Wine-Not Minot’s Local Wineries
A wine connoisseur is a label liberally poured on someone who enjoys wine but may know nothing about it. Someone who enjoys it, collects it and knows a good amount about it is an oenophilia.
Beginning their journeys both, Wolf Creek Winery owners Randal Albrecht and Darcie Hardy and Pointe of View Winery owners Jeff and Diane Peterson had simply had an interest in learning about it because they enjoyed it as connoisseurs. Both couples started with part-time hobbies that have grown into full-time careers.
Wolf Creek Winery
A mile from the Wolf Creek reserve, on Lake Audubon, off U.S. Highway 83 in Coleharbor, 50 minutes from Minot, is Wolf Creek Winery, open year-round. Albrecht and Hardy have created a wine oasis, quite literally, in their backyard.
“We started as a hobby; I had a fascination with the wineries that started when I had some health issues and spent a month in Rochester, where there are probably 30 wineries within 50 miles of Rochester, so we began making little day trips,” Albrecht said.
Thinking he’d begin making about 100 gallons a year for himself and friends, Wolf Creek is now producing 2,000 gallons a year. Albrecht likes to support the local businesses. Wolf Creek partners with more than 20 locations along Interstate 94 to Beach, as well as having small groups come to the fully licensed boutique winery, take part in tastings in the tasting cellar, take small tours and enjoy the ambiance on the patio, visiting with Albrecht and Hardy.
Starting in 2012, Albrecht said, they initially began making apple wine, then planted a few grapes and the wine turned out to be pretty good.
“People started wanting to buy it, but we couldn’t sell it, without becoming a commercial winery,” said Albrecht. Albrecht commuted to work at Medcenter One in Mandan prior to its merger with Sanford in 2012. Albrecht retired 12 years ago and decided to go all in, creating Wolf Creek Boutique Winery.
Based on supply, location and fruit availability, Wolf Creek offers 19 varieties of wines, and the winery is open year-round by appointment. The kinds of fruits sourced and fresh harvest deliveries of the fruits start the process.
“We try to use as many locally sourced fruits as we can, like our mallard red is from a Froncek grape that grows locally. Our Marquette is also made from a local grape, as is Crimson,” said Albrecht. “Our aronia wines, backyard apple or rhubarb wines, are all grown here in North Dakota.”
Wolf Creek has some vines for nostalgia as well as some aronia, a choke berry and cousin to the chokecherry, fruit trees and rhubarb.
“We do as much of the local variety bounty as we can. For some blends we import the fruit and grapes from Washington state. We like the climate in Washington state. We take a lot of pride in the quality of our wines,” Albrecht said. “We are actually written up by the Midwest Wine Press in Chicago for the aronia fruit wine, Aronia Berry,” Albrecht said.
Totten Trail Bar and Grill and Iron Ore, in Riverdale, are two businesses that partner with Wolf Creek Winery and carry most of the varieties of wines. A perk to stopping by to check out Wolf Creek is the purchase of a bag wine rather than a bottle. Albrecht said the partnerships benefit nicely from the bags, because the preservation ability of the bags keeps the wine fresh and are great for the lake environment, where a bottle generally should be drunk within a week.
In Minot, you can find Wolf Creek Wines at Broadway Liquor and Cash Wise Liquor. The price point is around $18 a bottle or bags are available at the winery only.
“For example, the Lake Girl Gold is made from a Froncek green grape that grow locally. All wines are named after and fit the lake theme, as part of the Wolf Creek reserve and home to the winery.
Hardy created the romantic kissing wolves label for Wolf Creek winery.
“We have to have all labeling approved by the federal government, and when you acquire the fruit in a different place than you make the wine, it crosses what they call ‘Appalachians’ if the wine was produced in North Dakota but the fruit was grown in Washington state, so our labels title the wines as such: American, when the fruit is harvested out of state, but when harvested and produced in state, then it can be titled North Dakota,” Albrecht said.
The art and science of winemaking is a complex process, with certain protocols to follow, said Albrecht.
“The only wine I’d ever drank was during the holidays before we began this process. It is the hardest work I have ever loved,” he said.
The bottles get sanitized and, once filled, corked with a pneumatic corking machine. The foil on the cork and labels also are applied to the bottles with machines. It is a very clean and organized process, in which different varieties of wine are held in large tanks.
If the wines work well together, Albrecht said, “We may take two or three varieties and create a new unique blend.”
The testing protocols for the acids, alkalinity and brix — a way to measure the potential alcohol content of a wine before it’s made by determining the sugar level in grapes — have to fit within certain perimeters within the science, said Albrecht. The art is the end result — what does the wine taste like, what is it upfront and how does it finish for you, said Albrecht.
“When you take a sip of wine and complete it, what is the feel it leaves in your mouth? Is it bitter, sweet, pleasant? Does it make you pucker? It is different for everyone what you want your finish result to be,” he said.
They have tanks ranging in sizes — 160 gallon, 130 gallon and 80 gallon. The tanks have little tasting valves on them and making sure that the final product is exactly how you want it is the main thing. Hardy monitors quality control.
“She has a very unique palate and before we send wine out, we will do bench trials and adjust the acidity and pH to get it where we want as the science part. Then the art is to make the taste on your palate as wonderful as we can, which may involve adding simple syrup to get the ingredients exactly where they need to be,” Albrecht said.
Each year the wine blends are different, based on the heat of a day, more rain in one year, a cooler season one year, so it’s never the exact same wine as in a previous tank. In the final adjustment, to make one 130-gallon batch and to make the variety the best it can be, they have added a half a quart of simple syrup, said Albrecht.
“I am able to replicate to a 200-gallon tank when Hardy finds the perfect spot and uses her unique ability to identify that finish,” he said.
“Sometimes the fruit comes in with a higher pH than we like and we have to alter it to get it lower, so there’s a fine line in getting these adjustments where they need to be within the acceptable ranges, to keep the wine stable,” Albrecht said.
“So, there’s a lot more to squishing the fruit and bottling it up,” said Hardy.
The absolute busiest time is between August and December, during the fruit harvest time of year. It doesn’t matter what is going on, when that fruit is ready it needs to be harvested and processed to get it at its absolute best, said Albrecht. When the vineyard decides the grapes are ready and brix and pH are right, Albrecht said, “we take a trailer, pick up the grapes and get back here to process that same afternoon. When we get fruit in from Washington, the vineyards may have harvested Friday and we will get the fruit in Sunday morning and begin processing it.”
Someday Albrecht and Hardy plan to visit Europe, but until then, the wine-making duo enjoys local fare and visiting and learning from the area vineyards across the northern border states.
“It is interesting because wine is a developed palate, something that our customers have taught us a lot about. Most will start with the sweeter blends and it doesn’t take long and many of them get into the dry wines that they would have never tried when cultivating their original tasting palates,” Albrecht said.
Pointe of View
Atop the rolling hills in Burlington, located at 8413 19th Ave. NW and open from May to December, is Pointe of View. The Petersons opened the winery in 2002.
“We are the 50th winery in the United States and the first for North Dakota. In 2002, North Dakota was the only state without a winery. Even Alaska beat us out,” Jeff Peterson said.
Peterson planted his vineyard with a cold-hardy variety of Valiant grape that was originally a juice variety with a wild Vitis Riveira cross from Williston, which make a sweet red wine, Peterson said.
Pointe of View makes a variety of ciders, fruit, grape, meads (honey) and rhubarbs, which is technically a vegetable said Peterson. It is not always cost effective, to source the fruits out of state, so the winery gets juices shipped, although it tries to use what it grow locally, he said.
Generally, Peterson said, he doesn’t deviate much from his recipes for the wines and has acquired a distillery license. Currently, Pointe of View offers six to 10 wine blends and a one spirit or liquor, a higher alcohol content product.
“Believe it or not, it was just a hobby that got out of hand,” Peterson said of the winery. In the beginning, Pointe of View, was a two-family business, but Peterson bought the other family out more than 10 years ago.
Peterson said in the past they’ve been a part of the Minot Tour of Homes, and Minot Air Force Base has been very good to them. Pointe of View is open Fridays and Saturdays 11 a.m.-6 p.m., and offers open deck seating with a view overlooking the valley, hiking trails and vineyard visits.
“We have people visit from all over the world. We have a book people sign, and we visit with some very interesting people,” said Peterson.
The last few years, Pointe of View has had some setbacks. In 2021 they went through a drought, losing a lot of vines and having to replant, Peterson said. Last year, turkeys devastated the vineyard, and the Petersons are still unsure what to do about the damage.
Peterson said he has not visited the vineyards of Europe. He likes being a homebody farmer and stays busy during the summer months and fall. Peterson said he has been getting into grape research and has been looking into one or two new varieties that would do well in the area.
“I like the genetics end of grape research,” Peterson said. He hopes to maybe make his own grape variety someday.