Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Waconia Wine Country Tour

When Aaron and I decided to move to Waconia to start a vineyard, we thought we were pioneers marching into unchartered grape growing territory.  When we found our property, it was perfect for what we were looking for and we were especially excited about the proximity to the city.  Although wineries were popping up rapidly statewide, we really didn't know of any wineries this close in on the west side, or in Carver County at all.  We thought we were tapping into an untapped market.

Or should I say uncorking a corked market?

After we moved and started planting in the spring of 2008, we soon found out that we were not the pioneers we thought we were.  There were already grape growers settled just before us.  Just because there were no wineries open for business, doesn't mean there weren't people close by planting grapes-so we learned!

Soon after we moved, we found out there were already two other grape growers IN WACONIA!  And not even that, one of those grape growers was technically in our little Laketown Township.  What are the odds?  Both of these vineyards were just a few miles away from us!   So, last month, we took a little tour of Waconia wine country.

Parley Lake Winery opened up in the fall of 2009.  We are happy to say that, since we are not quite ready with a facility for processing wine ourselves, we are partnering with Parley Lake this year to sell them some of our grapes from this year's harvest!

We took our vineyard worker and neighbor, Les, and his wife, Jeanette, over to do a tasting about three weeks ago.  All the sweat and tears they are pouring into the vineyard for us, we figured it would be good for them to see what it is we are working for and give them some perspective.  Not to mention, give them a taste of some good Minnesota wine!

Les and Jeanette were not real big on getting their picture taken, so I had to snap a few casual candid shots when they weren't paying attention.

And then decided if they didn't want their picture taken, I'd just find another good subject.

Here's one!

Yes, we are really good parents....

We brought our 6 month old to a wine tasting...

...which overlapped with his usual nap time! 

Not on purpose.  It just kind of worked out that way.  I know, I know...babies like schedules, blah, blah blah.  But he adjusted just fine and was in good spirits the whole time.  That's how we roll...and he just rolls right along with us.

He was so captivated by the wine.  We like to think he was checking out the color and clarity like a sommelier in the making. 

"Hey, Dad.  Give me a little sip of that Frontenac Gris.  Hmmmmm....nice balance. Crisp. Refreshing. Notes of apricot and tropical fruit."

Okay, okay...we didn't really give him a sip!  We tried to keep the glass at a safe distance, but he kept reaching for it and trying to stick it in his mouth!

That's how we know he is our son. 

Since he appears to be keeping those big blue eyes, we reach for anything we can to let us know he is really ours. 

Anyway....where was I?  Wasn't this post supposed to be about the Waconia wineries?

Did I go off on a baby tangent again?

This is Steve, the head winemaker at Parley Lake.  I caught him talking very animatedly about his wine!  After our tasting, he gave us a tour of the winery.  For those who like to learn about the process and nuances of winemaking, it is fun to get this behind the scenes tour. 

And we got to sample a few wines straight from the barrels! Aaron and I were quite impressed with the Marquette he had in the making.  Can't wait to try it next season!

And after our winery tour, we got a tractor ride in their vineyard! 

This is Lin, the vineyard owner and manager. He has had an apple orchard for over 25 years on this property and started expanding to grapes when he partnered with Steve. 

Aaron thinks I have a crush on Lin.  I told him it's because I envision Aaron being a bit like Lin in about 35 years: tall, tanned and rugged from working outside, full head of silver hair, still working hard in the vineyard, still learning new things every day, giving tractor rides and tours, talking about his grandkids...

Just seems like a little glimpse of our future. 

It was a perfect afternoon to ride through a vineyard with a glass of Frontenac Gris.

This is what happens when you get a bunch of grape nerds together on what started as a nice relaxing, beautiful afternoon...

They stop to examine the grapes and start exchanging ideas and comparing notes on how to control bugs and fungus and weeds.  That's the less romantic side to a vineyard. 

See.  We even worked in a nap.  Nothing like a little snoozer on a wagonride through a vineyard.

*Note the "Vintage Baby" onesie.

We had such a thorough experience and good time at Parley Lake, that we didn't have time to go to Sovereign Estates opening weekend on the same day.   We went the next weekend instead, when it was like 145 degrees and had a great time, despite the heat. 

But that will have to wait for another post.