Although it's been some time since I have done a blog post, we have had a lot happen since school finished this spring. Where do I even start?
First of all, THANK YOU! To ALL of you for supporting us through this past year, through COVID, through opening in the midst of a pandemic, and for welcoming our new business into the community with open arms. We are the luckiest people!
The COVID restrictions affected things around here (a little), but thankfully we have this beautiful patio for you all to enjoy. We had focused so much of our efforts on finishing the inside of our building, that when the governor announced that restaurants and wineries were only allowed outside seating, Shane (our contractor) and his crew switched gears and poured a lot of concrete in a very short time, to get this space ready for us. My parents showed up with a trailer full of plants, my older sister and her kids were here to help, and we made a quick trip to the greenhouse to fill in a few other spots. We pulled it together, but by no means did it by ourselves. We have been lucky to have family members just as invested in this dream as we have been.
People often ask who designed our patio. It's beautiful, isn't it? It's such a relaxing place to just sit and BE. And it's everything we imagined, and more! The best thing about this story, is that Shane designed our patio with a can of spray paint. He said that if we poured just a big slab, he wouldn't want to come down there and sit. So we asked him what he thought. And he went to town sketching lines with spray paint and his boot. Literally.
I'm so GLAD he didn't allow us to pour a big rectangle and shared his creativity with us.
Thank you to everyone who has shared pictures on social media of your experiences with us. I've been so busy running around I haven't taken the time yet to do that. Here are some of my favorites of the outside spaces:
And our staff has just been AMAZING! Don't you agree? We have gotten SO MANY positive compliments about our staff and how they have made your experiences spectacular! We have done some fun things with our menu over the last couple of weekends too and it appears you have been happy with the additions as well.
We live in the best place in the world! We have been able to partner with Amy Winter at MN Olive Oil Company and feature some of her beautiful oils and vinegar in some of our dishes, as well as cheeses from our friends at Redhead Creamery. Those cheese trays have been a hit! And it was such an easy partnership with both businesses.
We also carved out some family time throughout June and July. Our oldest, Henry, celebrated his 8th birthday as well as his First Communion. He thought since he wasn't able to have wine in church that maybe we should let him have a sip at the winery :) Mom and dad didn't cave though. HAHA :)
And for some not so fun news, a hail storm came through here on Saturday afternoon and did a number on our corn fields around the winery site, as well as 7 acres of our grapes. Mother Nature was not very nice to us. We had lots of tears - out of pure frustration. We work hard, put in lots of hours, have lots invested into all of this, and in 5 minutes it's gone. Some in the path of this storm had even more damage than we did. It's sad.
Thankfully no one was hurt and there was no damage to our building. But one customer had a window break during the event, and we had to repair three patio tables that got thrown around in the wind. Joe also had to dig several chairs out of the cornfield after it was all done.
But again, our staff did an incredible job! They hustled to get as many chairs stacked and pulled up to the building, making sure everyone that was on site stayed safe. After the rain passed, they hustled again to get things put back together as much as they could. Watch our Facebook page for a shortened video of how it all went down. It was incredible!
Back to some fun things!
I have been working with Katie Elenberger from Spark27 Creative on all of our graphics design work. We are frantically trying to get our labels approved with the TTB so we can get them printed in time for bottling! We think we are on the final revision and will have approval from the TTB by the end of the week. I will be so happy when that monkey is off my back. We've been picking out bottles and closures, foil colors, and other fun details as well. She has done a great job pulling everything together and helping us make it look professional.
And you heard that right! Bottling is just around the corner. We have been filtering and cold-stabilizing everything over the past several weeks. There hasn't been a whole lot of time to sit around, but we have been trying to do a better job taking breaks along the way.
And we made time for family pictures, friends, and added a couple of kitties to our family as well. I think we are caught up now. Whew!
Our boys' teachers are probably relieved that their mom and dad are done teaching these kids for the year. The meme above is all in good fun - I found it floating around on social media and wanted to share LOL :) My apologies for being a little quiet here over the past several weeks. This whole distance learning thing threw a wrench in my plans, but SCHOOL'S OUT FOR THE SUMMER and we are back in action!
There has been so much excitement about our upcoming opening! We can't wait! But we aren't quite there yet. We have some interior trim to finish, some concrete to pour, grass to seed, and a few pieces of equipment to place. It's looking like we will need a couple more weeks. But we are OK with that, and we hope you can hold tight just a short time longer.
We are hoping this will also provide a little more time for the restrictions to lighten up a bit more, and a chance for all of you to get out and support our local restaurants that have had to adjust their operations through the stay-at-home order.
So what have we been up to?
Our bar plumbing was installed so the back bar and sinks could be moved in and the tasting room is about complete! I also started moving into my office slowly with the help of the boys. They've gotten to turn a few wrenches through this whole project and are getting really good at it! All of the finishes in my office have come from Meco7 and I'm SO excited to be able to finally work in this space! Thank you Karina!
Joe and Darrien have been busy being cellar rats too, making sure the wine continues to progress. The recent step is fining and filtering to make sure the wine is crystal clear by the time of bottling. Everything is shaping up very nicely and we can't wait to share this with you very soon!
And Shane and his crew have been busy finishing up the exterior siding, trim, and concrete work. It's so great seeing everything finally come to life! It really did turn out so great!
Joe also got a nice window of time to get our field work and seeds planted at the beginning of the month. Thanks to the great weather, he was able to finish in record time - 4 days! It was such a relief to have that complete so we can continue to focus on getting the winery and wines ready to go .
And our crew has been super busy in the vineyard. They finished up pruning and have been working on moving our south fence line too. The vines have been growing nicely, but seem to be about 2 weeks behind previous years. That pink hue you see in these pictures will develop into grape clusters!
The pizza ovens arrived and we have been working hard on putting some recipes together and tweaking our process so you are able to have a great experience this summer. Thank you to all of our taste testers for helping us try some new things out on them. It's so good!
And just because we are not all work and no play, here are a few pictures of our shenanigans over the last couple of weeks. Cardboard forts, big bubble baths, and nature walks!
One last thing, we are getting some new product in for the tasting room. Watch for new additions to our online store over the next couple of weeks! So many great new things coming your way!
Although we have been abiding by the #StayHomeMN order issued by the governor, we have been BUSY and getting lots done at the winery. I have sat down a couple of times in the last month to put this together, but life seems to always get in the way. With all three boys home ALL of the time now, and the additional schooling that needs to get done daily, my available time during the day has pretty much disappeared. BUT, I have extra help a couple of days a week, and that has been such a blessing. So, here is your update!
Through this whole building process, Joe and I have shared different tastes when it comes to all of the finishes we had to pick out. This beauty was a "Melanie" win for the tasting room. I ordered this back in December and I was so excited to finally put it together and display it! Every single piece had to be installed separately and it was quite the project, but I'm so happy with how it turned out!
Mission Mechanical and Lundebrek Electric have been on site off and on over the last couple of weeks tying up some of their loose ends. We are hoping they will be wrapped up very soon!
And our juice showed up and we started making wine! We are SO EXCITED about that! Last fall we crushed our fruit outside in the rain, on the sidewalk. We put it into totes and sent it to St. Cloud Cold Storage to hold it for us until we were ready. It took about 16 days for these large ice cubes to thaw before we were ready to pump the juice into the tanks and put the yeast to work. The first 3 pictures are of another "Melanie" win(e)! I have wanted Joe to make me a rhubarb wine for about 10 years and he finally agreed to it! This one will be about 90% rhubarb and 10% raspberry, and is AMAZING! I think this one will be a favorite in the tasting room and I can't wait to be able to share it with all of you.
Our kitchen is getting put together and our pizza ovens are showing up this week. Our plan is to have a small menu available so you can come enjoy wine with some small bites as well! We will be busy over the next couple of weeks testing all kinds of recipes, putting our menu together so its ready to go when we open.
And Shane's crew at Gateway has been trucking along getting things buttoned up both inside and outside. We now have the inside trimmed out, and the siding on the outside is getting installed this week. We are getting really close to opening, and are on target for getting to early summer, as long as the stay at home orders are lifted by then.
We are in the middle of our pruning season getting the vines ready to get to work making fruit for our 2020 vintage. It all starts now! The vines seem to have come through the winter very good and we are hopeful 2020 is going to be a great year for us!
And here's some family shenanigans during this stay home order. We are making the best of it!
Things here are shaping up so nicely! We hope you all are staying safe and healthy and we can't wait for life to get back to normal and celebrate with you on the patio!
Oh how the world has changed since I last posted on here. Whew!
Where do I even begin? And what do I even say?
Now that we will have a business that would have had to close (or at least make some major adjustments) because of COVID-19, so many feelings and emotions are making a mess of my insides. Although it would have been "nice" to be open already, I'm secretly thankful we didn't have to go through the mess of having displaced employees, reduced sales, sad customers, and the stress of not knowing when the doors could open once again.
We have so many great businesses in the area that have been affected by the government mandates, or have chosen to close voluntarily to protect their employees and families. I want to see them OPEN on the other side of this so they can celebrate with us for our Grand Opening! Please find ways to support them during this time, so they don't have to weather this difficult journey alone. Call for take-out, buy gift certificates, or check out their online stores and have things shipped to your door. I can guarantee you, every one of them will be eternally grateful for your patronage!
And I don't want to have the attitude that the "sky is falling," but it's hard to ignore the reality that we are currently living in, and the future reality that could look similar to that of our friends in Italy.
SO! What has happened lately? So much! We have water and it feels so good! A couple of guys from Mission Mechanical stayed late Friday night to make sure everything was working for us for the weekend. We have been without water for so long at the site, we spent most of Friday night letting the boys wash down the tanks and PLAY! They were soaked by the end of the night, but it was one of the best nights so far! So fun!
We also got some of the cabinetry installed. Pat Rooney has done such a great job! Once its all set in place I will share more pictures. He used white oak and stained it this beautiful brown. It pulls everything together so nicely!
And a LOT of progress has been made with the floor installations. Jon and Paul have done a great job!
All of the millwork has arrived as well and is waiting to get installed! It's beautiful! Thank you to Bayer Built Inc. for doing such a great job!
And the biggest news of all...Drum-roll please.....
We can finally start thawing juice and MAKE WINE!
The announcement was rather lackluster, and came in the form of an e-mail. :) But we'll take what we can get!
This week has been somewhat of a whirlwind. With COVID-19 having us on alert, I had a moment where I was a little worried that the State was going to shut down, therefore further delaying our opening because there would be no inspectors available.
HOWEVER, that was not the case!
We had our first inspection by the Department of Ag on Monday morning. The purpose of that inspection was to ensure we have a facility safe enough to manufacture a "food product." Mike was our inspector and he walked through our facility, saw that we had the required surfaces and equipment and he gave us his blessing!
Next up was the Department of Public Safety. DPS issues us the actual license to manufacture alcohol. Immediately following our inspection with Mike, I called our inspector Allison, from DPS. I may have called her several times, using multiple phone numbers that I found for her, frantically trying to reach her, in hopes to schedule her visit before the hypothetical shutdown I had made up in my head. She answered (finally) and scheduled her inspection for the next day (Tuesday) at 10:30. We had to (well Joe had to) prove to her that we were knowledgeable and competent enough to produce alcohol. She said her B.S. meter is pretty good, so Joe got down to business and let her in on our process. And within a few hours we received this e-mail:
We called the trucks right away this morning and our frozen juice should start arriving tomorrow!
If you are having a hard time reaching us over the next couple of weeks, we will be busy making wine! CHEERS!
Can you believe it's MARCH! 2020 has flown by so far and it doesn't seem to be slowing down! Here's what we have been up to in the last couple of weeks:
Shane and his crew from Gateway continue to make progress each week. Because of the delays we experienced on our project with the weather last fall, and coordinating with other contractors, they are now late on a couple of other projects they committed to. This means they are splitting their time between the winery and the other jobs and there are only so many man hours available. With that said, they have done a nice job keeping all the plates spinning - the roof has now been installed, the sheet rock has been hung, the building has been wrapped with tyvek and is now ready for siding, and the vestibule has a door. We have a front door! It's a construction door, but a door none-the-less!
Central Suspension out of Alexandria has been here off and on getting the ceiling tile grid set so the electrical work can continue. They will be back this week to do the tasting room and install the rest of the tiles! Is there any way I can make ceiling tile sound interesting? I'm sorry, I don't have it in me today :)
And a LOT of painting has happened as you can see from the pictures above. Mark and Linda Colden from Starbuck have been busy working on getting the walls mudded, taped, textured, and painted. They have been GREAT! There were evenings where we stopped out at the site and rooms were magically finished - we had no idea they had been out working. Mark said over 35 gallons of paint has been used - crazy! We hope they enjoy their upcoming retirement - they deserve it!
The floors have started to get installed too! My office is done (YAY!) and now the main level rooms are going in this week! Terry from Affordable Flooring in Starbuck was so patient with us through this whole process. We had our choices made, and then decided to change our minds, but then went back to our original choices in the end. HA! Who does that? LOL Terry has been great to work with - he helped with some of the state code that we had to work around, he coordinated with our contractors, and he lined up the installers. Who, by the way, has also been great to work with too! Paul Papesh has been up to his elbows in floor glue, but really made these rooms sparkle!
Mission Mechanical has been busy getting the final mechanicals installed, sinks hooked up, and finally the chiller loop for the tanks! We are getting soooo close!
And what do you see here?
If you guessed the pieces for the tasting bar, you are correct! It's going to be BEAUTIFUL when it's all put together. Pat Rooney from Dreamwood Inc is the mastermind behind all of our cabinetry that's going in the winery. Rumor has it the bar will be set before the weekend! Who's excited!?!?!?
And all while progress was being made at the winery site, we took a long weekend in February and attended the Minnesota Grape Growers Cold Climate Conference in Rochester. We have been members of the MGGA for over 10 years, and this years conference was by far, one of the best we have attended. The material that was presented was pertinent and full of lots of great information.
If you are interested in our cold climate grapes and want to visit more wineries in the Midwest, the MGGA Winery Passport is a great way to try wines from many wineries for a great value. We hope you ask about them when we open!
There's a very good reason for my absence over the last couple of weeks and I will share that below, but let's get into what has been going on as far as construction and progress on the winery over the last couple of weeks!
Last time I wrote, Creative Coatings out of Cyrus was here working on the floor coating. They finished it up early that next week which meant we could move the tanks out of our yard and into the winery. Here is a time-lapse of them working on the floor that I promised last time:
Cool! Joe is always thinking ahead! Next up was moving day! This was something we all were looking forward to because we wanted get the tanks out of the snow and out of the yard so we didn't have to risk them getting damaged any longer.
They. Look. Awesome! If you follow us on Facebook you may have seen a few pictures and videos of this taking place.
We called in a few people to help with move in day and it was actually pretty uneventful. Exciting, but uneventful. My dad spent a few nights with us, Joe and Darrien of course were there, as well as the Erickson cousins from Starbuck. Lots of muscle, a couple of machines, and they were done! Other than a little ice and the snow melting off everything, it went really smoothly.
Here's a time-lapse of the guys setting the tanks:
All while that was going on, Mike Lundebrek was busy roughing in more electrical, installing lights in my office, and putting the lights in the production area.
And the lights are so cool! The production lights, as well as much of the rest of the building, are on what's called the Light Cloud by RAB. It's a system that is just what it sounds like - the lights can be controlled via anywhere in the world. Our neighbors might have been wondering what was going on at the building after these were installed because Joe was playing with his new toy and turning the lights on and off in the winery, from the couch in the house. We can set different programs to the lights and dim each of the fixtures individually. For example, we can set all of the lights to 100% brightness during the daytime hours when the guys will be working in there, and then set them to dim to 20% in the evening hours when that part of the facility will be shut down. Joe and Mike were really happy to partner with RAB on this project and make this happen!
And while all of that was going on, the HVAC guys and Plumbers were out doing their thing as well. The duct-work was installed, a lot of pipe was put in, and the furnaces were delivered. The state inspector was out this past Monday to do a partial approval so we could continue moving forward on the production room. Thein Well returned to turn the water on this week. It will be SO NICE to finally have water out there and not have to haul buckets from the farm out to the site to get things done.
And let's not forget about Shane and his crew. They got 1/2 of the sheet steel put on the roof, worked on getting most of the battens up in the production space, put the vestibule on, installed the steel doors, and had the insulation and sheet rock installed this week as well.
Everything is really coming together now and we are itching to move in, but there's still a lot left to do. So we will be patient a little longer. I think everyone working on this project will be so happy when its all wrapped up!
I also took a class a couple of nights this month to get my ServSafe certification. So you can all rest at ease knowing we have a certified food inspection manager on site when you are sipping your wine on the patio this summer. You're welcome :)
Our family celebrated Vinny's 6th birthday on January 29th, enjoyed a special wedding for my cousin, and had the honors of welcoming Diana from the Internal Revenue Service (yes, the IRS) to our home this week to conduct an audit all while construction continued at the winery. It has been a whirlwind to say the least, but I think we are almost out of the woods thanks to my super awesome organization skills, and ability to never throw anything away. We will definitely be celebrating when that is all wrapped up!
And finally a shout out to the Pope County Tribune and the great Minnewaska Visitors Guide they put together for 2020 that will be coming out soon! It highlights so many great businesses and places that make this area so awesome! We were thrilled when they approached us about doing an article about the winery! Here's a sneak peek!
Joe did such a good job explaining where our name came from in his Facebook post, I wanted to save it here on our blog as well!
Ever look across the lake from the Minnewaska High School and wonder what's going up on top of the hill? Yup, that's the winery! 2.7 miles door to door as the crow flies. Looking to the south, you can see the rolling hills that meander down to beautiful Lake Minnewaska. The unique topography is why we chose the words "Rolling" and "Forks" in our name. The picture shows the four "Forks" that provide natural drainage for the site. It doesn't look like it, but the winery is approximately 174 feet above lake level which gives an excellent opportunity for the cold air to drain away during those still nights where frost forms! That, and we have little worry for flooding on the site:)
Things keep happening at the winery while we navigate sick kids at home. We've had the stomach flu and now ear infections, but hopefully we are on the mend finally!
A lot has happened since my last update at the winery! I was hoping to write this on Friday, but we had a crazy weekend of family things going on, it just didn't happen.
Shane and his crew finished up installing the ceiling and sheet rock on the 3rd level and stairwell, Mission Mechanical continued with the plumbing and HVAC, and Mike Lundebrek was out all week wiring and installing boxes.
The newest contractor to the project was added last week to install the floor coating in the production space. John Boeckner and his crew from Creative Coatings out of Cyrus, MN were out most of last week working on the floor. One thing that was important to Joe was that he didn't want the floor to fill with wine stains. We know its probably inevitable, but we wanted to mitigate it as much as possible. So we worked with John to pick out a system that should help keep the stains at bay. John did up some samples for us that we tested this past fall when we were going through harvest. We let the juice sit on the sample for several days and there was no staining!
For the flooring geeks out there, the system we selected is a combination floor. There's base coat of cement urethane, then a couple layers of ground quartz that were broadcast, then finally a couple of coats of clear polyaspartic to seal it in. The quartz will also provide some traction to help keep the floor from being too slippery when it gets wet.
Today they are finishing up and cutting the lines and filling in with an epoxy filler - which means move in day is coming very soon and my snow ornaments in the yard can finally go to their home!
It was a really large floor area for them to work with, making sure the coloring and layers were consistent, but we are very pleased with how it turned out!
Watch for a post on Facebook later this week of the time-laps video of their work. The sample that Joe showed me is pretty neat to see!
Joe also decided to take on a project of his own! He, his brother Jake, and right hand man Darrien worked on tiling the utility room and a closet before the mechanicals get moved in. He got a STEAL of a deal on some tile and it was hard to pass up. They need to install the grout and then it will be done!
It looks like this week we will get the roof steel put on and we will start moving in the catwalk and tanks! I'm so excited for the next update!
This was a busy and productive week at the winery site! Shane's crew started the week off getting the ceiling installed. We had to make some changes during the install, but we are glad we were able to make the decision on the fly, and are so happy with the final result!
Once the ceiling was installed, McPherson Products could come in and get the spray foam insulation installed. They sprayed the attic in the tasting room, about 80% of the production space, and all around the perimeter of the basement. They will need to come back and finish the production space next week, as well as the attic space above the 3rd level. This has really helped keep things warm on the interior and we are SO THANKFUL to have this step almost complete.
All while this was going on, Mike Lundebrek kept chipping away at the electrical work. I don't know much about electrical wiring, but the highway of conduit is impressive! Next week he'll be able to start installing the light fixtures in the production space. We are getting closer and closer to making this space operational.
Joe also decided to take on a little project of his own. Because the ceiling of the production space is black, we wanted the duct work to match. Joe contacted Kim Haan at Sherwin Williams in Alexandria. She helped make the correct paint choices for the application and he was on his way. Tonight we finished up the last coat and I'm certain it will look really sharp once they are installed. We even brought our helpers along to make sure dad was doing a good job ;)
And just like Mike Lundebrek was able to make progress with the electrical, Mission Mechanical had their crew out much of the week getting the boiler installed so we could turn the in-floor heat on. We decided to only place the lines around the perimeter of the concrete slabs to keep the foundation walls from sweating during the winter months.
The biggest and best part of the week was getting the garage doors installed. Aren't they beautiful? Viking Garage Door out of Alexandria helped us put them in place. We have worked with Janet and her team in the past on other projects around our farm - she and her crew are wonderful to work with and highly recommended!
With the ceiling insulated now and the garage doors installed, it's holding the heat in much better now (for obvious reasons) so we are hoping Fauskee's will get a bit of a break before filling up our LP tank again. We are probably more excited about that then they are ;)
This coming week will be full of more exciting changes!
Enter this new year with a gratitude for this new chance to create your dreams - Avina Celeste
We made it to 2020 and we officially have a (construction) door to the production area! And it dawned on me just now, our oldest son will be graduating High School in 2030 which is only TEN YEARS away! That's crazy to think about. What kind of successes and struggles will we have experienced between now and when he graduates? Whew! Deep thoughts on this Friday afternoon.
I took a break from blogging about the project over the holidays. We soaked in a lot of family fun during the last couple of weeks, but I'm ready for the boys to get back to school so we can get back into our normal routine! A lot has happened in the winery as well! We are closer and closer to getting equipment moved in and juice fermenting.
The floor in the production space has now been poured and our ticking clock has started ticking! Shane brought in some extra hands again to help the second pour go smoothly. Things will start clipping along fairly quickly over the next couple of weeks and I may go back to my weekly updates because things will be changing rather fast.
We brought the boys out to the site over break to run off some energy. They threw a football around and ran a few laps. Oliver wanted to help with something, so we gave him a shovel and he moved some dirt. We made sure he kept it on the outside :)
Once the floor was finally finished, Shane's crew could focus on getting some of the interior framing done. I know it probably doesn't look like anything to you, but soon, it will be bathrooms, both downstairs and upstairs, and the upper level office area and mezzanine.
Once the framing was done, they could start hanging sheet rock. Woooo Whooo! These are pictures of the inside of the tasting room, including a firewall that was installed between the tasting room and production space.
Once the framing was in, Mike Lundebreck could start wiring things in as well. I know it's hard to get excited about wires, but its a sign of how close we are to getting to move in!
And because the floor has cured enough, Shane's crew could start installing the wrap on the ceiling of the production area because...next week our ceiling gets installed! The plastic is black because the ceiling will be black. I realized today it helps "ground" the room a little, so the walls don't seem so tall.
More materials have been arriving in preparation of the coming weeks. Today was the ductwork from Mission Mechanical.
And for those that come here for more than just construction updates, here are a few pictures from our holiday events.
So for the inquiring minds who need to know (including me), next week will we will have a ceiling, then the garage doors can go in, the duct work can be hung, and the insulation can be installed. While all of this is going on, the plumbing and electrical will continue to go in. Toward the end of the month the floor coating in the production space will be applied and a week after that has cured the equipment can start to be moved in!!! THEN, we can call the state inspectors to come in and give us their blessing. Once we have that, the wine making will commence.
Who is excited?!?! (I wish I could add emojis while I type this - I'm an emoji kind of person.)
About the Author
I'm Melanie, co-owner of Rolling Forks Vineyards, boy mom & wine lover.