PARKERS PRAIRIE, Minn. — Husband and wife duo Dave Christianson and Polly Perkins have found a crop that seems to thrive in
fight off the extreme cold of a
and produce a fruit capable of pulling in consumers from throughout central Minnesota’s lakes country.
It’s grapes, and lots of them. Harvest was well under way during the last week of September on their farm.
Twelve years ago, when someone told them that grapes were the crop of the future, Perkins thought it was a joke.
“I said, ‘Grapes in Minnesota, you’re nuts,’” she said. “Yeah right, we’re going to be the ‘Napa of the North!’”
No, this isn’t the traditional growing region for vineyards, but
introduced over the last couple decades are taking root across Minnesota in great numbers. Christianson attributes the grapes’ weed-like strengths to overcoming drastic weather changes. In fact, this season’s hot days and cooler nights have mimicked that of the west coast, Christianson said. Those conditions have created a bumper crop in 2023.
This is a good thing to be doing instead of sitting in the picture window watching the neighbors do drug deals.
Dave Christianson, L’eToile Du Nord Farm Winery.
The grape industry started to take off in 2006, Perkins said. She can now count five other vineyards a short drive from their property that are producing acres of grapes and wine. Most produce grapes to sell to wineries, but here, all grapes stay on site for their own winery. It’s a way of adding value that they say has made the adventure worthwhile.
“And we’re having a great time — when we’re not exhausted, like this time of year,” she exclaimed.
The couple welcomed a group of visitors to learn about their farm, named
and their work to become certified under the
in the last week of September. After that, they had about 75 5-gallon buckets of grapes to start processing.
Christianson said the couple grew tired of violence in the suburbs when they made the move north.
“It was time to move back to the farm,” he said.
The couple went through courses and seminars to learn how to grow grapes right. But a polar vortex years into their work froze the vines to the ground one winter. They soon learned that as long as the roots were undamaged, the plants would come back — and they did come back with abundance. The hills, rocks and clay in their region are just fine for grape growing once the roots are established deep into the ground.
It’s been hard work for the two, who could have transitioned into a more leisurely retirement.
“This is a good thing to be doing instead of sitting in the picture window, watching the neighbors do drug deals,” Christianson said.
So they moved from the Twin Cities area in 2010, back to acreage that Perkins grew up on between Parkers Prairie and Miltona on the shores of Lake Irene. They began planting grape vines, first an acre in 2011, another in 2015, and the third acre in 2017. Now all are producing grapes. The farm produces about 1,000 gallons of wine annually.
They grow the grapes, harvest the grapes, process the grapes into wine and then sell the wines by bottle or glass from a building overlooking Lake Irene.
Their varieties include Sabrevois, Frontenac blanc, Itasca, Marquette, Petite Pearl and Prairie Star.
1/7: Dave Christianson and Polly Perkins joined the grape growing industry in 2011 on their property near Parkers Prairie, Minnesota. Christianson shows off some wild grapes that grow on the fence surrounding the vineyard.
2/7: One thing grape growers deal with is phylloxera caused by insects in the soil. Dave Christianson and Polly Perkins joined the grape growing industry in 2011 on their property near Parkers Prairie, Minnesota.
3/7: Dave Christianson and Polly Perkins joined the grape growing industry in 2011 on their property near Parkers Prairie, Minnesota.
4/7: Polly Perkins shares a sample from one of the almost ready batches of wine. Dave Christianson and Perkins joined the grape growing industry in 2011 on their property near Parkers Prairie, Minnesota.
5/7: Dave Christianson and Polly Perkins joined the grape growing industry in 2011 on their property near Parkers Prairie, Minnesota.
6/7: Dave Christianson and Polly Perkins joined the grape growing industry in 2011 on their property near Parkers Prairie, Minnesota.
7/7: A selection of wines and ciders are at the ready for sale at L’eToile Du Nord Farm Winery near Parkers Prairie, Minnesota.
All of their grapes go to making wine on site. They bring in some additional grapes from outside their acreage to add to their production, but it all comes from within a 50-mile radius of the farm.
Minnesota has a history of grapes that stretches back to a time when the University of Minnesota began grape breeding in the mid-’70s. In 2000, a research winery lab opened at the
in Excelsior to further advance those efforts.
The University of Minnesota
- Clarion: Their latest which came available in 2023 in limited quantities
- Itasca: 2017
- Frontenac blanc: 2012
- Marquette: 2006
- Frontenac gris: 2003
- La Crescent: 2002
- Frontenac: 1996
- Edelweiss: 1977
More information on the L’Etoile du Nord Farm Winery can be found at
Michael Johnson is the news editor for Agweek. He lives in rural Deer Creek, Minn., where he is starting to homestead with his two children and wife.
You can reach Michael at email@example.com or 218-640-2312.
Powered by WPeMatico
Go to Source