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Spicer: Glacial Ridge shows good things come to those who wait

Kim and Ron Wothe launched Glacial Ridge Winery near Spicer in 2007, and have seen steady growth in sales ever since. Submitted photo1 / 4
Glacial Ridge Winery offers an attractive and comfortable tasting room for guests to sample its wines and enjoy the experience of visiting the scenic winery near Green Lake. Submitted photo2 / 4
Wine is aged in oak barrels at the Glacial Ridge Winery. Submitted photo3 / 4
Glacial Ridge Winery has proven itself an award winner in competitions both in Minnesota and elsewhere. Submitted photo4 / 4

Kandiyohi County was one of the last in the state to go "wet," holding off until 1966 before it would allow the sale of intoxicating beverages.

Good things come to those who wait.

Kandiyohi County is now home to an award-winning winery of its own. Glacial Ridge Winery is one of a growing number of wineries in the state taking advantage of newly developed, cold-hearty grape hybrids to produce distinctive, Minnesota wines.

Glacial Ridge Winery also creates a distinctive image and experience that celebrates Kandiyohi County's natural environment and heritage as well.

"It's a lot of fun,'' said Ron Wothe, as he talked about the growing enterprise along Green Lake.

Images from the iconic lake -- the colorful sailboat regatta and the 2005 recovery of the L-19 Birddog Cessna that had crashed into its depths 47 years earlier -- are among the colorful labels affixed to the winery's own wines.

Other, eye-catching labels capture everything from the beautiful setting of the Nest Lake bridge to the soul of the winery, the Jimmy Appleseed orchard.

"I live with this crazy woman. She gets up at 3 in the morning and says 'I got it,''' laughed Wothe.

The woman responsible for many of the eye-catching images is his wife and business partner, Kim.

Husband and wife originally purchased Jimmy Appleseed Orchard and opened Glacial Ridge ice cream and sandwich shop.

It wasn't long before they realized their real passion was to open their own winery. Ever since August of 2007, the orchard and scenic location along Minnesota Highway 23 north of Spicer has been home to Glacial Ridge Winery.

This is also where, on any given Thursday evening through the summer, there is sure to be the music of local musicians and crowds to enjoy the wine, scenery and fun.

"Most wineries in Minnesota are event driven,'' said Wothe. The Thursday evening musical events are one of many ways the winery introduces people to its vintage.

It hosts wine-tasting events in a comfortable tasting room, which is open year around.

Grape stomping events, weddings in the apple orchard and a variety of special events -- including a Beatles tribute band coming this summer -- are among the other opportunities to discover the winery.

The winery is also part of the Heartland Wine Trail, which features a circuit of wineries in the central part of the state.

The wine-tasting events and the eye-catching labels on the bottles found in retail shops all attract new customers.

Yet nothing matters more to the winery's success than the growing appreciation for its wines. The winery has won a wide range of awards -- from the Cold Climate Wine competition to the Finger Lakes (New York) International Wine competition.

The winery currently offers 15 different wines. Most are created from Minnesota-grown grapes, but the winery also purchases California grapes for some of its wines.

Brian Blow, an avid wine maker from the Howard Lake area, deserves much of the credit for the local creations, said Wothe. Blow serves as the "go-to'' guy whenever husband and wife have questions about the science of wine making.

The winery has become a destination for many from the Twin Cities, said Wothe. Many come to visit the winery and enjoy the lakes of the area.

The winery has seen continued growth since its start, and is introducing more local residents to the pleasures of wine.

"I think we have a good path,'' said Wothe. He said their plans are to continue to offer new wines and opportunities for people to experience the best of Kandiyohi County.

Tom Cherveny

Tom Cherveny is a regional and outdoor reporter with the West Central Tribune in Willmar, MN.

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