Thanksgiving Day is just around the corner and it's become a great reminder in recent years of how truly blessed we are. In the Spring of 2017 my dad received the dreaded news that no one ever wants to get: Cancer. Triple Hit Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma (Stage 4) was his diagnosis. He underwent several rounds of intense Chemotherapy in Sioux Falls, SD, before being referred to a team of Oncologists at the Mayo Clinic. That year we spent Thanksgiving apart from my family. My parents were in Rochester at the Mayo Clinic, where my dad was just beginning a stem cell transplant, that was to eradicate any cancer that may be hiding in his body. By Christmas of 2017, his treatment was complete and he received the OK to come home. It was one of the most magical Christmas' I can remember, and something we all are very thankful for. His cancer journey was the catalyst for us to get this winery dream going and make it a reality!
Things may not be on schedule with the winery project, but it allowed us to take another weekend off and spend it with family for our quarterly birthday party. My family has a tradition to get together and celebrate all of the kids birthdays at my parents, so we have 4 big birthday parties spaced out throughout the year, and we always have a great time! We also used the 4th quarter party to get pictures taken with grandma and grandpa in matching jammies for their Christmas card. And if that wasn't enough fun, we also celebrated Thanksgiving on Sunday with them. It was a full weekend, but its a nice way to recharge and reconnect with everyone. We will be with Joe's family on Thanksgiving Day to have our celebration with them.
It's been some time since my last winery update, but if you follow us on Facebook, you would have seen that the windows have been installed!! The temps are dropping, so it's been nice to have these help keep the cold outside. We have to keep the production space heated in order to keep the frost out in preparation of the concrete being poured. Having the windows have helped keep the wind from moving through so drastically.
The interior walls are also getting framed in and things are really starting to take shape! My office looking through to the kitchen is on the left and the lab area is on the right.
Earlier this week, the State Plumbing inspector came in and gave his blessing on the plumbing lines that were installed for the floor drains, so now the rest of the project can move forward. The gas line was put in place and electrical lines are being installed. We are still pushing to get the floor poured...soon. I know I probably sound like a broken record. I hoped that this week I could have announced that it was completed, but it is not. And because of the holiday we will lose more days of productivity. But my prayer is that the crew will spend some time to rest and recharge and be ready to really push this next week to finish that floor. The clock is ticking and each week that goes by is another week we pay to have our juice in storage, and another week later that we will be able to open next summer. Soon...
And I want to extend a HUGE thank you to those of you who placed your orders last week for the apparel. This allowed us to generate a little bit of cash flow to help us buy supplies for the wine making process that will happen in the not-too-distant future. We are thankful and so blessed to be apart of this community, and to have such great supporters far and wide cheering us on! Safe travels to all of you who are making trips to spend with friends and family on this extended weekend. May your cups always be full! And may they be full of RFV wine next year :) Blessings to all of you!
We decided instead of opening a winery, we would open an indoor playground for the kids :) We'll have wine and drinks available for the big kids, and lots of sand for the little kids to dig in. Sounds fun, right? I'm totally kidding, but our kids had a great time yesterday running around and digging in the sand pile inside the production space.
This week Gateway focused on getting the roof liner buttoned up, closing up the floor trusses on the outside, and installing the house wrap on the ceiling of the production space. We are pushing hard to get that space prepared to pour the floor hopefully at the end of this week.
In order for that to happen, we need to get the floor drains installed, the plumbers need to come out to make the connections to the drains, and the sand needs to be re-compacted. The State Plumbing inspector needs to then come out and approve everything before the cement trucks can come. Any and all positive thoughts and prayers will be accepted! :) Once the floor is poured, the clock starts and we need to wait 28 days before we can start installing equipment. So the sooner the floor is poured, the sooner we can start making wine!
These floor drains will have a narrow opening with a wider base underneath the concrete floor and will look similar to the photo below when its complete. These will be installed under each row of tanks and will help collect water from our tank wash-downs and move the water away quickly, resulting in a safer environment for us to work in. These were on Joe's "must have" list of items he wanted for the production space, so hopefully they won't disappoint!
Lastly, a small tribute. My good friend Megan lost her battle with cancer over the weekend. She fought so hard and her body endured so much. She was one-of-a-kind! She loved cats and worked relentlessly at rescuing them and finding them new homes. She re-homed a few on our farm over the years. She had the most beautiful voice too and my plan was to have her perform at the winery next summer. Sadly that won't happen, but I have a feeling she will find ways to let us know she's still with us - probably through stray cats showing up every now and then :) I have lots of regrets, wishing I would have made more of an effort to see her after I moved, wishing we took more pictures, wishing we would have taken that trip she always talked about, wishing I would have been able to see her one last time and say goodbye. I know she knew I loved her and that's what matters most. She loved unconditionally, gave selflessly, fought her battle fiercely, and lived freely.
I'm so grateful she shared a bit of her life with us. Rest in peace friend!
Happy Deer Hunting Opener to all of those sporting orange this weekend! Our hunting party arrived last night as they do every year on deer opener weekend. My brother and a group of his friends from back home spend quite a bit of time up here every year during deer season waiting for their trophy buck to make its appearance. They've gotten lucky once with a trophy, but have filled tags each year. Speaking of deer, check out these questionable critters we found on our trail cams at the winery site:
:) We have seen tracks, but now we have evidence! :)
The focus this week was to get the roof capped and building sealed up so we can get the heat on and floor poured. We are almost there! Shane and his guys put on all of the roof sheeting and started applying the green paper to make it weatherproof. The gable ends will be closed up early next week and then the rest of the prep work for the floor can happen. We can't start making wine until the inside of the production space is finished. The biggest task being the floor - we have to wait 28 days before we can start filling tanks in order for the floor to cure properly. There's still much to be done and it seems a little daunting, but we are hopeful by Christmas we should be able to have the fermenters going, as long as the space is ready and the state inspectors can make it out to give us their approval. Fingers crossed!
Mike Lundebrek was back out this last week finishing up the power hook up with REA. We now have a meter, which I guess means we'll start getting bills in the mail (LOL!). We have two working outlets in the basement and officially have power! Shane no longer has to run the generators to charge the batteries for his power tools and they can run the radio all day, so they are excited! It's the little things, right?
One thing about Mike Lundebrek is you hardly know he's here, but yet there is visible progress each day. He keeps his nose to the ground and gets his work done, and we are so thankful he's on our construction team!
We also got a heater unit installed this week which will help keep the production room warm for the workers, but most importantly, when the floor is poured. After construction is complete, this unit will help with any heat recovery when the big doors are opened. Mission Mechanical is who we are using for our HVAC and Tom Peterson has been great to work with! He coordinated with Joe and we were ready for his guys when they showed up. They had the unit installed in just a couple of hours and were on their way. I'm hoping the rest of the project goes this smoothly with them!
We also were able to get an LP tank installed from Fauskee Oil in Brooten to feed the heating unit. We have used Fauskee for our farm fuel needs for almost 10 years and have nothing but great things to say about Randy and his crew. This fall has been a doozy on farmers and it's been said that there is an LP shortage, causing limits on how much farmers can have delivered, as well as pricing increases. But because of the relationship we have made with them, Randy didn't even bat an eye when Joe called - he worked it out and made it happen. His team has been running 20 hour days with the crazy fall harvest, yet he still took care of us - and it didn't go unnoticed.
And this thing was dropped off this week.
What is it? This is what they call an oil waste interceptor. A thorn in my side is what I call it. During our state plumbing review we were told that we needed to put this tank in the ground to capture any oil or vehicle waste that may collect should our building ever turn into a car shop. Wait, what? What? A car shop? This will be a winery last time I checked. And if (big if) we ever sold the building and its purpose would change, wouldn't it be up to the next owner to ensure it met all of the necessary regulations at that time? These are all questions that were met with much debate, but because this is a commercial project, certain regulations apply. We bit the bullet, spent the money, and are now putting this tank in the ground to keep the project moving along so we can pass our inspections. Our worry is that waste (grape seeds, skins, etc) will collect in this tank and plug up, attract unwanted pests (fruit flies), and be more of a hindrance than a helper. But we are not the "experts" and are only try to use common sense - sometimes common sense gets vetoed by regulations. This tank here caused a 3 week delay for us that I'm still a little sour about. The fact that I have dedicated an entire paragraph to this thing makes me a little ill, but now you are in the know too. You're welcome!
And because I don't want to end my post this week with that, I'm going to leave you with this. Dennis Lundblad found this rock when he was working on our retaining wall. It's not every day you find a rock shaped like a heart - we'll leave it here so you can see it in person next summer. Maybe it will offer some luck to us as we continue with the project, and a photo opportunity for you on your next visit.
And just a quick reminder, our RFV apparel will only be available in the online store until next weekend. I'm being told sizes are selling out in certain styles, so if you plan on ordering any t-shirts or sweatshirts, there is only a few days left. We are so thankful to those of you who have already placed your orders! I'm hoping we are able to help a few more of you out. I know its a little early to think about Christmas, but these would be great Christmas gifts for anyone on your list! All of your purchases can be done right from our website, but if you have any questions, please reach out and I will do my best to answer any!
The building is really starting to take shape! This week the rafters were installed and our vision is finally coming to life. Shane and his crew placed the rafters in both parts of the building and are now working on securing the roof sheeting. We are pushing to get the building capped so we can get the floor poured in the production space because we need to start making wine very soon if we want it to be drinkable by summer time.
This week our electric service was hooked up and it appeared to go pretty smoothly. We hardly noticed they were here - at least I didn't :) Runestone Electric worked in conjunction with Mike from Lundebrek Electric to make it happen. Mike has been on the site quite a bit this week helping make the connection to the building and staging his supplies. I'm looking forward to seeing the lighting plans come to life. Joe and Mike have something pretty cool in store for us!
And Lundblads were back this week grading the east side of the building, removing dirt piles and rock, and smoothing things out. The weather has been nice and dry this week, although a bit chilly, which has made for some great days to get the dirt work caught up on. Finally, NO MUD! If it wasn't so cold we would have been able to get the grass seeded yet this fall, but it looks like that will have to wait until springtime. They also added another level to the retaining wall. The biggest question now is how should we dress it up? Or is it beautiful all on its own? The fact that every single rock came from our property is just so cool.
Joe has been busy this week trying to get the crop harvest wrapped up as well. We have about 50 acres of corn left and just a small field of beans. They have put some really, really long days in, and the boys are starting to miss their dad, as I'm sure he's missing us as well. The forecast looks favorable and we are all looking forward to the end of this crazy fall. We have also started chopping stalks and working ground, trying to beat the frost. We will get done what we can, but it's hard not to wish for the finish line to come!
And the grapes are hardening off really nice - we like to see that dark reddish/brown color! They will sleep now until around May when the sap will start to push and the buds will break open. For now, we will let them sleep and enjoy the break from the vines.
Happy Halloween Everybody! I took the boys trick-or-treating last night for a couple of hours and finished up the night with a pizza party in the field. They got way too much candy, but they had a really great time! This was the first year Oliver walked with his older brothers and he did a great job keeping up with them. We had a Minecraft Creeper, Harry Potter, and Gekko from PJ Masks.
And without further ado, the online store is officially open! We will keep the apparel items available in the store until November 16th. These items are all made to order so get shopping! The rest of the items will be available until the inventory is sold out. I really hope you are able to find things you love! And everything will be delivered locally or shipped by December 16th, so you should have them by the holidays!
One exciting thing I have added are tours that will be available starting late next summer. Maybe these unique experiences will help you check that really difficult person to buy for off your list! If anything isn't clear, feel free to send me a message and I will do my best to walk you through that process. Dates will be reserved via phone or e-mail, but the packages can be purchased right from the website.
"When you buy from a small business, an actual person does a happy dance." :)
About the Author
I'm Melanie, co-owner of Rolling Forks Vineyards, boy mom & wine lover.