When sharing the story of Rolling Forks Vineyard, the first thing Melanie Chilar does is give credit to their roughly 25 staff members. “We couldn’t do this alone,” she says, “our tasting room manager, JoLee Boysen, and assistant winemaker, Darrien Wallin, are key players, along with the rest of the staff. Our wine makers are given the freedom to do what’s best for that year’s grapes and it shows in our wines.”
Coming from farming families, Melanie and her husband/co-founder, Joseph, wanted to raise their family in a rural area but needed to be successful with few acres. When a site near Glenwood became available, they couldn’t pass it up. The glacial till topography overlooking Lake Minnewaska was perfect for growing grapes - and even better for raising a family.
They planted their first vines in 2010, selling fruit to other regional wineries, and after years of planning opened Rolling Forks Vineyards in July of 2020. On their 18 acres of grapes, they grow U of M grape varieties La Crescent, Marquette, Frontenac Blanc, and Frontenac Gris, along with other varieties, ultimately producing 90% of the fruit needed for their wines. “It’s so rewarding to put the work into the vineyards and then enjoy the end-product in the wine, knowing that each year is going to be just a little different.”
Melanie says one of the best things about operating this winery is being able to work with each other as a family. Joe and Melanie work alongside each other every day and get their boys, Henry, Vincent, and Oliver, ages six to ten, involved whenever possible, doing jobs like greeting customers, bussing tables, sweeping, washing down the production floor, and making deliveries.
In addition to be available at roughly 100 liquor stores and restaurants throughout Minnesota, Rolling Forks wines can be ordered online and delivered right to your door at rollingforksvineyards.com.
You can purchase Rolling Forks wines in their tasting room year-round along with a menu including pizzas, salads, draft beers, non-alcoholic drinks and more. In the summer, enjoy the 175-seat patio featuring regular live music, and keep an eye on their website to learn about winter sledding and other events. The beautiful outdoor space is also perfect for wedding ceremonies overlooking the vineyards and Lake Minnewaska.
It’s a particularly amazing time to be a part of the MN wine industry, says Melanie. “Wine makers from around the state are offering the most delicious, complex wines, from fruit grown right here. Minnesota wines are finally getting recognized by the general public, and by the wine industry as a whole across the USA!”
Add a delicious local touch to your holiday festivities with wine from a local winery. There are over 30 wine producers listed in the Minnesota Grown Directory.