Wine makes a splash at Prairie Women’s Expo

TRACY?-?The annual Prairie Women’s Expo in Tracy always has a long line of exhibitors wanting space to display their wares, but few were as welcome as Kim Hause and her collection of vintage Minnesota wines.

Hause gave two wine tasting seminars on Saturday where attendees could sample wines from the Painted Prairie Vineyard she and her husband Ben operate just outside of Currie.

“I’m just here for the fun,” said Mev Jackson. “I’ve heard good things about the vintage, and I’ve been to parties where it’s been served.”

The Hauses specialize in wines made from grapes specifically bred from original French vine stock crossed with native Minnesota wild grapes to create cold-hardy varieties suitable for the local climate.

“The University of Minnesota has at least six or seven crosses they’re working on right now,” Hause said.

The original project to develop native American wine grapes was started by Wisconsin farmer Elmer Swenson in 1943 and has been continued by the university. Though the grapes flourish in the northern climate they still like a long dry summer,

“We’re the only farmers in the world who like a hot dry summer,” Hause said. “Last year the drought was fantastic for us.”

Hause led the audience through the tasting, explained something about the process of making wine and took questions.

“Red wine is made from the grapes with skins intact, white wine without,” Hause said. “That gives it the flavor, color and is why it has more health benefits than white wine. Like all fruits and vegetables, the benefit is in the skin.”

One attendee asked if they fertilize their vineyard.

“We’ve not had to fertilize because where we planted had been a cattle, pig and sheep farm for as long as we can remember,” Hause said. “So if you’ve got sheep, grow grapes. It’s ideal, and it’s only a 35-year commitment.”

Hause explained the work is not back breaking, it’s constant. There’s constant pruning from February through March, bird and gopher patrol, treating for mold and mildew and training vines on the trellises.

“Some people say they’d like to take up running a vineyard as a retirement job,” Hause said. “It’s not a retirement job.”