Danielle and David Tegtmeier, founders of Liquid Art Winery and Estate, shared their adventures in business and life to a lecture hall of about 250 students on Monday.
The Tegtmeiers first met at Kansas State as freshmen in a speech class. In that class, David shared his dream of owning his own vineyard. He would eventually take Danielle to visit his home where his family owned a vineyard.
“I fell in love with the vineyard aspect of things,” Danielle said.
Danielle changed her degree from education to marketing so she could one day market the wine David would produce. Danielle graduated from K-State in 2011 with a degree in business marketing, and David graduated from Fresno State University the same year with degrees in enology and viticulture. The two married and moved to California.
While in California, Danielle was a sales representative for a winery and completed a sales certification program. The Tegtmeiers moved around the country several times before the 157-acre property that would eventually become their winery on Wildcat Creek Road became available for purchase.
The same week, the Tegtmeiers drove to Manhattan to check the soil and the property to see what it looked like. After soil samples were analyzed by K-State, the land proved to be ideal for starting a vineyard. The demographics of the surrounding area’s population were also ideal. They purchased the property, started construction and began planting the grapevines in 2014.
“Lots of blood, sweat and tears went into building the vineyard,” David said.
In 2015, they planted 7,000 vines over ten acres of land. Over 800 wood posts, 10 miles of drip irrigation, 2,800 metal posts and two miles of tall deer-prevention fences were installed in the first year.
“We knew we were going to be owner-operators and have four different aspects of our business: the vineyard, the winery, the tasting room and the event center,” Danielle said.
The event center opened in April 2016, and the tasting room opened later in July 2016. Opening the event center while the grapes aged to make wine provided the Tegtmeiers with a steadier flow of income, as opposed to solely relying on the vineyard.
“Our first year we had 19 weddings and this year had 42 weddings,” Danielle said.
Their event center is built for non-traditional weddings held outdoors in the vineyards, featuring scenic views of the Flint Hills.
“Another huge thing that makes our winery different is not only the type of grapes we are able to grow, but we have everything on site,” Danielle said. “We do everything from processing the grapes to fermentation. We put a lot of love in each bottle of wine.”
Keeping everything close isn’t the only thing separating Liquid Art from the competition. The staff is also referred to as “family” by the Tegtmeiers, as the business is family-operated.
“We really encourage people to come and enjoy the views we have,” Danielle said. “Come and enjoy a glass on site. Buy a bottle and share it with your friends. We want to be a spot for an experience in the Flint Hills.”
Currently, Liquid Art wine is sold in the winery’s tasting room and at two local liquor stores.
They have a new business venture called HiberVine where they plan to work with land owners wanting to start a vineyard. HiberVine handles the process of designing, planting and managing the crop while making money internally and increasing the land value for the owner.
The lecture series that the Tegtmeiers’ story was a part of began six years ago with Chad Jackson, director of the Center for the Advancement of Entrepreneurship. Jackson and the faculty of K-State’s Department of Hospitality Management work together to find speakers for the lecture series.
“We try to get entrepreneurs who are hospitality oriented,” Nancy King, hospitality management instructor, said. “Sometimes they aren’t, but the goal is for students to see how they’ve made it and what their struggles have been and what their successes have been and just … give them great information about how it is to own your own business.”
The lecture series features many K-State alumni, which is a factor when looking for speakers.
“There are so many success stories right here in Manhattan and in the general area,” King said. “We have national corporations that come and talk to us, and many of them have some K-State connection. Whether they are graduates of our program or they are on our advisory boards or something, we have a personal connection with them.”
Other upcoming speakers throughout the fall semester include Evan Grier and Jeff Gill from Tallgrass Taphouse on Oct. 9 and Scott Redler from Freddy’s Frozen Custard & Steakburgers on Nov. 13. The lectures are held at 4 p.m. in the College of Business Administration Building.