Westphalia Vineyards gathers in the gold
The fledgling Westphalia Vineyards—Osage County’s only winery—was founded less than two years ago by the Terry Neuner family and did not sell its first bottle of wine until two months ago, but in spite of that the company has just won a gold medal in the fiercely-competitive Norton National Wine Festival in St. Louis.
The Norton grape is the talk of the wine-lover’s world. It is the official grape of Missouri and is being touted as a world-class grape. Whoever can use this grape to make a great wine will be a winner in the world of winemaking.
Well before Terry Neuner retired, the Neuners knew they wanted to start a Kobe beef business when they moved back to Westphalia. They saw Kobe beef as a way to utilize the farm they loved so much.
Starting an Angus operation in Osage County is not too difficult. It’s quite easy to find Angus cattle in this area, but there aren’t many Wagyus. For that matter, there aren’t many Wagyus in the entire country, so the Neuners imported semen and artificially bred 12 cows in December, 2003. Eight calves were born the following September and one of those was slaughtered earlier this month. “It’s what we hoped it would be,” Terry said of the meat, and then laughingly added, “but we’ve got to get other people to agree with that.”
Since that original artificial insemination experience, the Neuners have purchased a registered Wagyu bull, which they have bred to 50 cows and have 14 calves on the ground. At this point the Neuners feel they have a quality product and the challenge for the beef business is to market the product.
While Terry and Mary were working on their beef business, they were also buying several older properties in Westphalia and restoring them. One of the buildings they restored is the old Holterman blacksmith shop. This restoration led to the opening of three businesses in that building, Mary’s antique business which is named Ever Changing Antiques, the Main St. Salon and Spa and the Blacksmith Shop Café. With the opening of these and other businesses in town, the Neuners feel optimistic about Westphalia’s prospects.
The Neuners are by nature upbeat folks who enjoy a challenge. They are excited about the prospects of the Kobe beef business. They greatly enjoyed restoring their home over the past 14 years. But more than anything else, the Neuners look forward to going into business with their sons, and possibly even their daughter.
For years sons Eric and Paul, both of whom live in San Diego, have wanted to start a family business. Paul says as a young man he always dreamed of opening a brewery on the farm. By throwing around terms such as “self-sufficient” and “living off the land” Paul says his mother got him interested in the idea of starting a brewery because everything necessary for brewing beer was present on the farm, including a good spring.
The first owners of the farm, the Porth family, operated a brewery out of a cave that can be seen from the road leading to the house. That was from approximately 1845 to 1870. Not much remains of that original operation, but the Neuners plan to restore what they can.
At one point in time Paul was positively convinced that between the desire to have a family business and the farm’s Porth tradition, a brewery would be the inevitable result. He was so convinced of this that when college economics classes got boring he would design labels for the beers he thought they should produce. “Neunerbrau” and “Westphalia Gold” are just two of the brews that are no longer in the business plan.
Eric was just as interested as Paul in going into business with his father and brother. Eric, however, thought the business might end up being a factory in Asia, rather than something in Westphalia. With that in mind Eric got his Masters in International Business at the University of San Diego. Eric’s idea did not miss the mark by much, as his father on two occasions almost bought a business in Asia.
At this point in planning for the family business, both sons are on the same page. Both think the winery and Kobe beef business make a great deal of sense and are looking forward to the future. Both are convinced they can turn out premier wines and both think the popularity of Kobe beef will continue to grow.
Don’t expect to see either Eric or Paul in Westphalia on a permanent basis any time in the next year or two. Eric, who operates a shoe renewal business with over 50 employees, and Paul, who is a senior vice president for investments at A.G. Edwards & Sons, think it will be from three to five years before it will be necessary for them to spend as much as three months a year working on the winery and beef business.
However, with the enthusiasm these two young men have for the idea of working together in a family-owned business to produce wine and beef of unsurpassed quality and taste, it’s hard to imagine the Neuner brothers working in San Diego too many more years.