We left our very nice hotel near Sioux Falls, South Dakota and headed due east on Interstate 90, quickly crossing into Minnesota. I had looked for some Minnesota wineries that we might be able to visit en route that were not too far from the Interstate (this was going to be a 575 mile day and so we didn't have time for long detours) and located one near Rochester.
Salem Glen Vineyard is a small farm winery that has been operating since 2007 making wines from cold-hardy variety grapes grown on property and around the region. There are no signs to it and you access the winery along a long, straight, dusty earth road. On Saturday afternoons, they often have live jazz in the tasting room (which opened in October 2009) and this beautiful, sunny Saturday afternoon there were a couple of dozen people enjoying the music and wine. If we had more time we would have stayed longer as the atmosphere was wonderful.
Winemaker and owner, Dustin Ebert kindly took some time to show me around the winery, pointing out the astronomy observatory that is used as a logo on the wine label and explaining that he makes the wine in the garage attached to the house. A true 'garagiste". About 1/3 of his grapes are grown on property and the rest he purchases regionally, within a 120 mile radius. Varieties include Seyval Blanc, Edelweiss, Frontenac Gris, Marquette (that was developed at the University of Minnesota) and Marechal Foch which we also saw in Nebraska. Dustin is a self taught winemaker who is extremely passionate about the wines, making about 1000 cases per year. I asked him if he is particularly proud of any of his varietals. Currently, he really likes the Marquette and I was able to taste it with him. Well structured and balanced, the body is relatively light but the flavors are richer than I anticipated with aromas of cherry and a pleasing peppery finish. I was pleased to finish our trip at this beautiful little winery that epitomizes the philosophies of so many that we had visited in the 30 days we were away. Passion, individuality, experimentation and most of all a love of the land, and the vines that ultimately define the finished product. Wine should be for everyone and at Salem Glen, everyone is welcome. No pretence or stuffiness, just plain good fun!
After a drive through Wisconsin Dells (which we had never visited in ten years and for which we felt a bit guilty that we had never taken our kids there during their visits) we arrived back at our newly-painted-soon-to-be-sold house in Sheboygan at about 9:30pm, tired, safe and elated at having completed this epic journey.
As I reflect on the trip in which we traveled 7,500 miles, crossed 13 states and one Canadian province and visited dozens of wineries, I am in awe of several things. First, the sheer beauty of the different states and provinces. Each has an individuality and character that is unique and a personality that is distinct. It would be as impossible to pick a favorite state as it would be to pick a favorite wine. Certainly, drinking wine in the region in which it is made adds a whole different dimension to the enjoyment.
Second, the variety of wines, the different personalities of the winemakers, the beauty of the areas in which they are made and the zest for life that is engendered by everyone involved in the winemaking world has left an indelible imprint on us both.
Third, I am in awe of our little puppy, Hopi. Spending that amount of time in the car, going to different hotels and cottages all the time could have been unsettling, but he was a trooper and so well behaved. The world is gradually becoming more doggy friendly and it was great for us to be able to have him with us both.
We are both so please we took the time and made the trip. I was able to continue the job search process and networking with the help of cell phone and WiFi connections and since returning I'm pleased to say that the job market appears to have brightened somewhat. There are several positions that I am pursuing in different parts of the country and with a little luck, one of them will come through and set us on our next adventure.
Our house selling adventures are another story, and a bit of a roller coaster, having had one sale fall through. However that too will work itself out in time. Whatever happens we have the memories, blogs and photographs from our trip and have experienced something that we will hold close to our hearts for the rest of our lives.
Don't forget to check out Ginnie's blog too