One of the most frequently asked questions we get is: “Do you ever take time to sit back and enjoy all of this?”  The truthful answer is…not as often as we should.  While we certainly enjoy what we are doing, we thrive in the excitement of moving forward and seeing others enjoy what we’re creating.  We don’t often take time to reflect on how far we have come. Once one project is complete, there is always something new to tackle.  And with kids and dogs in the mix, there’s always something that needs our attention.  But this month we have been taking a trip down memory lane and it has been particularly fun to look back to the very beginning of starting the vineyard – 10 years ago.  Our logo has our established year as 2008 because that is the year this all began.  In March of 2008, we moved from our homes in the city to a farm in Waconia to start our lives together with visions of a family and a winery in our future.  We had no ties to Waconia and the honest truth is that we settled here because we knew we found a special property perfect for growing grapes with the added bonus of a reasonable commute to our jobs in the city.  These photos are what we fell in love with and what it looked like when we bought it.

That first spring of 2008, Aaron bought his first tractor, a 1967 Cub Cadet, for $375 off of Craigslist.  It was about all we could afford after the move and during a recession, but it did the trick to help us get our first acre of vines in the ground.

When he realized we needed a little more horsepower, he rented a tractor from our Farm Supply store down the road.  He used it for the weekend and then on Monday morning he had to return it before he went to work at his corporate job.  You can’t tell in the photo, but he’s wearing a button-down shirt and khaki pants under his windbreaker.  That’s why I called him the Gentleman Farmer.

Although Aaron had been talking about his dream of opening a winery for years, our friends and family weren’t convinced we were really going to do this. But when we moved to “the country,” choosing to live in a house with one bathroom, instead of a two story in a cul-de-sac, they realized we were serious.  Promising them pizza and free beer, we had “planting parties” to rope them into helping.

 

Oh my.  It seems a sin to be posting photos of these guys drinking Coors Light (gasp!), but it was a different time back then (craft beer wasn’t what it is today). 

Fall of our first year, the farm was still mostly corn, with a little vineyard in the corner.

Since I moved directly from a condo in uptown to a 12+ acre farm, the farm lifestyle was a bit new to me.  That spring Aaron came home with about 20 packets of seeds, dumped them on the kitchen table and said, “Here you go.  Let’s start planting that garden.”  You see, the garden at that time is where the bocce courts currently reside.  It was big.

And I had no idea what I was doing.

Intent on showing him I could be a farm girl, I planted that garden.  I planted the crap out of that garden.  I planted a lot of zucchini, because hey, I like zucchini.

And then I learned that:
A. Our soil is incredible!  That garden exploded with vegetables and I knew we had the perfect land for grapes.
B. One seed grows a lot of zucchini.
C. You actually have to pick the zucchini when they are small, otherwise they keep growing…and growing…and growing…

That year, anyone who knew me either got zucchini bread, or a giant zucchini dressed like a bride as a gift from me.  Because that was the year a lot of my friends were getting married.  And who doesn’t want a zucchini bride?

That’s when Aaron patted me on the head and said, “How about I handle the viticulture part of the business?  You can do the marketing and be a professional wine drinker.”

We had so many weeds in the garden that fall, that we ended up doing a bonfire for our friends and burning all the overgrown weeds, taking down dead trees and brush from cleaning the place up. 

And that is how our Bonfire event started in 2008.  We have missed a year since, although it looks a little different these days. 

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While I was happy to help on the winemaking (read: drinking) side, I was perfectly content having Aaron handle the grapes…

Shhh…don’t tell him I posted this picture!

And then this happened…

And then this…

That was the day we had all the power lines buried.  Great pregnancy post, huh?  See the “parking lot” in the background?  It used to be all grass!

And then the next couple of years after that are all sort of a blur…

There were babies and dogs, construction, grapes, sleep deprivation, more construction, mud, licensing debacles, cement and gravel trucks, full-time jobs to attend, and…well…

 

This pretty much sums it up.

But wine got me through it.

We bottled our first vintages in June 2013, coincidentally, on our wedding anniversary!

Aaron built the pavilion in the spring of 2013 with the help of a few willing handymen including friends, family and neighbors.

That’s when the bocce courts went in too!  Goodbye garden.

July 2013 – we opened for business!

A year later in 2014, the winery was under construction after taking down the old chicken coop and building a new building in its place.

Ask Aaron sometime about when the trusses came down…or when the fire started….or when it flooded.  We laugh about it now, but….

…we prevailed and opened the new tasting room in October 2014.

And just because things weren’t crazy enough, decided to open a brewery that year too.  Why not?

There have been far too many people who, along their own journey, have been involved in ours at various points.  From planting, picking, building, mentoring, pouring, listening, and of course, consuming!  It would be impossible to mention everyone who has touched this business at some point, but know we are grateful for every. single. one of you and you have all added to our story.  It takes a village. We most definitely hit the jackpot with Waconia as far as picking a random community to start this venture.  Thank you!

Lastly, as is life, there have been loved ones we have lost along the way over the last 10 years who made a significant impact on our lives and were a part of this 10 years ago. We wanted to take a moment to honor them here with a few stories.

In Memoriam

Grandma Millie

I remember Aaron’s Grandma Millie visiting from Wisconsin when we first moved here.  Millie was a farm wife through and through and always had a fabulous garden, even in her 90s!  Me, clearly not having much of a green thumb, welcomed any advice she had for me.  I sat with her in the Adirondacks under the Chitalpa tree that overlooks the vineyard as she told me about raising her 4 kids on the farm and how she used to hand wash all of their clothes, even when she had three kids in cloth diapers at once.  I thought, if Millie could do that in the 1940’s, I can handle this.  A vineyard, a job, kids, farm, winery….no problem.  Yes, I can be Superwoman too!  I have an automatic washing machine after all! We lost Millie in January 2013 at the age of 96, but we are so grateful she got to do the very first grape stomp we had in 2011.

Our two grandmas bonding – Tutu and Millie

Tutu and Kapuna

My grandparents, Tutu, and Kapuna, who celebrated 72 years of marriage together.  They worked together at Prudential in their early marriage and later in life, at my dad’s bowling alley in Minnetonka.  Let’s just say it was rare not to see them together and their adoration for each other was evident.  Here I am with them the first time they came to see our new property and hear about all we had planned.  I remember my grandma telling me about the time she was cooking dinner when they were a young married couple.  She got so angry at my grandpa about something that she reached into a pot of boiling water and threw a rutabaga at him.  She laughed when she told me that story.  Let’s just say, when you work side by side with your husband… I’ve been there too.  I’ve thought about that story many a time when I’ve felt like throwing a zucchini at Aaron.  They were a true testament to a committed relationship, even when you work together and want to throw vegetables at your spouse.  You have to keep a sense of a humor doing this.  If they were here today, they’d be drinking Blush and smiling.  We lost Kapuna in September 2014 and Tutu in March 2016.

 Uncle Don

It doesn’t get more salt of the earth than Don.  Aaron’s Uncle Don would drive from Green Lake, Wisconsin with his wife a few times a year just to help us do projects.  A heart of gold, and a worker’s mentality, he voluntarily spent time in his retirement years traveling here just to work and help us get started.  He pounded posts in the ground to help establish our trellis system, would do landscaping projects, offered advice to Aaron on building projects.  He always had a story to tell to and if you gave him the pleasure of lending your ear, he’d likely show off some of his woodworking projects, many of which he created for us and can still be seen around the property. Our sign out front is Don’s work and it’s so appropriate that his sign proudly greets customers at the road.  He was instrumental in laying the groundwork (literally) for our vineyard and winery. Don lost his battle in August 2015.

My Dad


(Sigh) This was a tough one.  It’s difficult to explain to those who didn’t know him the impact he had on us as we embarked on this journey…and me for my whole life.  An entrepreneur himself, I grew up seeing what it meant to run your own business, to support your family with something you have complete ownership of and to do it with integrity. And clearly the example he set is the reason why I was immediately attracted to Aaron and the life he had envisioned.  My dad was a constant sounding board for any decision we had to make, but he was always confident in us to make the right decisions, never doubting that we could do this and find our own way.  His advice was always in line with how he lived his life – we’ll figure it out.  Just do the right thing.  He was here in a second if we needed him – to watch the kids, to help us bus tables when the tasting room got busy, to pick grapes.  I’m not sure there is a soul on the planet who was more proud of us.  He was our biggest fan and bragged about us to the point of embarrassment.  Yes, he picked grapes.  Yes, he was a mentor on some business decisions, but his best role – grandpa to our kids.  And that is the biggest loss.  One day he was here cracking jokes, helping us flush out ideas and plans for future growth, and playing games with the kids.  Two weeks later he was gone.  Just like that.  He is a reminder to us to live a good life, because that is all that matters in the end.
We lost him in March 2017.

How grateful are we to have had these incredible people to help guide us as we embarked on this life.

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Tux

I’d be remiss not to mention…our furry family member. We adopted Tux and his sister Belle in 2009, back when life was still relatively normal – no kids, no winery yet.  Managing two Great Danes layered in yet another challenge to our busy days, but they sure added character to our home and we have plenty of stories to tell about their shenanigans.  Tux was best described as our 150 lb. lapdog. He loved the vineyard, and we’d often catch him eating grapes off the vine during harvest or chasing birds between the vines.  We had to say goodbye to our big old friend in September 2017.

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Phew.  That was a lot of content and emotion for one post.  Thank you for letting me share a little more of our history with you.  Thank you friends, family, neighbors and community for the support and love you have shown us over the years.  We can’t wait to continue this journey with you!

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