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Bear Talk

Notes from the Den

Autumn at Bear Creek


Thanks to everyone for coming out to the Winery last Friday for Happy Hour and Saturday afternoon. We were so excited to see our friends from the past and meet many of you for the first time. How about those gals from Fergus Falls? Talk about fun!!!

We finished picking the grapes about 2 weeks ago and all the wines have completed primary fermentation. The Vintage Year 2018 will include the dry white Sheyenne, a new semi sweet white La Crescent, a sweet Rosé White Marquette, an off dry Simply Red, a new sweet white Frontenac Blanc, the trademark dry red Old Truck, an estate bottled vintage dry red Petite Pearl, a new dry red Crimson Pearl, another new dry red Verona, and a ruby port (no name yet). They are in the tanks settling out and waiting to be racked and transferred to the barrels. The rosé and whites will be ready in 8 months and the reds in about a year and a half. Yes, the new Verona is named after the cities of Verona in the Veneto wine region of Italy and my hometown Verona, North Dakota. There will be much anticipation of its release next year! Verona is small town in southeast ND right in the middle of Lisbon, Oakes and LaMoure. If I remember right, the Verona Cardinals in high school sports always crushed the Broncos, Tornados and the Loboes! Also, we will be making an apple cider next week to add to our collection of wines.

Opening the tasting room has exceeded what we had expected in terms of business and fun! I can't say enough about the three amigos, Sean, Kelsy, and Jake! It’s refreshing for Sue and I to see the passion they exhibit about the grape and wine industry. But most of all, its great to see our customers having a great time at the winery!

Ok, back to the Den! We hope to see you this weekend, Bison game on in the loft. I am looking forward to that 5 month hibernation this winter!

Cheers, Rod

Chase Ballinger
Bear Talk: Notes from the Den

Thank all of you for the coming out to Bear Creek for the first public wine tasting event. As most of you might know, we have been open since 2003 but have concentrated on private events such as weddings, groom’s dinners, bridal showers, corporate outings, Christmas parties, birthday parties, anniversaries, reunions, benefits, fundraisers, tour groups, and anything else where people like to gather and share fun times and of course enjoy a little wine. A public opening is a different gig for us and we had such a great time with those that made it here on Friday night for happy hour and Saturday afternoon. Let me say, without Sean’s determination and hard work this probably would not have happened at least for now. Thank you Sean for hanging in there with me! Also, thanks to Kelsy, Jake, Caryn (Kelsy’s mom) and Linda (Sue's sister) for all their efforts. A special thanks to Sue for her work, her decorations, her culinary efforts and the way she displays the food and for also putting up with me! I am excited what the future will bring.

This is the first blog I am writing and will call it “Bear Talk” notes from the Den. I will focus on the winery, the vineyards, our customers, our staff, wine tasting and evaluations, food, our golf course, sustainability, education and many others things related to the Winery. There are fun stories to share and hope you enjoy reading the blog. It will be sent randomly and I will try to be brief!

Bear Creek is a little different than most wineries in that it is a Research Winery. With our extreme climatic conditions, grapes have to be bred specifically for the cold climate in which we live. New grape varieties have to be bred as local ancient river grapes (riparian) are crossed with traditional grapes (vinifera such as Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and others). These crosses result in the cold hardiness of the river grapes and the excellent fruit qualities of the traditional grapes. The new varieties must meet these strict requirements. The new varietal offspring are called hybrids. They are evaluated for cold survival, disease resistance, insect infestation, grape plant trellising, cluster thinning, leaf pulling to allow more sunlight on the grapes and most importantly, wine quality! Wine quality is a standard to rival the best wines in the world. To get to this standard, we must have the best possible viticulture (grape growing) practices possible. We in the industry always say, “Great wines are made in the vineyards". We are farmers. So I will start with this on my first blog post.

Sean is our new vineyard manager and charged with maintaining our vineyards at Bear Creek. As part of our research, he is engaged in a trellising evaluation right now on our new Petite Pearl red grape variety. He is assessing which wire trellising techniques will maximize fruit quality and quantity and reduce labor costs. With his research, he has come up with some new ways to position the wires on the post and is in the process of evaluating several different techniques. He has named one of these new wire techniques, "The High Wire Weave”. This should be useful to us and other vineyards in the state as we move to further evaluate new varieties. He will continue on to evaluate our newly planted 800 Crimson Pearl grape plants next spring. Sean will also be evaluating what is planted in between the rows with different cover crops and hopes to begin his grape breeding program under the direction of this country’s most famed grape breeder, Tom Plocher of Hugo, Minnesota. His research will be vital as we continue to improve the vineyard practices for the future. I have attached a picture of Sean out in the vineyards.

Ok, I promised to be brief, sorry! Again, thanks for all your support and hope to see you and many others this Friday or Saturday.

Cheers, Rod

Photo: Sean working in the research vineyard at Bear Creek

Chase Ballinger