ROANOKE - It’s fitting – maybe even predestined – that Michael Amigoni would become a vintner. After all his paternal grandfather, Guiseppe “Joseph” Amigoni, produced wine near Milan, Italy, before emigrating to town in the 1920s.
Now, the younger Amigoni is carrying on the tradition at his Amigoni Urban Winery in Kansas City, Mo.
“I grew up with wine around the household,” said the son of the late Joseph “Bing” and Antoinette “Toni” Amigoni. “I worked at Amigoni Supper Club, owned by my Uncle Eligio “Eli” and Aunt Betty Amigoni, where I’d stock on Saturdays and was a busboy and a waiter.”
The Italian eatery was a staple in the downtown Roanoke business district during the 1960s and ‘70s.
Amigoni’s local memories also include working summers at his Uncle Eli’s construction firm, playing basketball and baseball and being president of the Student Council before graduating from Roanoke-Benson High School in 1978.
He attended Illinois Central College in East Peoria and Sangamon State University (currently the University of Illinois-Springfield) before he received a master's degree in business administration from the University of Illinois- Chicago. He held several positions in the financial services and computer programming fields in Chicago before Amigoni moved to Missouri.
“I really was getting tired of the weather and the rat race in Chicago,” he said.
He took a computer position with an outsourcing company and later became its chief operating officer. By 1995 when his son Joseph was born, Amigoni began to feel the pull of the sun and the soil. “I became interested in wine and winemaking, since I like to grow things – plants and companies,” he said. “I planted 40 grapevines in our backyard at Leawood, Kan., near Kansas City, and began studying winemaking. Then in 2000 my wife, Kerry and I purchased 10 acres in Centerview, Mo., and planted six acres in grapes.
“Suddenly, I was hooked. I read everything I could and I traveled to Italy to learn about viticulture and oenology, the science of wine and winemaking. I took wine chemistry classes with a wonderful teacher from the University of California-Davis. I loved it. I did not have a lick of chemistry all the way through graduate school, but now I have chemistry books on my end table at home.”
Next, the couple needed a place to sell the fruits of their labors. “We got lucky,” said Amigoni, “as my wife worked for a man who owned and purchased a lot of buildings in the historic, former stockyards West Bottoms District of Kansas City. We worked with him in 2012 to beautifully renovate a 1909 building that formerly housed the Daily Drovers Telegram newspaper operation.”
That is where the couple produce the dry reds, like cabernet franc or cabernet sauvignon, that they are well known for. As an homage to his grandfather and the Italian ancestry, they produce some Italian varieties like barbera and sangiovese.
Besides using their locally grown grapes, they purchase some from Central Valley vineyards near Lodi, Calif. “The grapes come in refrigerated trucks, arriving just one day after picked,” he said. “We brought in about 80 tons in 2020. That’s a lot of grapes.”
Amigoni Urban Winery customers drink wine and local beers, as well as dine on locally produced food in the winery’s tasting room and barrel room. They also take tours and classes such as a blending class that teaches the history of French wine regions and the mechanics of blending various grape wines.
“My favorite thing,” Amigoni noted, “is that during our tours, we talk about the connection of Missouri to barrels. We have 250 barrels of wine and all the barrels are harvested and made here in Missouri.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has reduced the number of in-person events such as tours, weddings and corporate parties, but Amigoni has been promoting virtual events like the recent KPMG accounting firm’s virtual party for 175 executives from all over the world. According to Amigoni, although wine sales have been strong, he has pivoted to offer free shipping or reduced shipping costs to areas all across the country.
“You know, we have 30,000 to 40,000 people visit us each year to sample wine, drink wine and be happy,” Amigoni said.
Perhaps Grandfather Guiseppe is somewhere raising a glass to his grandson’s success.