To make award winning wine everyone knows that you first start with grapes. Preferably grapes raised under the sun in the Napa Valley of California. To think of doing anything else would be crazy….right?
Photo from HERE
What if someone decided to use rhubarb grown in the cold Spring frost of Minnesota?
Surely they would be considered crazy.
Well, John Wildmo along with Paul and Sharon Shuster were just crazy enough to attempt such a venture. In 2000 they opened their winery outside of Bemidji in Laporte, MN
Eleven years later they are producing 7 “fruit wines” and winning more awards then they are able to display. One might say now that they were crazy like a fox.
Producing 5000 bottles in the first year they found themselves in an interesting predicament;
they ran out of wine.
Since then they have become the 6th largest winery (out of 32) in the state of Minnesota.
Starting out with a 24×40 building they found the need to quickly upgrade and expand.
It became evident that using barrels was not going to work to meet the production demands.
Adding thirteen 600 gallon Italian stainless steel tanks was a huge leap of faith.
However, they soon found themselves ordering even more tanks calling for further expansions.
Things have run mostly by hand-
bottling, labeling, corking.
At one point they were hand bottling and casing up to 300 bottles an hour .
In 2009 they purchased a bottler allowing them to produce up to 125-150 cases a day,
(even now I noticed on their wine list that they are out of two varieties,
a nice problem to have I am sure)
Early Season White Cranberry
Headwaters Classic Red Wine
Providing a grape-less wine has been their ticket. When I asked the guys what they liked best about their experience they summed it up quickly:
- We were successful
- We did what we set out to do
- We enjoy what we do
I must say that being at the winery and having a wine maker teach me HOW to drink wine, this non-wine drinker had her first sip of wine that she enjoyed (white cranberry).
In a Year:
5 tons of sugar
10,000 lbs of rhubarb from their own 2 acres
2000 lbs of strawberries
30,000 bottles of wine produced and sold
all with 3 employees.
Forestedge Winery is the perfect example of Minnesota determination mixed with local talent to bring us a hometown, award winning wine for our enjoyment.
More photographs can be found HERE
Located: From Bemidji- Take US Hwy 71 S to Kabekona. Take MN Hwy 200 E until the junction of MN Hwy 64. Turn right and take 64 south. Forestedge Winery is situated on the right side of the road.
Forestedge’s Website can be found HERE
Open: May through December
six days a week and closed on Mondays
Tuesday- Saturday 10-5:30, Sunday 12-5
Winery Photographs by: Jon Heller Story by: Julie Saari