There’s no stopping Aaron and Ashley Schram now, thanks in no small part to the Itasca grape.
After just seven years, their Waconia winery is already at full capacity, having grown from a few hundred cases in 2013 to 5,000 this year.
Next stop: the North Loop, where Schram Vineyards has signed a 10-year lease to become the state’s first winery with two locations.
The Schrams are aiming for a March opening for AxeBridge Wine Co., their Washington Avenue winery and tasting room. The timing “comes back to state restrictions now,” Aaron said. “We knew we couldn’t really expand our current location, so we said ‘Let’s go where Minnesota wine hasn’t really been before.’
“We looked all over, and really fell in love with that North Loop area,” he said. “It’s got so much in the way of restaurants, art and culture. It seemed like wine would fit in so well there.”
Minneapolis has one winery, but Urban Forage Winery and Cider House focuses primarily on cider. The other one in the urban core is the private Warehouse Winery in St. Louis Park, which held occasional events pre-COVID.
Schram’s North Loop operation will be another entity entirely, with a goal of making and selling 10,000 cases a year — much of it Itasca.
The Schrams have no investors, but they have a partner of sorts in Prior Lake grape grower Steve Smith, whose 12,500 Itasca vines, planted two or three years ago, are just starting to, well, bear fruit. These vineyards will become decidedly more prolific in the coming years.
The Schrams bought 20 tons of Smith’s Itasca grapes this year and will be getting much more and making several iterations of Itasca, including a sparkling wine, with the 2021 vintage.
In the meantime, Aaron said with a chuckle, “we’ve got to get all our ducks in a row with all the inspectors and the fun stuff.”