Alumni couple owns, operates vineyard in Joplin area

Erv Langan, outreach coordinator for Southwest Missouri State University, planted the first grapes at Keltoi in 1999.

Erv Langan, outreach coordinator for Southwest Missouri State University, planted the first grapes at Keltoi in 1999.

T.J. Gerlach

Missouri has more than 50 wineries and vineyards, and one vineyard belongs to one of Missouri Southern’s own.

In 1997, Erv Langan, outreach coordinator for Southwest Missouri State University and Southern alum, decided to buy land to start a vineyard. In 1998, he bought 43 acres of land about five miles northwest of Joplin and has added three more acres since.

“We’ve got three quarters of the winery operation built, but I need to build the retail part of it,” Langan said.

Langan named his vineyard Keltoi Vineyards, after the Celtic tribes of western Europe, “The Celts there were known for making … some of the finest wines in the world,” he said.

Langan and his wife, Leeann, who is also a Southern alumna, are building a house on the land so they can live next to the their future operation.

The Langan’s planted their first grapes in 1999. Keltoi grows seven varieties of grapes, four red varieties and three white. The grapes occupy about 5.8 acres of the Langan’s land.

“Our objective is to get to between six and a half and seven acres of grapes,” Langan said.

He said his plans also include park areas around the vineyard where people will be able to walk and enjoy the surroundings.

Langan decided to start a vineyard after he retired from education.

“My last tour in the military was in a wine region,” he said. “I just loved going out there and checking in on all the small wineries.”

Keltoi is not a licensed vineyard yet.

“We have been struggling through this for excess of a year,” Langan said.

He said for the federal license he is waiting for a bond to come in from Jefferson City. Once he acquires the federal license, Keltoi will still need state and county licenses as well as a label license.

The vineyard is primarily a family operation between Langan, his wife, who handles all the money involved, and his daughters. Langan said he hires people in the spring for planting, in the summer and in the fall for picking.

“We’ve got a lot of volunteers come out that want to drink wine,” Langan said. “A lot of people want to see it [be successful]. We want wineries in this area, and I do get a tremendous amount of support from folks.”

Wayne Tucker, 72, Oronogo and Joplin Junior College graduate, is one of the people who volunteers to help the Langans.

“I’m just a friend that comes out to help,” Tucker said. “I’ve been working with Erv for about two years.”

Tucker said in that time he has started a small vineyard of his own.

“I want very much for [Keltoi] to succeed,” he said.

In the four-state area, the only operating commercial vineyard is the White Rose Vineyard in Carthage.

“I think that there’s a market for other wineries, [and] we’d like to see more,” Langan said.

He said he is always looking for volunteers to help out, and sometimes volunteers are allowed to sample the wine.