Fluffy Fields Vineyard and Winery open for business outside of Dickinson
Tessa Sian examined bunches of tiny green grapes no bigger than pearls before snipping them away and dropping them to the ground.
She'd been pruning the vines at Fluffy Fields Vineyard and Winery, which opened to visitors on June 1 on the northwest edge of Dickinson and will likely begin its in-house winemaking in the next few days. For more than three hours, Sian had moved slowly down the rows of the leafy vineyard. Trimming grapevines is slow work—even after the time she'd put in, Sian still had a couple more rows to get through.
Unlike other forms of agriculture more common to North Dakota, grapevines require a precise hand.
"You want 28 to 32 clusters on each side of the vine, so I've been trying to keep those numbers," Sian explained. "It's been really interesting. With people in North Dakota and the crops we grow, you want the most—the most plants, the most yield, you want everything the most. With grapes, you can't do that."
If the trimmed clusters were left on the vine, she said, they could actually limit the yield in following years, even if the clusters themselves are initially robust.
Still, the cost of consistency isn't always an easy toll.
"Cutting a couple of these grapes off the vines is really hard for me," Sian said with a laugh. "It's difficult, but in the long run it'll be better."
Like the grapes, the winery itself is green and growing nearly a month after its soft opening.
The business is family-owned and operated, with husband and wife Kevin and Deb Kinzel at the helm. The pair are joined in the vineyard by their son, Kody Kinzel, their daughter, Krista Jessop.
Deb Kinzel said the Fluffy Fields folks are planning to hold a grand opening and ribbon cutting with the Dickinson Area Chamber of Commerce in August, which is also when they hope to have their first batch of grape wines finished.
Until then, she said the group is "having fun for a while" and serving a variety of other North Dakota wines and specialty beers on-tap.
"It's been a nice little turnout," she said. "Not too crazy, but we've had some really busy nights."
The clientele has been fairly diverse so far.
Deb said the neighbors of Fluffy Fields have come by for visits throughout the week, as have travellers through the region who make a point of visiting wineries and breweries along the way.
Added to the mix are bikers, young people and at least one pinochle group.
With groups and events already filtering through the winery's rooms, Deb said she's now working to get the Fluffy Fields wedding area finalized to take the hosting to the next level.
In addition to the liquid sustenance, the winery also serves light foods to help soak in the main product.
"As the months go on, and with my garden too, a lot of stuff is going to be farm to table," Deb said. "Things will change a little bit as we get fresh produce out of the garden and we're able to serve some of that stuff too."
While Fluffy Fields now has nearly a month of experience under its belt, it has yet to roll out its own wines for customers.
Kody Kinzel, who was brought on by his parents to serve as a vintner, or wine maker, said the crew has been preparing grape juices for use in the upcoming inaugural round of fermentation.
The prospect of finally breaking in the wine barrels is highly anticipated for Kody, who studied the craft of winemaking through online courses and two months of work at Santa Maria Vineyard & Winery in Carroll, Iowa.
"It's extremely exciting, I'm nervous for it," Kody said with a laugh.
This first run of juice is from Iowa, he said, but the winery will gradually scale up its use of North Dakota grapes year by year. The first wines made in Fluffy Fields 500-gallon fermenters will likely be of the marquette and riesling variety.
"We're going to try one batch, make sure it takes off nicely, then kick it up and fill all the tanks up," he said.
Once the Iowan grape juices are processed and ready for wine, the winery staff will move on to the "couple thousand pounds of rhubarb" and other fruits and vegetables they've been saving up for other wines. Deb has said that one of Fluffy Fields' specialties will be a carrot wine.
For now though, she said Dickinson's winery is "pretty relaxed and laidback" as it works and waits for its product launch.
"We wanted to ease in, take care of everybody and make everybody happy," Deb said. "If you're too busy and don't have room for everybody, you're going to leave a sour impression on people."
If you go
What: Fluffy Fields Vineyard and Winery
Where: 2708 21st Street East,Dickinson
When: Wednesday and Thursday, 2-8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Sunday, 1-8 p.m.
Info: Call (701) 483-2242 or see http://www.fluffyfields.com