Minnesota wineries – Soverign Estate and Schram Vineyards trip


During my mandatory shutdown the first week of July, Chris and I joined Erica her husband Brian and we visited a couple of wineries in the Waconia Minnesota area.  Originally we were going to visit Chankaska however, the winery did not open until 1pm so we chose a couple of wineries near us.

The first winery we visited was Sovereign Estate.

Planted vines in 2008 with the first harvest 2012.  This year (2015) is the fifth year the winery is officially open.

The Estate:
The whole estate is very nice.  It is very clean, organized and large.  The estate holds many summer parties during the summer. You can also host your own private event.

Ben was running the tasting room the day we arrived.  If I heard correctly, he is the son of one of the owners.  Ben’s role at Sovereign Estate is Winemaker, Chef for events and makes all of the labels.  Ben holds many hats and tells us his food is the best around.  Currently Ben is redoing all of the labels so they all look and feel the same.  The wines can be found at local liquor stores.

The tasting room:
Open tasting area that could serve three couples easily.  They have winery branded cloths and a few wine related items for sale.  There is a large cooler to store wines and their red and white Sangria.  There are a couple of refrigerators under the counter holding wines for the tasting room staff.

The wine production (tank room) facility:
Ben the winemaker offered us a tour.  The tank room was very clean and organized.  No clutter.  Ben let us sample a Sangiovese, Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Franc.  All wines are stored in large stainless steel tanks.  Ben does not use barrels.  He uses wood chips that are held in a cheese cloth.  Ben would like barrels but he said the costs are high and they need to be stored correctly.  Every wine we tried from the tank showed very well.  Ben was thinking about making a Super Tuscan. Since the wines are showing well he may bottle them individually.  All of the fruit was from Columbia Valley Washington.

The wines in the tasting room:
The tasting fee is $10 per person.  You can keep the small etched glass.


2011 Seyval Blanc (A French-American hybrid that is the grandparent of the La Crescent grape) – 3 out of 5 glasses.

2012 Blue Loon (A Traminette grape, a hybrid of Gewurztraminer) – 3 out of 5 glasses.  2013 IWCTV Bronze Medal winner.  UPDATE: We opened a bottle the following year (July 2016).  The wine was out of balance.  1 out of 5 glasses.

2013 Talon Crest (Seyval Blanc grapes) – It had a hint of sulfur.  3 out of 5 glasses.

2013 Cabernet Franc – 3 out of 5 glasses.  2013 IWCTV Silver Medal winner.

2013 Estate Marquette (A Minnesota Hybrid who’s a descent of Pinot noir, slight oak) 2 out of 5 glasses.

2013 Frontenac (A Minnesota Cold hardy grape) Rose.  3+ out of 5 glasses.

Sangria (red and white)  4 out of 5 glasses.

Sovereign2Erica, Brian and Bill in the tasting room

I did some online searching.  What is the 2013 IWCTV?  Is it a real wine conference or one from a blogger?  If it is not credible it is not worth posting….

Wine club:
They are introducing one called the Royal Case Club.  The club is new and they are working on the details.

All four of us was pleasantly surprised.  All of the wines were good!  The pizzas from the Bistro menu looked great.  We almost stayed ordered food and had a glass of wine.  I rate Sovereign Estate three glasses for wine and experience.


Schram Vineyards

The Estate:
It is basically a farm with a large tasting room.  They have 6 acres of grapes and plan on planting 2 ½ more.  The facility was very clean and organized.  They had minimal winery items for sale.

Their story:
In the fall of 2006, I (Ashley, the voice of this website) was a single, condo-living uptown girl, frequenting happy hour in 4-inch heels, and hanging with my girlfriends by Lake Calhoun.  Our story started when I met Aaron at an Oktoberfest tent party.  I saw him wearing his deerskin lederhosen and I was hooked.  A native Wisconsin farm boy, Aaron moved to Minneapolis to work in the corporate world after college, while still continuing the wine-making hobby he picked up in college on the side.  He told me on our first date that his long-time dream was to start a vineyard and winery.  His passion and ambition about this venture were contagious and I bought into the dream too…enough to be willing to trade in a few pairs of my peep-toe pumps for rubber boots.  Next thing I knew, we bought 12.5 acres with a little farm-house just west of the Twin Cities in Waconia, got married, adopted two brother/sister spirited Great Danes, planted 4000 grapevines, welcomed our first baby (a boy) the beginning of 2011, and then our baby girl, the fall of 2012.  In July 2013, we fulfilled our dream of opening the winery and tasting room.  We work full-time jobs in addition to keeping up with the vineyard, starting and raising our family, working on an addition to our little farmhouse, and building our new winery building and tasting room (which was completed in October 2014).  And as if that weren’t enough, we thought, why not add a brewery to the mix too? A little too fitting considering how we met.  We are excited to be Minnesota’s First Winery & Brewery!  Our life is full, very busy, and very humorous.  Some might call us crazy trying to do this all concurrently. We like to call it “living the dream.”

The tasting room:
A large wide open facility with wine barrels used as tables.  The tasting counter could hold five couples.

Shram1 Shram2

The wines in the tasting room:
Tasting fee is $10 per person.  The lady working the counter gives you six chips.  Normal wines are a chip each.  Reserve tasting wines are two chips.

2014 Sierra Victor (a sweet Pinot Gris)  2 out of 5 glasses.

2013 Chancelle Chardonnay.  1 out of 5 glasses.

2014 Riesling (sweet).  2 out of 5 glasses.

2013 Blush.  2 out of 5 glasses.

2013 Barrel 4 (Red Minnesota Hybrids).  1 out of 5 glasses.

2013 Marquette (aged in oak for six months).  It was tart.  2 out of 5 glasses.

2013 Reserve Marquette (aged in oak for 14 months).  It was over oaked.  2 out of 5 glasses.

2013 Dessert wine (Zinfandel Port like).  The wine was not de-gassed correctly or it was back sweetened and re-fermented.  It was fizzing in our glass.  1 out of 5 glasses.  The lady in the tasting room called it a Red Zinfandel.  Is there any other color?

They also sell beer that is made at the facility.  It’s a little confusing.  Are you a winery or a brewery?  Do one and do it really well!

Wine club:
None was mentioned.

The wines are not good.  They need to work on the quality of the wines starting with good fruit or better wine making practices.  I understand Cold Hardy fruit is still a “Work in Progress”.  However, I have tasted fruit from Washington that is really good.

One more note, using chips for a wine tasting is silly in my opinion.

I rate Schram 2 glasses for the wine and experience.

Life is too short to drink crappy wine.  Expand your palate and keep trying.

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