DELANO, Minn. (AP) - What once was corn and soybean ground now has more than 4,000 grape vines growing on it.
The vineyard near Delano sits on seven of 20 acres Mike and Katie Dickerman purchased six years ago. It has several rows of wooden posts (more than 2,500 in all) with more than 10 miles of wire to hold the vines. All those grapes plus rhubarb from their 400 rhubarb plants and locally grown apples and strawberries are used to make the Dickerman's Woodland Hill Winery wines.
Although their venture is fairly young, they spent time before purchasing the land to learn more about commercial winemaking, developing their business plan and research grape production and hardy grape varieties.
AP Photo --
Katie Dickerman displays one of several vine varieties she and her husband, Mike, produce and sell at their Delano, Minn. winery, Woodland Hill Winery Nov. 11.
Their interest in winemaking started innocently as they visited local wineries while on vacation and when they lived in Connecticut, Michigan and North Carolina. When they moved back to Minnesota with their daughter, Alana, Mike dabbled in home wine and beer production at their Woodbury home. He was excited at the results and eagerly discussed starting a winery with Katie.
They decided to take the plunge and searched for a home for them and their new business. The Delano location was perfect. The land was good and fairly flat and the location was easy to find along County Road 30.
Their farmland was fairly undeveloped. The previous owner had grown many trees that still stand on the property but there were no buildings that could support wine making or a tasting room for visitors.
The couple's first task was vine planting. They planted 1,700 vines the first year and another 700 vines the second. Since it takes three years for the vines to mature and bear good fruit, they turned to building their infrastructure. As they lived on the property, their friends and family helped them build a tasting house complete with gift shop and office and, secondly, a wine processing building. The same group helped harvest grapes the first year and put finishing touches on the buildings.