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A final toast
Dozier Winery in Ellinwood set to close August 5
Dozier winery pic.tif
The Dozier Vineyard and Winery was the venue for a 2009 Barton County Arts Association event. The property has provided the backdrop for weddings, parties and events in addition to being the home of a line of Kansas wines, available for tasting and purchase on site. The Doziers have contracted to sell the property in August to a family from Great Bend. The winery will close August 5. - photo by COURTESY PHOTO

Bruce and Nina Dozier have operated the Dozier Vineyard and Winery since 2001, and are ready to close the curtain on an 11 year run. Once the decision was made, it only took two days to locate a buyer for the property, Mr. Dozier said. The couple look forward to retirement, though they haven’t yet decided where.
“We used to be able to find part time help, but lately it’s hard to find anyone who will work, let alone part time,” he said. “We’ve had a good run. We’ve been happy and we’ve met a lot of good people, but its time to wind down now.”
In 2002, Dozier Vineyard and Winery was named the 2002 Barton Business of the Year. The business itself inspired then county commissioner Kirby Krier to push for the annual award, according to a 2002 story in The Great Bend Tribune. It was the focus of a paranormal investigation after word got out about several ghost sightings around the antique train depot. For years various people have reported seeing the ghost of a woman by the road and in the woods close to the depot. Local folklorists say a young bride haunts the depot, in search of her lost love.  
The Doziers have hosted wine tastings and winery tours, a picnic area and walking trails, in addition to outdoor weddings and parties. The last weekend the winery will be open is August 4-5. That’s the last weekend to purchase both wine and other items from the gift shop which occupies an historic train depot that was moved to the property several years ago, After the doors close on the 5th, the Doziers must turn in their license to make and sell wine, and the winery will officially close.
“The state won’t allow a winery to pass through to another owner,” Dozier said. “They have to apply for their own licenses and labels.”

Taking lessons from previous sale

In March of 2011, Norm Jennings, owner of Smoky Hill Vineyard and Winery in Salina put his property and business up for sale also. A story ran in the Salina Journal that month in which Jennings was quoted, “Our hope is that we find an individual or entity that wants to run the winery as Smoky Hill Winery and just carry it directly forward as it is today.”  By January of 2012, the Journal announced the property would be sold by online auction, with rights to the name Smoky Hill Winery and the wine recipes being sold separately. Wine lovers and supporters of Simply Kansas and the buy-local movement were surprised to learn about the complications inherent in the sale spelled the end for the popular Kansas-produced wine. Those same laws prevent the Doziers from selling the winery portion of their business too. But that doesn’t bother Ryan and Nicole Gardner of Great Bend. They look forward to making it their family home and taking possession of the unique property August 15.  

New owners

Ryan Gardner, wife Nicole and their 7 year old son have been looking for a property like this for a long time, Mr. Gardner said and plan to live and eventually retire there. “We’re in it for the long haul,” he said.
The family loves the outdoors, and Gardner looks forward to sharing his love of hunting with his son.  
They will initially continue to provide a venue for weddings, with a handful of September nuptials already on the books, Gardner says. The Doziers continue to receive calls from people who would like to book October ceremonies. The location has also been a popular backdrop used by local photographers for senior photos, a tradition the couple is also open to continuing.
Gardner confirmed the couple have no plans to reopen the winery. In addition to the hurdles they would be required to jump in order to become licensed and their have labels approved, Gardner points to the past experience with herbicide the Doziers had to deal with as a reason.  “They had several vines damaged or killed because of drift from neighboring agricultural fields,” Gardner said.
The couple have not ruled out a future agritourism enterprise, however. They are still brainstorming, Gardner said, and have thought about the possibility of having a pumpkin patch open at some point in the future.  “We’re going to take a year or so to think about it and decide what we’d like to do,” he said. “Its a beautiful and peaceful place, and we’re looking forward to many years of enjoying it.”