By Sheila McCoy, Staff Writer
What started just as a dream has now become reality for Curt and Dawn Richter of Long Prairie.
“It was just something we talked about,” Curt said.
The journey began with Dawn asking her husband if he could make her some wine. He had a background in brewing beer.
“I started making my own and really enjoyed making beer. There are some differences in between them, but something about the grapes appealed to me more,” Curt said.
When the two were visiting Dawn’s father, Duane Kolstad, in Laporte, they also went for a tour of the nearby Forest Edge Winery.
That’s when the talk about starting their own winery one day began, Curt said.
Meanwhile, for some time Dawn’s mom, Linda Wagner had complained about the look of the cornfield near her house. Dawn asked her how she felt about looking at grapes instead.
The Richters planted their first vineyard with about 900 vines on the 1.5 acres Wagner had.
In 2012, the Richters found some land for sale by Highway 71 in Long Prairie, about 10 miles from their first vineyard. It is the home of Dragon Willow Winery.
The following year they constructed the building where they produce the wines and are also selling their product.
Wine-making is similar regardless of whether red or white wine is made. The grapes are harvested in the fall and are brought to the production area where they are crushed and destemmed.
When grapes are used to make white wine, the grape pulp goes into the press and the juice is pressed out immediately, Curt said.
However, to make red wine, the pulp goes into a fermentor, yeast is added and the wine is allowed to ferment with the skin for two to seven days.
At this time, the Richters have planted nine varieties of grapes.
“We have quite a few grapes that are developed for Minnesota. Just last spring we planted the newest variety called “Itasca,” Curt said.
Even though the vines were planted, it will take about five years before the Richters will be able to harvest enough Itasca grapes to make wine.
The Richters have already produced and are selling four different wines. Two are white, the other red wines.
The Frontenac is a semi-sweet red wine with a very fruity flavor, made from Frontenac grapes.
Another red wine is “Summertime.” Compared to the other wines the Richters have made, it is the sweetest and was made from Zinfandel grapes and pomegranate juice, they said.
“It’s a wine that’s perfect to enjoy on a hot summer afternoon,” Curt said.
The Dragon Willow Winery’s off-dry white wine with a fruity and crisp flavor is called the Prairie White and is made from Frontenac Blank grapes.
The Shoreline White wine with a floral aroma, a fruity taste and crisp finish is made with a blend of LaCrescent, Frontenac Gris and Edelweiss grapes.
The Richters are also preparing to produce a semi-sweet apple wine with seven different apple varieties.
The grapes and apples are primarily grown in Minnesota.
The grand opening of Dragon Willow Winery will be held Saturday, July 29, from noon to 5 p.m. with free food from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at 23419 210th St. in Long Prairie.
A variety of vendors will be on site with goods for sale. A wine tasting will be offered, as well.
For more information, visit www.dwwinery.com.