Just off a main road in Platte City, Missouri, an unpaved driveway leads toward Jowler Creek Vineyard & Winery. A sign on the right reads, "Please Drive Slowly, Dust Kills Vines."
Beyond the driveway, a beautiful tasting room incorporates recycled materials. Pallet pieces became decorative interior walls, and empty wine bottles now comprise one-of-a-kind light fixtures. Certified sustainable wood is another feature. Twenty-two rooftop photovoltaic solar panels offset up to one third of energy usage inside the building, significantly reducing carbon emissions.
Jason and Colleen Gerke didn’t set out to create an eco-friendly winery. “But customers began describing us as a green winery,” Colleen says, and the couple liked the idea. Today, Jowler Creek is the only Missouri winery certified in five categories under the state’s Agricultural Stewardship Assurance Program: specialty crops, farmstead, grassland, energy and livestock.
The Gerkes already appreciated natural approaches to farming and raising crops when they started the winery. Jason grew up on a Windsor, Missouri, farm with cows and row crops. Today, Chambourcin grapes grow there for Jowler Creek wines.
Colleen is from Santa Maria, California, where wineries install bat houses to combat flying bugs; the five bat houses work beautifully here, too. Twenty-five chickens eat additional insects. If the Gerkes need to chase birds away from fruit-filled vines, they use propane cannons at sunrise and sunset, when birds most often visit. Ten sheep help control weeds, and a friendly Great Pyrenees herds them (when she isn’t greeting visitors). A solar-powered wildlife fence keeps critters away, too.
Growing indigenous grapes is another green choice. Selected for its hardiness, “The Norton grape is naturally resistant to pests and moisture challenges,” Jason says, “so we don’t need as much herbicide and fungicide.” Vignoles and Traminette vines also grow well here.
On-site composting keeps soil moisture levels high beneath the vines, which these grapes thrive on. There’s a water-saving drip irrigation system and a rain collection barrel, and the Gerkes partner with community recycling programs, minimizing packaging that goes to landfills. “We added bees this year, too, which is good for the landscape,” Colleen says. “We’ve already added a second box.”
The winery attracts some unexpected visitors, too, like electric-car owners who find Jowler Creek’s electric vehicle and Tesla charging stations online. The former powers the couple’s all-electric Nissan LEAF delivery vehicle, which travels 80 miles on a single charge. “We can go six weeks without adding new power,” Jason says.
From grape-harvesting parties to Sangria Sundays, Jason and Colleen love hosting special events at their green winery. Their guests love it too. Recently, the Gerkes’ Eclipse & Sips Festival drew more than 400 people, despite wet weather and cloudy skies.
Jowler Creek's tasting room is open Wed through Friday from 11am to 5pm, Saturday from 11am to 9pm and Sunday from 11am to 5pm.
Jowler Creek Vineyard & Winery, 16905 Jowler Creek Road, Platte City, Missouri, 816.858.5528, jowlercreek.com