The afternoon sun sets the hills ablaze with brilliant reds, golds and oranges as you head west from the Twin Cities toward Waconia. There is no better place or time to luxuriate in the last warm afternoons and gather with a few friends to linger along the rows of vines at Schram Vineyards Winery and Brewery in Waconia.
I invited a small group to join me specifically for a tasting of Schram’s Itasca wine. Tasting is a centuries old ritual – raising the glass to the light to reveal the clarity and color of the wine, holding the glass under your nose to breathe in the subtle fragrance, and then the much anticipated first sip where the flavor of the wine rolls across your tongue to discern the overtones and elements of the character of the grape. Or – just drink it. There are no rules. You don’t have to be a wine connoisseur or sommelier to know when you are drinking a wonderful wine.
Itasca is the sixth grape created by the University of Minnesota, taking 13 years to go from inception to planting in 2017. The first Itasca grapes were harvested and bottled in 2019. Trust me, it was well worth the wait for this sharply crisp light white wine. Owner Aaron Schram has wisely devoted a large portion of vines to Itasca which is already in high demand.
My friends, mostly unfamiliar with Minnesota wines, were under the impression that all local wines are sweet. This may have been the case years ago but is not true today—they were suitably impressed not only with Itasca but the other wines provided for our tasting as well. Schram’s 2018 Oaked Frontenac Blanc won Best in Show White wine at the International Cold Climate Wine Competition and their 2017 Marquette won Double Gold.
Aaron and Ashely Schram began to build Schram Vineyards Winery and Brewery in 2008. In 2013 they constructed a large tasting house and developed extensive grounds along the vineyard suitable for today’s social distancing requirements. Light food is available in the tasting house and a food truck offers a more extensive menu. Schram Vineyard is unique in that it also brews beer, making wine drinkers and beer lovers equally content.
The winery sits upon acres of rolling hills covered in vines overlooking Reitz Lake. At this time of year there is a lot of activity and excitement at the vineyard surrounding harvest and winemaking, as the production of the 2020 vintage of wines gets underway.
In addition to Schram Vineyards Winery, the Schram’s operate Schram Haus Brewery located in Chaska which opened in 2019. Their beer garden, patio and tap room provide plenty of space for social distancing.
There is more excitement for the Schram’s looking to the months ahead, as they look to open AxeBridge Wine Co in Minneapolis’ downtown North Loop neighborhood in March of 2021. Initially planned to open earlier this year, construction was put on pause due the Coronavirus, but has since resumed. The location will be close to the Twins
stadium and Target center, making it the perfect gathering spot in the heart of downtown.
Head out to enjoy the fall leaves. And definitely enjoy the Schram wines.