WHEN VISITING A WINERY, it’s as much about the setting and experience as about the wine.
Rows of grape vines grow alongside the barn at Next Chapter Winery, 16945 320th Street, rural New Prague.
On Sunday, my husband and I discovered yet another delightful southern Minnesota winery, Next Chapter Winery, just southwest of New Prague.
This inviting canopied gravel driveway leads wine lovers to Next Chapter Winery. The house is a private residence, not the tasting room as I initially thought.
Randy parked our car to the right out of this photo, next to the house. There’s plenty of parking behind the shed and barn.
The barn quilt adds an artistic touch to the vintage barn.
Even the barn doors hold rustic charm.
From the time we turned onto the rural tree-lined driveway that tunnels toward a lovely home in a subtle buttery hue, parked our car in the shade of the yard near an aged red barn adorned with a barn quilt and entered the pole shed style winery, I felt comfortably at home. It was as if I had arrived at the farm of a favorite aunt and uncle for a Sunday summer afternoon visit. And wine.
A sign directs visitors to the tasting room.
The tasting room.
Love the ambiance the chandeliers create in the tasting room.
Inside a rather non-descript white metal shed, where chandeliers add unexpected elegance and stacked wooden wine barrels line walls, Randy and I settled in at the bar to sample eight wines ranging from a fruity/black cherry Merlot to the semi-sweet white Muzungu to the refreshing fruity MN Blushing Bride to the winery’s specialty Cranberry Burst, sweet and tart with a burst of fizz and crafted from Wisconsin cranberries.
Sampling Next Chapter wine.
For $6 you can sample six of eight wines. The fee is waived with each bottle purchased. We shared two of the wines so we could each try all eight.
The wine is aged only in wooden barrels.
There wasn’t a single wine on the sampling list that I didn’t enjoy. That’s unusual since I typically find at least a wine or two I don’t like upon tasting at a winery. Maybe it’s the time-honored, authentic aging of wine in wooden barrels (no plastic used here) or the land or the grapes or the crafters or even the comfortableness of this place that resulted in my appreciating every wine.
The grapes are still small and growing.
The attentive and friendly service of Laura, who poured the wines and also offered a brief history of Next Chapter, certainly added to a truly wonderful personalized experience. The winery, she said, is the dream of Timothy and Therese Tulloch, who met in the early 1980s when Therese served with the Peace Corps in the Congo and met Timothy, a native of South Africa. They fell in love, became engaged and planned then to someday own a vineyard.
Rows of grape vines stretch along the property.
Last July, Next Chapter Winery, with eight varieties of grapes growing on 3,700 vines on six acres, opened to the public.
Musicians perform Sunday afternoons in the tasting room.
A piano inside the reception tent.
To the left of the barn is a tasting tent.
But this winery is about more than just the wine. It’s about a sense of place, an embracing of rural Minnesota, of creating an experience, of celebrating life and good wine and special occasions and summer Sunday afternoons. Couples can marry here. From 3 p.m. – 5 p.m. Sundays, musicians perform. Tours are offered from noon to 1 p.m. Saturdays. On Wednesday evenings you can paint and sip wine. In the winter, you can catch the occasional theatrical performance.
Across the pond is the tasting room deck. To the left is the tent permanently set up during the warm months for wedding and other celebrations.
For couples like us, Next Chapter offers a brief respite, a place to snug up to the bar for some great Minnesota wines while chatting with new friends, Gary and Cindy from Prior Lake. Or, if we had been so inclined, we could have kicked back in Adirondack chairs or sipped wine on the deck overlooking a small pond spraying a fountain of water.
At home with a bottle of Cranberry Burst.
While Randy purchased bottles of Muzungu and Cranberry Burst, I headed outdoors with my camera, following the rows of grapes, stopping to photograph, extraordinarily pleased that we found this lovely rural Minnesota winery between New Prague and Montgomery.
Our second purchase, Muzungu, Swahili for “white guy.”
FYI: Wine tasting hours are from 1 p.m. – 7 p.m. Wednesday – Sunday. Be aware that, on weekends, the winery may host the occasional wedding and thus be closed to the public. I’d advise calling ahead at 612.756.3012 if you are driving from a distance. Click here to reach the Next Chapter Wintery website.
© Copyright 2015 Audrey Kletscher Helbling