HURON — Just a short drive west and a wee bit south of Huron, what started as a hobby and then turned into a dream is set to become reality on 10 acres.
Cornerpost Grapefarm and Winehouse is located four miles west of Huron, and a mile off Highway 14, to the south, on County Road 15, more commonly known as the Broadland Road.
The corner post supporting the fence that guards the vineyard will greet you at the top of the hill on the west side.
Really, you can’t miss it.
The reality part of the equation will kick into gear on Thursday, May 5, when the Cornerpost tasting room will open for visitors. The journey to get here has been quite a ride.
Meet Ryan and Samantha Brace, the dreamers and proprietors of Cornerpost Grapefarm and Winehouse.
If you’re wondering “A vineyard in the heart of corn and soybean country?” you may not be alone.
“We didn’t really set out to do this,” Ryan says, as he grins and waves his hand around the new metal building, which houses the entire process. “My grandparents (Ryan is from Redfield originally) grew some grapes and made wine and I thought it would make a fun hobby to do that when we moved here out of college.”
Samantha, who is from the Dell Rapids area, met Ryan during their undergraduate time at South Dakota State and the pair then attended Iowa State University. Ryan got his masters in Plant Breeding, while Samantha got her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine.
“We moved here in 2013, pretty much out of college,” Samantha said. “It was more about where Ryan could find work in his field.” Ryan began work at the Dow facility east of Huron, Samantha at the Huron Veterinary Clinic, and the pair began to put down roots.
After planting his “hobby” vines in 2014, a small crop was harvested in 2016. A year later, Dow merged with DuPont, leading to the closing of the Huron facility and moving Ryan’s workplace to Volga.
“I did that drive for a couple of years,” Ryan said. “Then Samantha was able to purchase an interest in the vets clinic, which led us toward making a change.”
More vines were added in 2017 and again in 2019, swelling the Brace’s vineyard to its current five acres.
Samantha works full time at the clinic, while Ryan has a 100-foot walk, versus a two-hour drive, each way, to get to his new fulltime gig.
Samantha said that it takes approximately three years for a vine to begin to produce grapes, so last year’s harvest, which yielded approximately 1,200 gallons of juice for fermenting, doesn’t include grapes from the 2019 vines.
“I would guess that last year was about a half-crop,” she said. “We feel there is the potential to double our harvest this year, as long as Mother Nature cooperates.”
Those 1,200 gallons of juice produced nearly 1,100 gallons of wine, which sits in bottles that bear the Cornerpost label and will be at the forefront when the tasting room opens May 5.
The newly constructed metal building on the farm houses the entire operation, from housing the grape harvesting machine, to the juicer, vats to collect and allow the juice to rest, right down to the bottling and label line, where a cork completes the process. Through a doorway is a very large tasting room that overlooks the vineyard and will be utilized for customers wishing to sample wine, but will also be available for hosting small gatherings.
The tasting room is sort of an unknown quantity for the couple. “We don’t really know what to expect,” Ryan said. “It’s a learning process, much like the rest has been.”
Neither consider themselves a wine connoisseur, but both enjoy wine. “We’ve seen our tastes change, from liking a sweeter wine to now enjoying a drier wine,” Samantha said. “We have seven varieties of wine now and they cover a broad spectrum.
“Friends and family have sampled and given us feedback and the truth is that it’s up to each person’s individual taste. What is it that they like? We feel that we have a good coverage – something for about everyone.”
After its initial opening May 5, the tasting room at Cornerpost Grapefarm and Winehouse is set to be open Thursday, Friday and Saturday, from 1 to 7 p.m. to sample a wine or two and enjoy the vineyard on the prairie.
Stop by or find them on Facebook for up to the moment changes to the schedule.