Round hay bales stand sentinel on the corner of Highway 25 and Thiesse Road south of Brainerd, but if Dennis and Jody Drummond see their vision become reality the corner may bring a bit of wine country here. The Drummonds are working with Bercher Design and Construction of Baxter on the project.
Jody and Dennis Drummond are behind a venture to create a wine business just off Thiesse Road and Highway 25 south of Brainerd. They purchased nearly five acres of Thiesse farm land on corner property and have visions of creating a 11,000 square-foot facility on the site.
Brainerd Dispatch/Renee Richardson
They wanted a farm setting for the Dennis Drummond Wine Co. The vision is to create a multipurpose 11,000 square-foot facility with a few vines growing on the southern slopes of the corner site. The goal is to create an event center that has winemaking, wine tasting, retail sales, a bistro and an event center for meetings and weddings up to about 300 people.
The design calls for a barrel room, fermentation room, lab and a 40-seat bistro with a chalkboard menu designed around two glasses of wine. The food - soup, salad, sandwich, appetizer and special of the day. A covered, open-air patio will provide additional seating and provide another option for weddings and sunset viewing.
The Drummonds said they drove all over the area before coming upon this corner of Crow Wing County.
For Minnesota grape growing, ideal property has a gently south facing slope to get north/south rows that enhance the sunlight and avoid the frost.
Bercher Design and Construction of Baxter is working with the Dennis Drummond Wine Co. on the planned event center south of Brainerd. Plans call for winemaking, a bistro and an event center for meetings and weddings.
"So this is perfect," Dennis Drummond said, standing in the now open field with the aroma of freshly cut hay.
The event center is a $2 million project. The Drummonds plan to have an invitation event next week for potential investors to help raise the remaining $500,000. The minimum investment is $25,000.
If the investments are there, the plan is to start digging this fall and prepare for an April opening in 2011.
The wine company plans to have a house red, white and blush. The Minnesota wines have to be made from 51 percent from state grown fruit. As the business grows, the Drummonds said they will employ some of Dennis Drummond's winemaking with other vineyards.
At the core, the business may hire about 10 and then have additional staff, perhaps 20-30 people, for events. Jody Drummond said they want to involve community fundraisers in their business and give back.
"This has been a blessing," she said of the project, noting a lot of people helped along the way.
While the plan is to have some Minnesota hardy grapes growing on site for the ambiance, the Drummonds expect to buy their grapes from Minnesota growers, naming vineyards in Nisswa, Motley, Fort Ripley and Isanti.
While Minnesota may not seem the ideal climate, a brief glance at the Minnesota Grape Growers Association indicates quite a subculture on the topic. Dennis Drummond said the University of Minnesota has been working on developing four winter hardy varieties and have more in the pipeline.
Dennis Drummond was hired by Central Lakes College to be its viticulture enology science and technology coordinator. VESTA is working in middle America with industry, government and educational institutions for educational programs in grape growing and winemaking. Dennis Drummond expects to teach an online class next spring.
The Drummonds, who live in the South Long Lake area, came to Minnesota from the Napa Valley wine country of California. Jody Drummond grew up in White Bear Lake and spent summer vacations in the Brainerd lakes area. Dennis Drummond came from Surrey, England before traveling to his mother's native Illinois where he got a bachelor's degree in farm management before moving to California.
Dennis received a master's degree in fermentation science from the University of California, Davis. He worked in wineries and vineyards in California as well as Michigan and Wisconsin. Jody's background came from the hospitality industry in restaurants and catering.
The two met in California's wine country. The couple wanted to move to Minnesota to be closer to family and Dennis worked as a Midwest winemaker before the recession led to cutbacks at the winery. Jody said she was sitting next to Sheila Haverkamp, Brainerd Lakes Area Development Corp. director, at a meeting and Haverkamp asked why the Drummonds couldn't start their own winery here. That led to working on with Julie Anderholm at the Small Business Development Center at Central Lakes College in Brainerd.
RENEE RICHARDSON may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5852.
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