KASOTA, Minn. - It is not just the grapes at the state's newest winery that are rooted in Minnesota. Janna Schatz is a 2001 Graduate of Crookston high school who worked in the wine industries in Washington and New Zealand.
Then Schatz got a surprise. "I would never have thought I'd be back in Minnesota for wine."
Schatz is now the general manager of the Chankaska winery in Kasota, the latest addition to a burgeoning Minnesota wine business.
Minnesota's wine industry fermented for a while after the state's first winery opened in 1978, but slowly business grew. By 2010 the state boasted 36 licensed commercial wineries. It's now passed 50, according to the Minnesota Grape Growers Association.
The MGGA measured economic impact from the state's wineries at $36 million in 2007, the most recent year surveyed.
That growth has attracted outsiders too.
"At first I thought, 'Why would I want to move to Minnesota from California?" said Drew Horton, Kankaska's winemaker. "But then I found out about all the work the University of Minnesota has done, literally designing and growing these new grapes that could take a Minnesota winter."
Chankaska - named for a creek that runs nearby - sits on 25 acres in Kasota, including a spacious tasting room and wine cellar.
"If this plucked down in Napa Valley it would be one of the nicest wine cellars in the Napa Valley," said Horton.
Thanks in part to the new hardier grape hybrids developed by the University of Minnesota, Bridget Poole-Padilla is now earning a living doing grape vine maintenance in an industry that didn't exist in home state when she was girl.
"You didn't see a lot of vineyards; maybe corn fields, soybean fields," said Poole-Padilla, who now prunes the vines she helped plant four years ago.
It's business enough to lure back a native daughter.
"The industry's booming," says Schatz. "I think it's what Washington was 20 years ago and it's just going to keep getting better."
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