From a dream to reality, a local family turned grapes to wine and opened a new winery on the edge of Faribault.
While Dan and Ashley Reller grew up with stories of grandparents making jugs of wine and as adults enjoy wineries, walking through vineyards and making their own wine, Saturday was their first day selling wine commercially.
“My wife and I were very excited to see all of the support from the community,” said Dan Reller. “People came in great numbers; we were packed.”
Vintage Escapes Winery & Vineyard is located on Dodd Road in Kilkenny — one of Minnesota’s first roads, created in the 1850’s by pioneers according to the Deadpioneer’s Historic Minnesota Highways.
Co-owners Dan and Ashley Reller said the road fits the vintage atmosphere of the winery.
The winery includes 32 acres with a couple acres of vineyards. The Rellers plan to expand the vineyards by an acre every year until the winery is nestled into row upon row of vines.
“There are so many different facets. You’re a farmer, manufacturer, retailer, and server,” said Dan Reller who recently quit his job to work full-time at the winery. “We bottle, label, and sell all under this roof.”
When their son, River, was born almost five years ago, the Rellers decided it was time to put their plans into action.
“We made the decision that we’re just going to do this,” Dan Reller said.
The Rellers were able to purchase two parcels of land from two different owners. They now live across the road from Vintage Escapes Winery.
“It’s definitely a family business,” said Ashley Reller.
Not only was River the inspiration to work for their dreams, he spends a lot of time in the vineyard helping his parents.
Other family members and friends also help the Rellers ready the wine. This year alone, the Rellers will produce 16,000 to 17,000 bottles of wine.
With grapes from their own vineyard and those purchased from local growers, the Rellers crush the grapes, put them through a fermentation process to turn sugar into alcohol and set them up for the aging process.
“Each wine is so different,” said Dan Reller after a brief explanation of winemaking. “There are so many varieties of grape vines.”
Each of their bottles age from three to four months to one or two years. They also make raspberry wine.
“It depends on the wine. There’s a lot of adjustments, chemistry and art that goes into making wine,” said Ashley Reller, who majored in math and enjoys winemaking for the science that’s involved — as well as the creativity.
“Sometimes mistakes become masterpieces,” Ashley Reller said.
“[Our family and friends] were a huge help,” Dan Reller said. “We wouldn’t be here today without them.”
Ashley Reller said other local wineries are less competition and more like family. She and her husband are thankful for their advice and willingness to help them build their dream.
According to the state Department of Agriculture’s Minnesota Grown website, there’s been “amazing growth in the number of vineyards and wineries in Minnesota since the first opened here in 1978.” It estimates that since 2011, the grape and wine industry has added $59 million dollars annually to the state’s economy.
It credits the University of Minnesota with helping the industry expand. The U, recognized for having one of the top wine grape programs in the United States, has a state-of-the-art enology lab and research winery, says the department, adding that it’s a valuable industry resource.
The winery also features a tasting room with live music.
“We opened a tasting room to make people happy and help people escape the stress of life,” Ashley Reller said.