After 18 months of paperwork, navigating governmental red tape and hours of board meetings, 65 Vines Winery became the first business in the Town of Kinnickinnic to receive a liquor license and the first bonded and licensed winery in St. Croix County.
Owners Scott and Julie Andrzejczak received the liquor license at the Jan. 7 Kinnickinnic Town Board. While their conditional use permit through the town was approved in late 2012, the board realized when the Andrzejczaks applied for a liquor license that it had no liquor licensing ordinance in place. So began months of debate, waiting and paperwork until the town wrote its ordinance and the Andrzejczaks received the license.
The winery, named by Julie for nearby Highway 65, is on Coulee Trail, just south of Roberts.
The couple plans to have the winery open to the public in the fall.
How 65 Vines came to be
Scott, who grew up near Milwaukee, said he always enjoyed growing things. In 2001, while in graduate school, Scott studied in Lyons, France, for a summer, where he learned to love and appreciate wine.
According to Scott, his and Julie’s first date in 2006 was picking grapes at a vineyard. Later after they married, they moved to Waconia, Minn., where they both volunteered and worked at a winery -- Scott in the winemaking process and Julie in the tasting room.
Scott also took online wine courses and became a consultant. They decided they wanted to have their own vineyard and winery, so they searched for four years for the perfect property to realize their dream. They found it in the Kinnickinnic River Valley of St. Croix County.
They bought 33 acres in July 2012 that had a horse barn and plenty of room to plant grapes.
Somehow the Andrzejczaks had to figure out how to turn a 24-by-32 square-feet horse barn with concrete floors and pallets stacked with hay into an attractive tasting room and production area.
Their friend, an architect with Littfin Design out of Winsted, Minn., made a design for the building. It includes a front porch with an overhang, a tasting area with seating and a production area.
The Andrzejczaks have spent months finishing the barn’s insulation, framing, electrical, lighting and handicap accessibility.
“We plan to try to finish it this winter and spring,” Scott said.
They would like to install fiberglass walls and a knotty pine ceiling.
Last June the Andrzejczaks and their friends and family planted 750 Marquette variety grapevines on one acre.
“Part of the experience is sharing it with family and friends,” Julie said.
Marquette grapes are a new cold climate red wine grape. Julie said it’s similar to a pinot noir.
According to the Wisconsin Grape Growers Association, “Marquette wine has a deep red color and desirable flavors and aromas of cherry and blackcurrant. It also has more complex notes of blackberries, pepper, plum, tobacco, leather and spice. It’s a medium-bodied red table wine.”
The Andrzejczaks plan to eventually use their own grapes to produce their wine in three years when the vines are mature. For now, they are looking into using locally sourced grapes from the area to produce their wine, including grapes from two neighbors.
“In 2015 or ‘16 we’ll use the grapes we planted,” Scott said. “We want the root structure to develop.”
After a vine is planted, it must be watered and weeded carefully. In February and March, the vines are pruned -- a “gross-pruning” -- so they don’t compete with each other for nutrients.
A “fine-pruning” happens in April. In May, the buds swell and come up. In May and June, the fruits begin showing. In August, the grapes turn from green to either golden-white or purple, depending on the variety.
“Between the weeding and mowing and suckering, you touch a vine at least 12 times during the growing season,” Scott said.
A grape vine can live for 20-30 years, if cared for properly, Scott said. Also if it avoids winter damage, animals and disease. One acre of grapes can produce up to two tons an acre, Scott said.
Scott and Julie, who both work outside the home and raise a two-year-old son, Beckham, plan to open in the first week of September.
The winery will be open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays by appointment only from noon to 6 p.m.
The Andrzejczaks said they respect their neighbors’ need for quiet, so they plan to keep groups small.
“We want it to be a fun and interactive experience and show people the steps of the process when they’re here,” Scott said. “We may distribute our wine to stores later, but for now we’re going to focus on people coming here this year.”
For more information on the winery and its “Adopt-A-Vine” program partnership with the Kinnickinnic River Land Trust, visit Sixty-Five Vines Winery on Facebook, 65vines.com or call 651-245-3400.