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The Estate Vineyard “Our Family Story”

Minnesota is known as the land of 10,000 lakes, but did you know there is a growing wine industry? The Minnesota wine industry has been booming for years now, and to date, there are more than 70 wineries across the state.

My brother, Connar Dehnert ,and I, Gavin Dehnert, decided to dive into the wine world in 2019. Our love affair for grapes and wine dates back four generations ago. Our great-grandfather Pappouli and great-grandmother Yiayia, immigrated to the United States from Greece in the early 1900’s. When they came to the USA, they brought with them Roditis grapevines from their hometown in Greece. Pappouli planted these grapevines in his backyard and began making wine for his restaurant. When prohibition hit in 1920, Pappouli would secretly sell his wine out the back of his restaurant. Word on the street is Pappouli’s restaurant was the local watering hole for the local police during these desperate times!

Wine making was passed on from Pappouli to my grandma Mary when she was only 6 years old. Mary would collect the grapes in pillowcases, and it was her job to smash the grapes into juice and place them into the wooden barrels in the cellar. Mary and Pappouli passed on this tradition to our mother Jan when she was only 3 years old! I mean every kid, and adult too, loves to stomp grapes! Pappouli, Mary, and Jan continued to make wine until Pappouli passed away.

For 50 years, the wine tradition went dormant waiting for a new spring to bud! In 2017, Connar and I stumbled into a wine tasting at a small boutique winery in New Jersey and instantly fell in love with wine. With the help of our family, we purchased 22 acres in Grant, MN and the rest is history.

Fall 2018 marked our venture into the world of wine. We chose to designate 12 acres of the farmland as our “terroir,” or what the French call a given spot with the right conditions to produce distinctive wines. Grape growing in Minnesota is a testament to the benefits of research and resourcefulness. Elmer Swenson, noted horticulturalist, created, among others, the cold-climate Edelweiss and St. Croix varieties. Our cold climate can be quite harsh for many grape varieties, but thanks to the research and perseverance of the University of Minnesota, our state produces some of the most important grapes.

Spring 2019, we planted almost 700 vines as part of phase one. For phase one, we planted two cold hardy vines that will produce the delicious red Marquette grape and the enchanting white Itasca grape.

The Marquette


Marquette is a complex hybrid, one that involves Vitis vinifera as well as American species. It is named after Pere Marquette, a Jesuit missionary, and 17th century explorer in North America and has been said by the University of Minnesota to be a cousin of Frontenac and a grandson of pinot noir. In 2006, the Marquette was developed from a cross of MN 1094 – a complex hybrid including Vitis riparia and Vitis vinifera – with the French hybrid Ravat 262. The grape has high sugar, moderate acidity and good tannin levels.

The Marquette is called a “winemakers wine,” one where the winemaker can greatly influence the final wine depending on how the wine is treated in the cellar. Marquette is a liquid canvas that allows for all different expressions. Finished wines are complex, with attractive ruby color, pronounced tannins, and desirable notes of cherry, berry, black pepper, and spice on both nose and palate.

The Marquette grape

The Itasca


The new grape, which will be used to make dry white wines, is the latest in a series of cold-hardy cultivars released by the university that led to the nascent wine industry in Minnesota and other northern climates around the world. Itasca produces a wine that is light yellow to straw in color and has aromas of pear, quince, violet, melon, minerals, and subtle honey notes. “This is a very nice grape with lots of potential as a wine maker’s grape,” said Bryan Forbes, the university’s wine maker. “It is clean and pleasant with pear and floral notes and mineral notes with a long finish.”

The Itasca grape

Spring 2020, we planted an additional 800 vines as part of phase two. Our estate vineyard added five additional cold hardy varieties producing a red Frontenac Noir, and 4 white varieties; Frontenac Gris, Prairie Star, Frontenac Blanc and La Crescent grapes.

Frontenac Noir


It is a versatile grape variety with the ability to produce red, rose, fortified, or late harvest wines.  It can produce full bodied wine with notes of black cherry, blackberry, plum, chocolate, and coffee. As a Rose, it produces a predominant flavor of strawberry.

a close up of a green plant in a garden

Frontenac Gris


This is the most versatile grape variety with the ability to be made into sparkling, white, rose, fortified, late harvest and ice wine.  The poplar use of Frontenac Gris is for blending to elaborate other wines.  When blended with dessert or ice wines, it can add hints of apricot and walnut.  When blended with red wine it can produce tart cherry aromas.  Frontenac Gris is a University of Minnesota Hybrid that is a color mutation of the original Frontenac Noir.  It does not produce a true white wine; some color elements remain and presses out to copper or a salmon color.  The grape ripens with a very high acidity.

Frontenac Gris

Prairie Star


An Elmer Swenson Hybrid, established in the 1980’s for its cold hardiness – negative 40 degrees.  Characteristics similar to Sauvignon Blanc, crisp, clean, dry, full bodied wine.  Prairie Star produces a full-bodied wine with tropical fruit flavors and a long cinnamon spice finish. Widely used as a blend to other white wines to add body and finish.

Prairie Star

Frontenac Blanc


Can be used to make sparkling, white, fortified, late harvest or ice wine wines.  When ripe, the berries can have tropical fruit, pear, peach and passion fruit aromas.  Frontenac blanc is a white grape variety with small yellow orange berries when ripe.

Frontenac Blanc

La Crescent


The La Crescent grape is very cold hardy and relatively high in sugar and acidity levels.  La Crescent is fermented into a sweet or semi-sweet style, with aromas of apricot, peach, tangerine, lime, citrus and pineapple.  The perfect choice for Riesling fans.  The fruit has high acidity and can be used to make off-dry to sweet/dessert and late-harvest wines.

La Crescent

In Spring 2021, we will plant our final 800 vines to complete phase three. Our winemaker will be busy test producing our new wines. We can’t wait to produce award winning wines grown from our estate vineyard in Grant, Minnesota.

In Spring 2022, we plan to open up the winery! We can’t wait to share this will you all, so mark your calendar, and get ready to drink some fantastic Minnesota grown wines!

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