As we patiently wait for our estate vines to grow and produce a harvest, the opportunity to hone our white winemaking skills and experiment with southern hemisphere grapes came about leading us to utilize Chilean grapes available in our “off’ season.
Our VineyardIn 2012, at our startup vineyard (Green Nubble Farm) we planted 8 different cold hardy grape varieties, to assess the suitability of these grapes in our local environment (terroir). Based on our success with these varieties and successes in Minnesota (with harsher conditions), we chose the following varieties for WillowsAwake. The first planting of about 1 acre in 2017, with an additional 7 acres following in 2018. These vines and locally sourced fruit will provide the foundation of our estate grown wines.
WhitesBrianna Frontenac blanc Itasca Vidal blanc Prairie Star
RedsFrontenac Marquette Petite Pearl Frontenac gris (Pink!) St Croix
Frontenac (Red)Frontenac grapes reflect the best characteristics of their parents, V. riparia 89 and the French Hybrid Landot 4511. This vine has borne a full crop after temperatures as low as -33⁰ F. It’s very disease resistant, with near immunity to downy mildew. Frontenac is a consistently heavy producer, with small black berries in medium to large clusters. The most popular vine in Minnesota and now widely planted throughout the Midwest, New England and Quebec. Frontenac’s deep garnet color complements its distinctive cherry aroma and inviting palate of blackberry, black currant and plum. This versatile grape can be made into a variety of wine styles, including rosé, red and port. University of Minnesota Cultivar
Marquette (Red)Marquette is a cousin of Frontenac and a grandson of Pinot noir. It originated from a cross of MN 1094, a complex hybrid of V. riparis, V. viniferia, and other Viris species with Ravat 262. Viticulturally Marquette is outstanding. Resistance to downy mildew, powdery mildew and black rot has been very good. Its open, orderly growth habit makes vine canopy management efficient. Marquette’s high sugar and moderate acidity make it very manageable in the winery. 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. As a red wine, Marquette represents a new standard in cold hardy viticulture and enology. University of Minnesota cultivar
St. Croix (Red)St. Croix vines are vigorous and produce medium sized, somewhat loose clusters of grapes. It has moderate to good disease resistance, and is hardy to -28°F or better. A very reliable grape with yields in excess of 4 tons per acre. St. Croix grapes produce medium to full bodied, dry, deep red wines with low tannins, good fruity aromas, and have currant and other dried fruit flavor aspects. Cultivar developed by Elmer Swenson in 1983 & introduced by the Univ. of Minnesota.
Brianna (White)Brianna is a cross between Kay Gray and E.S 21213 and has proven to be very hardy, to -30⁰F. It is a relatively easy to grow variety with good disease resistance and winter hardiness. Extremely productive, with small to medium sized tight clusters. Finished wines are becoming popular and are light and semi-sweet with grapefruit, tropical, and floral characteristics, with a pronounced pineapple nose and flavor when fully ripe. Described as a great sipping wine for the sweeter palate. Released by Elmer Swenson in 2002.
Prairie Star (White)Prairie Star is a vigorous vine that produces long, loose clusters, is moderately productive, and does not require cluster thinning. Hardy to -38⁰F. This selection is widely planted for its lower acidity and neutral aromatics. This is a wine style that resembles some California Chardonnays, but from fully hardy grapes. Released by Elmer Swenson in 2001.
Petite Pearl (Red)This new red wine variety was bred by the Minnesota viticulturist Tom Plocher and released for commercial plantings in 2010 after test planting evaluations since 1996. Considered fully hardy, producing a full crop after -32⁰F. Vigor is moderate with an open trailing growth habit. Early wines have been very complex with lots of spice, attractive earthy aromas and jammy fruit. Substantial tannins for a fully hardy grape and a long finish. Bred by Tom Plocher
Itasca (White)Itasca is the newest grape from the University of Minnesota breeding program and has proven itself to be among the hardiest cultivated grapes known, even surpassing Frontenac and Marquette in cold hardiness. Very vigorous growth and very productive. With aromas of apple, pear, and violet, this selection is well suited to making dry white wines and sparkling wines. Vines have high resistance to downy mildew, powdery mildew and insect phylloxera. University of Minnesota Cultivar
Frontenac gris (White/Rose)A mutation of Frontenac, culturally identical to Frontenac with great hardiness and good disease resistance. Suitable for high quality table and dessert wines, late harvest, ice wines and straw wines. With short skin contact or blended with cold pressed Frontenac makes an amazing rose. University of Minnesota Cultivar
Frontenac blanc (White)The newest addition to the Frontenac family, culturally identical to Frontenac and Frontenac gris with great hardiness and good disease resistance. Very productive and vigorous. Suitable for dry white blends, semi-sweet whites, late harvest, ice wines and straw wines. Creates a distinctly different wine than Frontenac gris. University of Minnesota Cultivar
Our WineryThe winery production design continues as we incorporate the most modern and up to date equipment and processes. Working closely with experienced winemakers with knowledge of both Californian and Minnesotan requirements, our crush, press, fermentation and storage equipment are all state of the art. Beyond the visible equipment the not so obvious includes the most modern and environmentally friendly waste water treatment system (outflow so clean we can use for irrigation) and water conservation equipment. The tasting room is the immediate centerpiece experience for your WillowsAwake winery visit. Guests will be able to sample the wines available and make wine purchases. The tasting room features easy access to outdoor spaces and landscaped grounds. The tended walk up bar serves guests pours from a list of products produced by the winery. Enjoy quiet time while strolling among the vines or hang out in the tasting room next to the fireplace. Knowledgeable staff can guide you through the tasting experience or you can opt for an informative tour.
The tasting room is open Sundays 11 am to 5 pm
Timeline to bliss
A well thought out plan, hard work, perseverance, lots and lots of sweat. Our project is on track and going strong, check back frequently for updates!
Our Great VenuesBeginning June 2019 turn all your most incredible ideas into real life with WillowsAwake Winery. Hosting Weddings, Corporate Events, and Special Occasions. Outside venues starting at $500. We are here to help you.
Birch HillVines to the right, left, and forefront. Birch hill is the highest point on the property. Ideal side by side ceremony and reception location.
Pine CathedralTall pines all around with grassed understory. Enchant your guests with lights, nature, and who knows perhaps a few elves. Ceremony site or unique reception among the trees.
FieldsOpen canvas for your dream set up. Sweeping views of vines, forest, and gardens. Several locations onsite to choose from.
VineyardStriking black trellising makes a great backdrop for your ceremony. Receptions in the vineyard will be the most unique in the State of Maine.
We’re here to help you
Turn all of your mostincredible ideas into real life WillowsAwake Winery Packages include:
- Site Manager and Event Staff
- 46×86 Sailcloth Tent
- Parking Attendant
- Onsite Grounds Transportation
- Electricity and Water
- Cocktail Hour Venue with Ceremony/Reception
- Rehearsal Dinner Venue with Ceremony/Reception
- Tables, Chairs and Place Settings
- Ceremony benches and/or chairs
- Ceremony market lights
- Cloth or Birch Arbor
- Attention to detail
- Anything else, let’s talk
Get in Touch
Interested in our venues or finding out more about our vineyard and winery? We’d love to hear from you.