Tricounty News

They share a passion for wine and hospitality

A project in the making since fall 2005, the Millner Heritage Vineyard and Winery opened last Friday, May 15.

The Millners - Don, Mary, Jon and Annamaria - were searching for the right land six months prior to choosing the 40-acre parcel located 7 miles south of Kimball.

The land search, Don says, took time because they had to base their decision on "the type of soil, topography, rolling hills, and location, location, location."

Don says another reason for the area they chose was the traffic flow on Highway 15 and its proximity to other major highways.


Winemaking goes back to Don's father's generation where Don has made wine since he was 15.

The idea for the winery, though, came from son Jon. After Sept. 11, 2001, Jon was deployed to Afghanistan with the Army Reserves where he saw grapes and vineyards. Jon eventually went to Iowa where he learned how to make wine; he also managed a winery there.

The theme for the winery is "Celebrating our European Heritage." Don is mainly German with a bit of Polish, Mary is German and Polish, and Jon's wife Annamaria is Hungarian.

In Hungary, Annamaria studied six years in agriculture, set up vineyards in Germany, and came to the U.S. through the University of Minnesota MAST program to learn English. She met Jon by working in the same vineyard together. The young couple is now married and has a 2-year-old daughter.

Preparing for opening day

When asked what they're doing to prepare for opening day, Don says "everything," and working around the clock to be ready. They're working on bottling, preparing to plant for next year, continuing construction, landscaping, and preparing the retail store.


"The vineyard experience is really what we're about," Don says.

There are winery tours, wine tasting, wine sales, gift items for sale, and a vineyard tour by wagon.

As for big events, they've had to limit space to groups of 100 indoors. They hope to open the open-air events center, which can be used to host weddings and parties, by next year.

How growing grapes in Minnesota works

Don says it all starts with the grapes. The Millners' 9 acres (and growing) of vineyard has grapes that are a hybrid from a traditional grape and a native grape. The traditional grapes are the wine-making grapes, and the native grapes help with growth and resistance to cold and disease.

"Then the rest is like any other crop," Don says.

When it comes to covering the spectrum of white to red and sweet to dry, Don says usually the color of the grape makes that type of wine. To make a blush wine you can either do it the traditional way by using a freshly pressed red grape or a blending of red and white grapes.

Though there are numerous types of wines, Don says the vineyard plans to only sell regional wines to promote this area and what it's about.

"From the heart of Europe to the heart of Minnesota," Don says is one of their slogans.

The project has been a group effort since spring 2006, and the Millners are thankful for all the help and volunteers.

"We want people to think it's not just our winery, but it's their winery," Don says.

They always welcome help from volunteers, especially for bottling and the fall harvest. For more information you can check their Web site at
The winery features a gift shop with wine accessories, wooden bowls hand-carved by Don, and plates and decorative items china-painted by Mary and her sister Pat Otremba.

They also offer tours and tasting of their nine varieties of wine.

Millner Heritage Winery is open Thursdays from 11-7, Fridays and Saturdays from 11-8, and Sundays from 12-6. They will celebrate with a grand opening July 17-19.