What: 42 North Winery Open House

Wine for tasting and purchase.

Where: 2894 61st Street Lane, Vinton

When: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. on September 25

You’ll be able to tour Benton County’s first commercial vineyard and winery on September 25. That’s when David and Mary Paustian open 42 North Winery to the public for the first time.

“It’s been a hobby for many years, and we’ve just given it to friends and family,” “This September 25 will be our first opportunity to sell it,” Mary said. “We’ll have a tasting area set up outside the tent where they can try one of each of the four wines we’re going to offer and purchase bottles.”

The four wines they’ll be selling that day are Blowfish (Frontenac Blanc), Dog Days White (St. Pepin), Hootie (a dry white table wine) and Tatanka Red.

When the Paustians bought their property in 2001, they weren’t thinking about growing grapes. In 2009, David became interested in winemaking during a trip to California and soon began making wine from high-end kits. After about 100 kits, they planted a few varietals of grapes in 2010.

“That’s when we realized we didn’t know what we didn’t know,” David said. “The first couple of years, we just didn’t know enough about growing grapes. So, we took the (Vineyard Management) course at Kirkwood with Lucas McIntire.”

They now grow eight different varietals of cold-hardy grapes on an acre and a half. There are two busy times during the year: March and April when they prune the vines, and August and September when grapes need to be harvested. Area students pitch in to harvest the grapes.

On September 4, their harvest help included their grandson Hayden Shafer, 13, of Van Horne; neighbor Ryan Carolus, 17; and students from Vinton-Shellsburg FFA

Harley Hinshaw, 14; and Gunnar Schminke, 16, Andrew Pingenot, and Christopher Fleming, 16.

The Paustians, both 55, still have full-time jobs: Dave works in consulting engineering firm and Mary works for a bank. They work in the vineyard and their garage-based production side of the winery on nights and weekends.

“This is really something we can do on our off time. This is our retirement plan,” Mary said. “We’ve been very lucky that our kids can help us whenever we need them.”

Daughters Katie Paustian and Mary Lou Shafer, and son-in-law Zack Shafer pitch in when they can. Garret is a part owner and he’ll be the one to manage the business when Mary and Dave decide to truly retire.

For now, their license allows them to hold four events a year. They’ll do a taste-and-take between Thanksgiving and Christmas, then sell their wines at a couple of stores locally. Next year, they’ll likely sell at farmers markets, too.

They’ve entered their wine in amateur competitions. The Petite Pearl scored a 98.5 out of a 100 and they’ve won many blue ribbons. The wines they’re selling now are from grapes harvested last year.

“There’s no hesitation at this point,” Dave said. “I’ve been thrilled with how the wines have turned out. We have a good product going to the public. And we have had an overwhelmingly positive response. We have a lot of people who want to try the wines. It’s been exciting.”

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