Reflections on Minnesota and Wisconsin

It’s been a couple of weeks since Kirk and Brad went on a three day filming trip to meet with winery and vineyard families in Minnesota and Wisconsin.  There has been a bit of a learning curve in terms of how many wineries we can visit with during the course of a day.  What we’re learning is that one or two per day is probably a good idea, particularly given the distance between winery/vineyard businesses.

Day #1, Stop #1 – Indian Island Winery .  On day one (Thursday) we were on the road by 6am, a nice sunny day but cool, and arrived at our first location by 9:30am.  The Winter family of Indian Island Winery (Janesville, MN) were extraordinarily welcoming, warm, and just a pleasure to get to know.  We began filming around 10am and realizing Ray Winter had to hit the road to deliver wines we got right to work.  We were able to interview three of the family members: Ray and Lisa and their daughter (winemaker) Angie.  After the interview we shot a few “on the road” segments with Angie and we all got to enjoy some crazy-delicious ice wine (made from St. Pepin).  This wine was an absolute winner!

Day #1, Stop #2 – Chankaska Creek Ranch Winery.  Stop number two was at Chankaska Creek Ranch and Winery (Kesota, MN) where we arrived in the early afternoon and began setting up.  The winery is a stunner!  We met with Kent Schwickert (proprietor) and Jane Schwickert (general manager) for an interview, while in the background a chef working with a wood-fired pizza oven were busy preparing meals, and we spent about an hour talking with the winery couple.  As a winery geek I was impressed with their cellar operation (and new distillery) and how nice the place was.  Outside we were treated to a tour of the grounds and vineyard by their vineyard manager, Jamieson.  Later we met with head winemaker Mike Drash and assistant winemaker Josie Boyle.  Josie and I (Brad) went to wine school together so it was a nice reunion and great to reconnect. After our shoot we were treated to a dinner of wood-fired pizza and Reserve Marquette.  Both were extraordinary!  After a 13 hour day we drove another 1.5 hours to Stillwater where we were to spend the night.

Day #2, Stop #1 – Northern Vineyards Winery (Stillwater, MN).  Our first stop, of three, had us at Northern Vineyards Winery where we set up in the 2nd story cellar room (yes, 2nd story – the building used to be a creamery).  The winery is located in downtown Stillwater within a stones throw of the Mississippi River.  Before general manager and winemaker Robin Parch arrived Kirk and I shot a new “on the road” segment I’m calling Wine 101, about what the term “table wine” means.  That’ll be posted soon.  We spent a little more than an hour filming an interview with Robin.  He’s been involved with the Minnesota grape and wine industry since the early 1970’s and has a tremendous about of knowledge about the industry.  We learned a lot!  Before noon we shot an “on the road” segment with Robin.

Day #2, stop #2 – Alexis Bailly Vineyard (Hastings, MN).  Not far from the Mississippi Alexis Bailly Vineyard is nestled behind a well-maintained vineyard and is a lovely winery.  We met and interviewed Nan Bailly (owner and winermaker) and similar to our first stop Nan possesses a long and rich history with the wine industry.  She learned a lot about wine while a young woman in France.  Those experiences laid a solid foundation of what great wines should taste like.  The hour-long interview flew by and Nan was a fountain of knowledge and wine industry experience – she’s been involved with the wine industry since the 1970’s.  We concluded our visit by shooting a few segments of “on the road” with her tasting room staff member, David.  He was very knowledgeable and these segments will surely be some of the very best ones from the trip.

Day #2, Stop #3 – Lake Pepin Winery (Lake City, MN).  We continued to strike gold on this trip!   We met with veteran grape grower (and relatively new winery owner) John Marshall.  What a treat to meet John!  Like others during this day John has a wealth of knowledge from years of growing grapes (since the 1970’s) and was a joy to interview.  This day was cool, grey, windy and rainy and despite the nasty conditions we hiked back to his vineyards (behind his winery) and he talked about his father, Elmer Swenson, being an early grape grower and his experiences in the burgeoning wine industry.  His passion for growing grapes, wine, and the industry was incredible.   We concluded this long day in Winona, MN and enjoyed a nice dinner out, processed some of the footage, and enjoyed the remaining Reserve Marquette from Chankaska Creek Ranch Winery.

Day #3 – Elmaro Vineyard (Trempealeau, WI).  This stop has special meaning to me as it was a homecoming of sorts.  I went to wine school with one of the winemakers, have known the family for several years, my wine science teacher was their consulting winemaker, and my grad school friends live in town.  Consequently, this stop warranted a full day.  We arrived early at the winery around 9am met with owners Lynita Docken and Mark Delaney and spent the good part of an hour talking with them together.  Later on we’d interview on-the-fly with Lynita (winemaker) as she took around her winery and building, talked history, and gave us the rock star treatment.  Mark (vineyard manager extraordinaire) gave us access to his beautiful vineyard, talked with us about his family’s history with the land, and their hope for the future.  Later during our day of filming we connected with Laura who helped us film three new “on the road” segments (see one of them here).

All in all it was a great trip.  Memorable interviews.  Interesting and informative characters.  I don’t think either of us (Kirk or Brad) got sick of each other – that’s always a good sign! 🙂

Big thank you to Iowa State University’s Mike White for helping us identify many of these wineries for our interviews!

Here are a few photos from this trip.  Thanks for following our progress and we’d be grateful if you’d contribute to our fundraising campaign – Click the red “donate now” button on the upper left of our website.  Thank you.

Indian Island Winery - Ray, Lisa and Angie
Indian Island Winery – Ray, Lisa and Angie
Kent and Jane of Chankaska Creek Ranch & Winery
Kent and Jane of Chankaska Creek Ranch & Winery
On the Road with Mike Drash (Chankaska Creek Ranch & Winery)
On the Road with Mike Drash (Chankaska Creek Ranch & Winery)
"On the Road" with sparkling winemaker Josie Boyle of Chankaska Creek Ranch Winery.
“On the Road” with sparkling winemaker Josie Boyle of Chankaska Creek Ranch Winery.
Cheers from Brad & Kirk
Cheers from Brad & Kirk
Robin Partch of Northern Vineyards Winery.
Robin Partch of Northern Vineyards Winery.
Always behind the camera - Kirk.
Always behind the camera – Kirk.
Nan Bailly of Alexis Bailly Vineyard
Nan Bailly of Alexis Bailly Vineyard
David Melbey of Alexis Bailly Vineyard and Brad filming an "on the road" segment.
David Melbey of Alexis Bailly Vineyard and Brad filming an “on the road” segment.
John Marshall of Lake Pepin Winery
John Marshall of Lake Pepin Winery
Elmaro Vineyard
Elmaro Vineyard
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