Saturday, August 27, 2022

Round Lake Vineyards and Winery - Round Lake Minnesota

Round Lake Vineyards and Winery - Round Lake Minnesota

On our cross country roadtrip getaway, we stopped at Round Lake Vineyards and Winery in Round Lake, Minnesota, a further exploration and discovery of Midwestern Wines. Round Lake Vineyards is the family owned and operated enterprise of Scott Ellenbecker and Jenny Ellenbecker, and their two sons, Logan who serves as winemaker, and Mason who manages events and marketing.

Scott Ellenbecker, CEO, and Logan Ellenbecker,

We started our trip with a visit to Galena Cellars Vineyards and Winery in northwestern most Galena, Illinois. I wrote in an earlier blogpost about Galena Cellars' efforts to determine the ideal grapes for the unique terroir of their Northern Illinois site - the exposure, soils, drainage, climate and elevation - all the elements that contribute to and manifest themselves in the wines produced from grapes grown on the property. 

For our visit to Round Lake, we met and were hosted by founder proprietor Scott Ellenbecker who took us on an extensive tour of the vineyards and the production facilities. 

Round Lake has taken great care and put much attention to the careful selection of grape varietals that are best suited to their unique site. They have twenty-two acres planted to vineyards on the thirty acre estate on the shore of Round Lake, which provides some micro-climate moderation in extreme weather.

The Round Lake Vineyards were first planted in the spring of 2007 in three grape varieties: La Crescent, Frontenac Gris and Marquette which are some of  their most treasured vines producing some of their best and most award-winning wines. 

In 2008, they planted two more blocks in the grape varietals St. Pepin and Brianna, which source two of the most distinct wines produced by the winery. They also added to their Marquette plantings.
Since then, they have added Petite Pearl, Sabrevois, King of the North, Petite Amie, Frontenac Blanc and Louise Swenson grape varietals.

Most recently, they also planted the Itasca grape developed by Peter Hemstedt who at the time was at the University of Minnesota. 

The Marquette grape has proven to be especially well suited to the distinctive terror of the site and produces strong canes and beautiful bunches. 

Round Lake's south-facing slope runs from the crest of the hill north of the winery towards the south and has sandy loam soil with great drainage for both water and air and rich topsoil that holds great nutrients - an ideal vineyard location to grow grapes.

Marquette grapes due
to be picked in a couple of weeks
Round Lake has had the most success with the Marquette grape of which they have three different blocks, each producing fruit with distinctive characteristics - one lighter and fruity while the others are richer and more complex. 

The Round Lake property has rich black soils that are streaked with fractions of sand and gravel that provide good drainage and also gives the wines great mineral character. The well water on the property reflects the strong odor of iron and minerals, which also translates to the wines we grow. 

Today Round Lake grow over 19,000 vines across four vineyards in seven blocks. They also source grapes from contract growers across the region as well as sources as far away as California.   

Wines produced by Round Lake are branded and labeled according to their source and are attributed to Estate wines, Minnesota Wines and American Wines for grapes sourced from outside the state and region.

During our visit they were amidst the crush of several ton of Brianna grapes that had just arrived from their source in Iowa and we were able to witness them 'crushing' and de-stemming the grapes and pumping the juice into the stainless steel tanks for fermentation - overseen by winemaker and production manager Logan. 


 We also toured the bottling and labeling line and the barrel storage cellar. Scott shared the challenges they have faced in the past year with their supply chain - experiencing severe difficulties in sourcing barrels, bottles, corks and supplies. 
Scott showed us the barrel storage facility which is being readied for filling, that includes barrels sourced from leading French cooperages that used to operate out of Napa Valley, but have since closed, forcing them to ship barrels from France through the port of Norfolk. He also sources new American Missouri oak barrels from the Oak Cooperage in Higbee, Missouri.

We toured and wrote about the Cooper's Oak Winery and OAK Cooperage facilities during our Missouri Wine Experience a few years ago, when we got the chance to watch them cut and shape the wood, assemble and toast, then trim the barrels. Oak produces barrels for some of the top producers and brands in the United States, France and beyond, including, most notably, the cult Napa Cabernet producer Silver Oak, who have since acquired the business to ensure an ongoing supply of their specified optimal barrels for their wines.

Round Lake do a great deal of marketing and promotion of their venue which sits on the shore of Round Lake, as a site for special events including weddings. Scott talked at length about his culinary preparations and the many dishes he created for wine dinner special events at the winery. 

Round Lake have a Bistro restaurant and host live music at events and on weekends. They also host many wine dinners paired with Round Lake Wines. Scott shared with Linda many of his culinary creations that he has crafted for such events.

We dined at the Round Lake Bistro restaurant and did a wine flight tasting outside on the veranda adjacent a small pond and fountain. 

Round Lake produce a broad portfolio of wines - Red, White, Sweet and Sparkling.  

We tasted a Red Flight of the following labels:

  • Round Lake Vineyards Sangiovese 2019 - This is actually sourced from the Sierra Foothills, Amador County California
  • Round Lake Vineyards Heron Red Blend 
  • Round Lake Vineyards Gander Red Blend
  • Round Lake VIneyards Petite Pearl 2019

We also tasted Round Lake Brianna - one of their most popular white wines. It is a grape that is most consistent and natural in reflecting the source fruit.

The restaurant and adjacent grounds with live musicians performing on the lawn.