Our journey to opening L’Etoile du Nord Farm Winery began in the spring of 2010 when the farmer who had rented a small field quietly stated he didn’t know if he could continue to farm the 10 acres he had been renting for 20 years. It was a very small plot for alfalfa or corn and the traffic on Highway 29 was making it a hazardous journey with the farm equipment. The thought of the land going wild was difficult, but Polly and David didn’t know where to turn.
Later that summer, David and Polly were visiting with their relatives in Cloquet. They brought up their dilemma with what to do with only ten acres and growing grapes was mentioned. Polly immediately made a joke about climate change and stated “We’ll be the Napa Valley of the North!”
Just a month later, at the Minnesota state fair, there was a booth about grape growing in Minnesota and then the University of Minnesota had an informational meeting at the Horticultural Research Center in Chaska all about the cold climate hardy wine grapes that they bred to grow in Minnesota.
Well long ago, David grew up on a small dairy farm near Crookston but spent the past 30 years living the city life. He was excited to reconnect with the land, to get his hands dirty and buy a tractor (green of course). Polly grew up on the land on Lake Irene, and was looking for a way to return home to the land.
Now, Polly and David never turned down an opportunity to make trouble, and after they visited a few Minnesota vineyards and wineries, and talked to some people, they ordered up a few grape plants to try out this new type of farming. Plans were laid for an acre of land at the crest of a south facing slope late that fall and David and Polly dove into learning as much as they could about grape growing in Minnesota.
When the 550 grape plants arrived in the spring of 2011, Polly’s sister asked what had happened to the “few plants” idea. “Well it takes 15 pounds of grapes to make a bottle of wine”, Polly stated, “I want to have enough to make wine for our friends”.
They learned to care for their vines, made friends in the fledgling Midwest wine grape industry and watched as wineries become a part of Minnesota’s farm economy.
The grapes grew from 550 to 3000, and Polly and David began to craft those grapes into wines that spoke of their land and their seasons. Local wine, like any other local food, is a true expression of place.