer added about 40 lbs of sugar to the juice, stirred it up really well, and added yeast and enzymes. The yeast used was Lalvin K1-V1116 and by the next day, fermentation had started. The winery has Letina stainless tanks and American oak barrels onsite but Jennifer wanted this wine to be delicate, soft and fruit-forward so she let it ferment in the totes.

Active fermentation lasted for about 10 days, at which point the wine was transferred to a 550 gallon stainless steel tank because the temperature of the wine could be controlled through the chiller and control panel. The only way to control temperature in the totes is to change the temperature of the air in the room. The wine was allowed to naturally refine through cold stabilization. The temperature was dropped to around 30 degrees to allow for any solids like yeast or enzymes to fall to the bottom of the tank. Towards the end of December the filtration process began.

The winery has a small plate and a frame filter that is used to filter and rack the wine. The wine was moved from one tank to another using a pump and hoses and filtered as it moved from one tank to another. The highest micron filter was used first. Think of microns as “pores” on the filter. The higher the micron, the bigger the “pore” that allows the wine to flow through. The filtration process started with a 9 micron filter, then 7, 5, 2, 1, down to a 0.45 filter – which is technically sterile. During the bottling process there is a final filtration using a poly ether sulfone cartridge filter. This type of filter looks like a long cylinder and is an additional sterilization the wine goes through before bottling. Jenny Dawn Cellars take great pride in producing clean and sanitary wine. Wichita Moments was bottled on December 30th and released in January of 2020.

Recommended Food Pairings

This wine is the perfect match for charcuterie, baked brie, delicate desserts such as apple turnovers.


Wichita Passion

,Wichita Passion


Sweet Red


13% ABV

Tasting Notes

Appearance: Light in color.

Light red with a white rim variation

Aromas: Blackberries with cherry and floral notes.

Body: Light body but feels good on the palate

Taste: Acidic, a little tart as well as sweet.

Cherry, blackberry and floral.

Finish: Smooth finish

The Story Behind the Wine

This Kansas wine is made from blackberries. Jennifer worked with a grower called Big Berry Springs in LeCompton, KS to obtain the blackberries. The berries were picked at the end of June and then frozen and delivered the second week in November. 1800 pounds of frozen berries were divided up into two large one ton pick bins. The berries were left to defrost for a couple days before pressing started. The berries were still a bit frozen at this point so the pressing process was extremely cumbersome. 1800 lbs of berries only yielded 180 gallons of juice. 10% yield is not great but should improve when we try the process again this summer with fresh berries.

After pressing, the juice was pumped directly into our 265 gallon Letina tank. At this point the Brix was tested and sugar, yeast, and enzymes were added to start the fermentation process. This process is always a full day’s work so it was late when the yeast was added. The next day the beautiful smell of active fermentation filled the winery. According to Jennifer, “Fermentation has an undeniable smell that I absolutely love because I know that what I did worked and that I am about to turn juice into wine.”

Again, the process was very similar to the Wichita Moments process as far as filtration, sweetening and bottling. This wine was bottled on December 30th and released in January.

Recommended Food Pairings

This wine is an excellent starter. Pair with appetizers like salad courses because of the nice balance of tart and sweetness. The wine is wonderful with vinaigrette dressing.


,2018 Chardonnay

Sonoma Valley


15.12% ABV


92 points – New World International Wine Competition

2 Silver Medals

(2017 Chardonnay won Best of Class in the 2019 San Francisco wine competition)

Tasting Notes

Appearance: Clear, straw yellow

Aromas: Lemongrass, green, apple, pear, citrus – beautiful nose

Body: Light plus body

Taste: Lemongrass, green, apple, pear, citrus. Very acidic, young wine. (Will become less acidic over time)

Finish: Smooth finish

Varietal Information

Chardonnay is the most popular white wine on earth. Travel to any wine region in the world, and you’ll find at least one vineyard growing Chardonnay. It’s a wine that can be simple or regal, aged for many years or consumed immediately.

Chardonnay was born in the Burgundy region of France, where it is known as White Burgundy, and it was there that the wine gained great acclaim for its elegance. Chablis is a region in the Northeast corner of Burgundy where 100% Chardonnay and Chablis is one of my favorite representations of the wine.

Soon after Chardonnay’s rise in popularity, winemakers in Champagne began to grow the grape as well, using it as the dominant ingredient for their sparkling wines. As the grape spread, winemakers discovered that warm climates would produce a Chardonnay grape that was ripe and full of tropical flavors, while in cooler climates the grape had flavors of apple as well as earthy fall aromas such as mushrooms and the smell of fallen leaves. With the variety of different Chardonnays that can be produced around the world, wine drinkers literally have a Chardonnay for every season and occasion. This worldwide variety allows Chardonnay to go extremely well on its own while sitting outside in the summer, or even on a cold winter’s night with a hearty stew.

About The Vineyard

Sonoma Valley AVA is located in CA located about 45 miles north of San Francisco. It’s a 17 mile picturesque valley that sits between 2 mountain ranges. It’s absolutely gorgeous in this part of the country and it’s a great place to grow grapevines.

In the Winery

In California during the ‘80s and ‘90s, winemakers, especially the mass market ones, started going oak crazy producing really buttery Chardonnays. My philosophy with Chardonnay is I like a little oak but not too much. Our Chardonnay recipe is 85% fermentation in stainless steel and 15% in new French Oak. Another option is to ferment 100% in stainless steel and then do a 2nd malolactic fermentation to create just the right amount of creamy butteriness.

Recommended Food Pairings

This wine pairs well with seafood, mussels, clams, shellfish, and salmon. Salmon with asparagus, diced potatoes, other veggies or steamed rice would be perfect.

,2017 Pinot Noir

Russian River Valley


15.1% ABV

Tasting Notes

Appearance: Lush red in color

Aromas: Cranberry, cherry and raspberry

Body: Light-medium bodied

Taste: Deeply layered fruit and fine tannins

Finish: Smooth finish

Varietal Information

Pinot Noir grapes also originate from Burgundy. The grape vine has adapted to grow in wine regions all over the world. The essence of Pinot Noir wine is the aroma of red berries and cherry; fresh red cherries in lighter wines and stewed black cherries in weightier examples. Many of the more complex examples show hints of forest floor. Well-built Pinot Noirs, particularly from warmer harvests, suggest leather and violets – sometimes recalling Syrah. We had a 2017 Pinot from Sonoma County that tasted just like that but we are unfortunately sold out of that one.

About The Vineyard

The Russian River Valley is one of the top-ranked wine regions in the US and is located at the heart of Sonoma County in California. This is one of California’s coolest and foggiest AVAs (particularly in its southern and western portions) and its cool growing season coupled with a long, slow ripening period promotes complexity and balance in the wines. As a result, Russian River Valley wines are widely respected; particularly those made from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

In the Winery

This Pinot Noir was handpicked in the vineyard, then whole-cluster pressed in the winery. The juice, skins, must, and seeds went through native fermentation in stainless steel. Each day, the mixture went through three delicate punch-downs. After primary fermentation was complete, this Pinot Noir was transferred to neutral French oak for aging, then bottled onsite at Jenny Dawn Cellars.

Recommended Food Pairings

Pinot Noir pairs well with a wide range of foods. Fruitier versions make a great match with salmon or other fatty fish, roasted chicken or pasta dishes; bigger, more tannic Pinots are ideal with duck and other game birds, casseroles or, of course, stews like beef bourguignon.

,2017 Cabernet Sauvignon

Paso Robles


13.81% ABV

Tasting Notes

Appearance: Deep ruby-red to purple in color

Aromas: Black cherry, pomegranate, currant, black pepper, plum and blackberry; complemented by dark chocolate, black olives, dried thyme and tobacco leaves

Body: Medium bodied (Lighter than most Cabs but this means it can be enjoyed on its own, without a meal)

Taste: Bold and assertive. Complexity and depth with a purity of fruit and subtle layers of flavors and texture that harmonize and enhance the sipping experience. The aromas match taste on the palate.

Finish: Smooth finish

Varietal Information

Cabernet Sauvignon is planted all over the world in a wide variety of climates. It originated in Bordeaux and the grape can truly reach its full potential in Bordeaux as well as in several AVA’s in California. Some of the world’s most expensive wine is Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.

Cabernet Sauvignon is interesting in that it is a natural cross between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc which happened in the 17th century.

Bordeaux is very much the “OG” in Cabernet Sauvignon grape growing. It’s here that you’ll find some of the most savory and age-worthy expressions of the grape. Still, you won’t find a lot of single-varietal Cab here – most are blended into the region’s famous “Bordeaux Blend.” Cabernet Sauvignon performs really well in the gravelly soils in Bordeaux.

Traditionally, Cabernet Sauvignon can be described as having flavors of black currant, ripe (not baked) plum, subtle licorice, black cherry, raspberry, as well as blueberry and/or blackberry. All of these tasting notes associated with Cabernet indicate the grapes were perfectly ripe when the grapes were picked.

About The Vineyard

Paso Robles is the halfway point between San Francisco and Los Angeles. It lies on the inland side of the Santa Lucia coastal mountains with it’s western boundary only 6 miles from the Pacific Ocean. It is one of California’s fastest growing wine regions with over 40,000 acres of vine planted. It is also sometimes called “The wild west of California wine” for 3 reasons:

  1. The diversity of grapes grown and style of wines that are produced.
  2. The diversity in soils, elevation, and rainfall.
  3. Criminal Jesse James is known to have stayed in the Paso Robles area for some time while he was hiding out from the authorities.

In the Winery

These grapes were machine harvested. 100% of the juice for this Cab was fermented in stainless steel. Afterwards, 85% of the wine was aged in neutral French oak while 15% of the wine was aged in new French oak.

Recommended Food Pairings

I have six favorite pairings for Cabernet Sauvignon

  1. Steak: The obvious one. Especially slightly fattier steaks like ribeye and sirloin, served medium-rare
  2. A good burger
  3. Beef short ribs and other braised beef dishes: Slow-braised beef, or venison, can be great too especially when cooked in red wine. Fashionable ox cheek dishes are also a good pairing – even a chilli con carne: a good match for an inexpensive, jammy cabernet.
  4. Roast or grilled lamb: A butterflied leg of lamb or a lamb steak with rosemary is always a winner especially with red Bordeaux.
  5. Portobello mushrooms: If you’re not a meat-eater, a big juicy grilled Portobello mushroom (or two) with butter and garlic is a great pairing.
  6. Cheese:You’ll find that Cabernet Sauvignon is a good all-rounder for a cheese board especially with hard cheeses such as an aged cheddar or gouda.Blue cheeses like Gorgonzola work well too especially in combination with a steak or a burger. A side of cheesy polenta will also help show off a good cab.

,2017 Sweet Red

Paso Robles


Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah Blend

15.1% ABV

Tasting Notes

Appearance: Opaque, deep purple in color

Aromas: Displays aromatics of sweet oak, espresso, black cherry, pomegranate, currant, and black pepper. Finesse of dried plum and savory sage.

Body: Medium body

Taste: Sweet oak, espresso, black cherry, pomegranate, currant, and black pepper.

Finish: Luxuriously soft tannins that linger with caramel, fudge and a vanilla finish

In the Vineyard

These cab grapes were machine harvested

In the Winery

100% fermented in stainless steel. 85% of the wine was aged in neutral French oak while 15% of the wine was aged in new French oak.

Recommended Food Pairings

For a pairing to work well, the body of both the food and wine should be comparable. A rich, sweet wine would overpower a light dish, and vice versa. One of my favorite food pairings that we have here at the winery is our chocolate truffles. Dishes with sweet sauces or honey glazes are excellent matches for sweet wines. If you’re worried that sweet on sweet will be too much of a good thing, don’t fret; sugar in food naturally diminishes the perception of sugar in wine, so a dry wine might actually be too harsh and acidic for dishes with sweet components. The sweet wine paired will actually seem drier than it does on its own, diminishing rich fruit and highlighting complex, non-fruit flavors.

You can purchase any of the 7 wines we just covered in the winery, in 23 liquor stores locally, or online. We can now ship within Kansas as well as 37 other states!

We’re delighted with the response to these virtual tastings and, going forward, Jennifer will be offering scheduled virtual tasting sessions as a new way to engage with her audience nationally and to create some unique experiences for all of you wine lovers. If you’re interested in a private tasting, please e-mail us with the details.

Make sure you keep an eye out for information on our upcoming Wine Release on June 13th when we’ll be unveiling 4 new wines. Until then, happy sipping!


Founded in 2016 by Jennifer McDonald, Jenny Dawn Cellars has grown from the dream of an at-home winemaker into Wichita’s first urban winery.

In 2017, Jenny Dawn Cellars established a working partnership with a wine facilitator in Napa, California. In 2019, Jenny Dawn Cellars opened a winery and tasting room in the heart of downtown Wichita located at Union Station.

Currently, Jenny Dawn Cellars has a 2018 Chardonnay, 2017 Pinot Noir, 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon, a Sweet Red Blend, a Sweet Red Wine named Wichita Passion and a Sweet White Wine named Wichita Moments.

Jenny Dawn Cellars also offers small bites, venue rentals, wine locker memberships, and Winuecation, a monthly educational class.

We’ve bottled the art of timing.

From the vine to the bottle. We craft our wine from grapes, fruit, and juice sourced from the finest growers in the nation.

From the bottle to the glass. That’s where you come in. When you open a bottle of Jenny Dawn Cellars wine, you open your moment, your reprieve from the business of busy-ness, and your time to bloom.

Jenny Dawn Cellars is inspired by the wildflowers on the Kansas countryside, inviting you to open up, enjoy the breeze, and show your colors to the world. Just like a flower, when Jenny Dawn Cellars wine is shared with someone special, it needs no further explanation – it’s a feeling that is simply understood.

Jenny Dawn Cellars – Let your moment begin.

Posted in News, Recipes by Jennifer McDonald on May 21, 2020.

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