Minnesota’s cold climate doesn’t seem like an ideal place to grow grapes and produce wine. But when the University of Minnesota developed a cold-climate wine grape—one that will survive 30-below—winemaking in Minnesota became a possibility. Within the last few years, Minnetrista residents Lowell and Phyllis Schaper decided to get in on the action and open Painter Creek Winery & Cidery next to their acres that make up Minnetonka Orchards, a longtime lake-area favorite.
“Because of the development of these cold climate wine grapes, such as Marquette, La Crescent, Frontenac Blanc, Frontenac Gris, Itasca and several others, Painter Creek Winery & Cidery is now able to grow hardy grapes and produce very good wines,” Lowell Schaper says.
In 1971, the Schapers purchased 28 acres of Minnestrista’s rolling hills with the intention of building a house—one they could raise their family in, Schaper says. “There was no master plan … 28 acres was too large for a lawn and too small for a farm.”
After deciding to plant 600 apple trees in 1976, they began their orchard journey and have now expanded their offerings to wines, ciders and events.
Painter Creek opened in December. The farm winery (meaning they have their vines on their property as opposed to a commercial winery that doesn’t) is considered the first farm winery in Hennepin County, says Kelly Delisle, operations manager and events coordinator.
Open year-round, the winery offers everything from wine and cider tastings to tours and monthly events. “We are a very small, quaint, home-feeling winery that brings a lot of variety,” Delisle says.
Choose from lively red wines, sweet white wines, crisp apple ciders and dessert wines. Limited-release drinks are often available, including a mulled red wine and a mimosa. “People can ask the winemaker for a tour and see the production,” Delisle says. “A lot of people do ask, and we would definitely be glad to do it.”
Every month, the winery hosts different events. In May, they had a salsa bar for Cinco de Mayo and a dessert bar for Mother’s Day. No tickets are needed for the events, but organizers ask that visitors call ahead of time so there’s enough food for everyone.
The winery also hosts live music and food trucks on the weekends. Brides and grooms who host weddings at Minnetonka Orchards’ venue can also explore all the winery offers. (The winery will also host weddings starting next year.)
In the colder months, they accommodate customers with snowmobile parking. “This summer, we have hitching posts and water troughs for all of the horse stables around here, so they can come and join the winery,” Delisle says. Cyclists are encouraged to ride their bikes to the winery, too.
A summer bash with food, music and giveaways marks their official grand opening celebration this month on June 20. Gather on the brand-new patio and take part in outdoor games.
Whether you arrive by car or horse, prefer a bold red wine or a hardy cider, appear for an event or to see their wine production, Painter Creek Winery & Cidery is quickly becoming a local destination.