7 Vines Vineyard and Winery Produces Local Wine and Provides a Beautiful Event Venue

Ron Peltier

In the late 1980s, a special piece of Dellwood property caught real estate developer Ron Peltier’s eye. The 188-acre tract of land was originally part of James J. Hill’s empire and was passed down to his daughter and then his granddaughter, Gertrude Ffolliott. She wasn’t prepared to sell, but Peltier was willing to wait. That wait ended up being decades long, but Peltier was finally able to buy the property of his dreams in 2010.

Dividing and developing the land would have been easy. “But that would be the end of the property as we know it,” Peltier says. The land, farmed by the Hill family for years, had rich soil ready for more agriculture. A 28-acre lake, virgin timber and a Great Gatsby-style house add to the property’s charm. To continue the agrarian tradition of the plot, Peltier read up on viniculture and the University of Minnesota’s research on cold-climate grapes, then took the plunge and planted a vineyard.

“Our growing season is on the same 45th latitude as Napa or Bordeaux, France,” Peltier explains. “My wife [Arlie] and I have always enjoyed wine and we’ve been to many vineyards in Calif. and in Europe, and we have a fondness for how beautiful they are. A landscaped vineyard ranks right up there with some of the most beautiful farms and pieces of real estate.”

The land is just northeast of White Bear Lake and is divided by Highway 96, with the 30 acres north of the road holding the winery and more than 5,500 grapevines. The 30,000-square-foot house sits out of sight south of 96, and the Peltiers spent four years remodeling it. Ffolliott had lived in the home most of her 90 years, and there were some necessary updates—the basement was still stacked full of coal for heating, for example.
After the house was finished, they began the winery, considering it a legacy for their children and grandchildren. During this time, Arlie was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, says Janee Katz, the Peltiers’ daughter and vice president of operations for 7 Vines. “So seeing this dream come to fruition was meaningful, since [Arlie] had been a part of it every step of the way.” The Peltiers gave the vineyard and winery an appropriate name: 7 Vines references their seven grandchildren, whose names also appear on the wine bottles produced at the winery. The number seven was always Peltier’s favorite, too, and was his hockey jersey number.

The winery itself, which officially opened on October 8, is a beautiful, meticulously designed building: “Rustic modern with a little industrial flair,” Katz says. A soaring ceiling with wood beams, a large stone fireplace and metal accents lend rich textures and warmth to the main room, where the tasting area has two sets of accordion doors that open to the vineyard. A separate event space holds up to 200 people for a seated dinner. Windows on all sides afford a view of the grapevines as well as the wetland preserve to the north.

A full commercial kitchen is perfect for wedding caterers, as well as pop-up chefs for special tastings. The space has been popular for weddings since it opened, and the winery regularly hosts other events including yoga and live music. Offerings continue to evolve as the business grows. This spring and summer they will hold Wine Wednesdays once a week from 4 to 9 p.m. and are open to the public most Sundays from 12 to 8 p.m.

The winery’s unique construction includes a catwalk perched above the steel holding tanks used in the fermentation process. The winery aims to educate visitors and let them see the winemaking process. In the basement, you can check out the winemakers’ cove area, and there’s a cave-like feeling in the temperature-controlled barrel room. The wine is aged in American oak barrels from Calif. along with French oak barrels. Still others are made here. “Barrels are more expensive, but you get a different outcome [versus stainless steel tanks],” Peltier says. American and French oak each impart a different flavor, and both are favorites of winemakers around the world.

Because it takes three years for new grapevines to produce grapes, the process of making their own wine took some time to begin. Initially they began with some supplementary wine from a Napa winemaker, bottled with the 7 Vines label noting the Calif. origins. They had 280 cases of wine from the 7 Vines vineyard but were hoping for twice that much—almost half their grapes were ruined last year by unforeseen problems. “The growing season is so small that unanticipated changes can alter the result,” Katz says.

Though the numbers were lower than anticipated, fall of 2017 yielded a good harvest. Many of those grapes have been processed and are now in barrels awaiting bottling in the winter of 2018–19. “In the future, we hope to get to 5,000 cases of production, including grapes we grow and buy,” Peltier says, noting that goal should be reachable in the next two or three years.

“It’s with great pride we’re leaving something to my family, my wife and I; the piece of property that God created is very special. I like to think I only made it better, and because of what’s created there it gives the community a chance to share in the beauty, rather than developing it or putting cattle or crops and fencing it off. It will be a lasting legacy to my grandkids, who it’s named for,” Peltier says.

Get a Taste of 7 Vines Wine

2016 Marquette
“We’re very excited about the Marquette and have had rave reviews on that,” Peltier says. The 7 Vines website describes the wine: “The color is dense purple and the wine offers up notes of spring flowers, a touch of background licorice and spices with wood and blueberry fruit. The taste is refreshing and bright. It opens with ripe berry and sneaks to a subtle holiday spice finish. The tannins are light, dry and provide great structure.”

2016 Cuvée du Peltier Sparkling
This wine blends Frontenac gris and Frontenac blanc grapes, and with only 125 cases produced in 2016, it’s a special vintage. “Full of flavor with good acidity and impressions of nectarine, pineapple and buttered toast,” says the 7 Vines website. “Fruity and crisp with a beautiful clean finish.”

2017 La Crescent
7 Vines’ 2017 La Crescent has been a hit with all preliminary tastings, Katz says. It’s a dry, aromatic, refreshing Alsatian white wine with citrus, tropical and floral notes, and has been compared to Riesling varieties.