About the grapes
In 2012, 150 vines of cold-hardy Frontenac Gris (white) and Marquette (red) were planted. In the spring of 2014, another 180 vines of Marquette were planted, along with 300 vines of a new cold-climate red varietal called Petite Pearl, for a total of just more than 1 acre. In May, 500 more Petite Pearl vines will be planted, resulting in a 2-acre vineyard.
It takes at least three years for the plants to produce a crop, and each acre of vines produces two to four tons of grapes when mature, or about 100 to 200 cases of finished wine.
Hawk's Mill also maintains a 1.5-acre vineyard of Marechal Foch grapes near Scales Mound, Ill., which should yield another one or two tons of grapes each fall.
Now, Ric and Teresa Joranlien are ready to toast their new Hawk's Mill Winery along Pilz Road in Browntown at its grand opening March 20, 21 and 22.
"Yes, this project feels like it was fate," said Ric Joranlien, a "beer guy" who found himself visiting Napa and Sonoma valleys on a regular basis. "I would have a glass of white Zinfandel now and then, but my new bride was a real wine person. She was able to convert me to the dark side."
Wines, both red and white, will be among the offerings during the event, which will also showcase taste-testing in a new winery structure that sits atop a hill that overlooks a picturesque country setting.
Beyond wine, locally-made cheeses and breads will also be sold.
It was after a 2012 visit out West when the Joranliens started to ponder how to utilize their rough, rocky terrain that was their Browntown property.
"The soil is crummy, but we learned it is perfect for growing grapes," Joranlien said. "So we planted 150 vines to give it a try and they grew really well."
Some homemade wines followed.
"Our friends likely liked it," he said, "so next we knew we were off and running. This year, we'll be planting as many as 500 vines."
The next stroke of good fortunate came when the neighbors, who owned the house on the hill since the 1970s, put it up for sale.
"We knew it would be perfect for a winery, with its great view overlooking our vineyard," Joranlien said. "We tore it down to the studs and built what we wanted."
In the coming months, a deck will be added to maximize the views, featuring outdoor seating and potentially live music, he said.
Meanwhile, the inside will display the bottling process and will also be home to the retail part of the business.
The winery, named for the red-tail hawks that populate the property's pond, will be the first in the immediate Monroe area. Twenty miles to both the north and south sit the Primrose Winery in New Glarus and the Famous Fossil Winery in Freeport, respectively.
Both have been sources of knowledge and encouragement, Joranlien said.
"In the winery business, I've found that people aren't really that competitive," he said. "They actually welcome you because more is better and it helps attract people to a region who like to take wine-tasting tours. So everyone has been open and friendly."
Despite the great start, both Joranliens are playing it smart in keeping their regular full-time jobs for now.
"This is just a side project, believe it or not," Joranlien said. "If it goes well, I'm sure it will become fulltime."