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New winery growing roots in Ray Co.

Tom Sullivan grows a variety of white and red grapes at his Crooked River Vineyard near Millville. Sullivan chose a Ray County location for his home and vineyard after finding land prices were more affordable than in Weston, Lexington or+ south of Kansas City. He’s already producing wine for his personal use and plans eventually to become Ray County’s third licensed winery. (Photo by David Knopf/Richmond News)

Tom Sullivan grows a variety of white and red grapes at his Crooked River Vineyard near Millville. Sullivan chose a Ray County location for his home and vineyard after finding land prices were more affordable than in Weston, Lexington or+ south of Kansas City. He’s already producing wine for his personal use and plans eventually to become Ray County’s third licensed winery. (Photo by David Knopf/Richmond News)

By David Knopf/Richmond News

Tom Sullivan didn’t plan to buy land in Ray County. But when he began looking at the cost of acreage in areas like Weston and Lexington, the more affordable rolling hills near Millville began to make more and more sense.

“I basically just figured out where I wanted to do this,” said Sullivan, who built a sprawling log house and planted a vineyard on 20 of his 80 acres. “I wanted to be about an hour from Kansas City. I really just stumbled on this and it appealed to me.

“The land values (elsewhere) were five to 10 times what they are here.”

Sullivan’s plan is to turn Crooked River Vineyard into Ray County’s third licensed winery, joining Van Till’s in Rayville and Fence Stile in rural Excelsior Springs. For now, he’s got his hands full tending to the vines, keeping critters out and running a consulting business out of his home.

Sullivan bought the property about 10 years ago after retiring from a 30-year career with Black & Veatch, an international engineering firm. His first grape vines were planted about two years later, and today they provide more grapes than Sullivan can use to ferment bottled wine for himself, his family and friends.

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