K-State LAB winners create ‘liquid art’ with new winery

K-State Alumni Communications

Two former Kansas State University students, Danielle ’11 and David Tegtmeier, have opened a new winery in Manhattan, Kansas, called Liquid Art Winery and Estate. (Photo: Ashley Pauls)

The morning sun rises over the hills, shining down on the thousands of tiny grape vines dotting the gently rolling landscape at Liquid Art Winery and Estate. Tucked away in the Flint Hills and overlooking Manhattan, Kansas, the scenic winery is the dream project of two former Kansas State University students, Danielle ’11 and David Tegtmeier. After months of hard work clearing their property and planting grapes, the Tegtmeiers are excited about the start of their new venture and thankful for the role K-State played in making their dream a reality.

“We’re really excited to be back in Manhattan and bring this to the community,” said Danielle Tegtmeier, whose business was selected as one of the grand prize winners in K-State’s recent Launch a Business entrepreneurship education program.

The five-session summer LAB program provides new businesses with needed resources, such as faculty-led courses, hands-on student research teams and access to the university's alumni mentor network. The Tegtmeiers were chosen as this year's grand prize winners in the global food systems division and received a $10,000 cash prize. This year's program was sponsored by KS State Bank and the College of Business Administration's Center for the Advancement of Entrepreneurship. 

"K-State LAB is designed to support promising entrepreneurs with the university's unique resources to help advance their business concept and ultimately create jobs in Kansas," said Chad Jackson, director of K-State's Center for the Advancement of Entrepreneurship.

David Tegtmeier said, "The program has been great. The connections we've made through the mentors and other businesses around the state have been invaluable. The LAB program really allowed us to step back from the day-to-day activities of our business and focus on the big-picture details that we don't necessarily get to look at every day."

Although Kansas might not be the first state that comes to mind when people think of the best places to produce wine, it’s actually an ideal location, Tegtmeier said. Liquid Art Winery's location, 1745 Wildcat Creek Road in Manhattan, has good topography and rocky soil — the perfect conditions for growing wine-producing grapes. Liquid Art will be one of the few wineries in the Midwest to focus primarily on growing European grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay.

David and Danielle Tegtmeier, owners of Liquid Art Winery and Estate, receive the 2015 K-State Launch a Business grand prize award in the global food systems division from Chad Jackson, director of K-State's Center for the Advancement of Entrepreneurship. (Photo: K-State News and Communications)
Both Tegtmeiers grew up in Kansas, and they met their freshman year at K-State. Danielle Tegtmeier originally studied special education, but when she met David Tegtmeier, his passion for the wine industry inspired her to switch her major to marketing so she could join him in the business. He finished his degree at Fresno State in California, and then the two traveled to various states, including Washington and Colorado, and learned more about the industry.  

When they decided to come back to Kansas, they fell in love with their current location on Wildcat Creek Road in rural Manhattan, they said. They took a leap of faith, quitting their jobs and selling their brand-new home.  

The Tegtmeiers purchased the land on Wildcat Creek Road in March 2014 and spent months clearing 70 acres of cedar trees. In May this year, they invited almost 100 people, including neighbors, friends, family and community members, to a “planting party,” where they planted about 7,000 grapevines. 

“We’re awfully grateful for all that help,” David Tegtmeier said. “It would have taken us months and months on our own.” 

The name “Liquid Art” was inspired by a comment Tegtmeier heard at a tasting event about wine being a “liquid art crafted by the vintner’s hand.” 

“Right then, a lightbulb went off,” he said. “That’s going to be the name of my winery.” 

They’ll be using grapes grown at Tegtmeier’s family’s farm to produce the first batch of Liquid Art wine, along with fruit contracted from other Kansas vineyards he has worked with as a consultant. Their own vines will be ready in three years.

In the future, the Tegtmeiers plan to construct a tasting room and patios on site, along with an events center that will accommodate up to 375 guests for events such as weddings and corporate gatherings. They’d also like to add a wine cave underground. 

“We’re very excited to bring this to town,” Danielle Tegtmeier said. 

For information about the winery, find the business on Facebook and Twitter. The winery's website, http://www.liquidartwinery.com/, is under construction. 

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