“I’m allergic to beer, so I got into wine!” says Nicole Dietman of the simple origin of a hobby that’s turned into a full-fledged business in Buffalo. Dietman is owner and operator of Buffalo Rock Winery. For most of the year, she is also the sole employee. “I typically have six to eight seasonal part-time employees who help pour wine when the tasting room is open,” says Dietman.
Dietman says it all started with a coworker’s extra home-grown grapes. Dietman took them home one day, decided to try her hand at wine-making in her kitchen, and the result was the first batch of what became one of her signature wines: Oximoron red.
Her husband, fittingly, proposed at Shell Beach, California a few days after a trip to Napa Valley, says Dietman. Then he proposed another life change, suggesting they move to an acreage between Buffalo and Rockford in 2007. All Dietman could think about were the potential vines she could grow there. They planted 320—about a half-acre—at first. A business was a back-burner idea, in part because she found out she was pregnant three days after moving.
“But I fell in love with the romance of having a vineyard,” she says. She eventually planted more grapes, and the hobby turned into a passion—and potentially a great way to make a living with a schedule that would allow her to raise kids. Not that there isn’t stress involved--in addition to business decisions, marketing, and staffing the tasting room, there’s also the volatility of agriculture in Minnesota, especially for grapes.
“It’s sometimes too cold in the spring. Too much rain can kill the buds. Vines don’t like their roots sitting in water. There’s hot and humid summers, deer and birds, a short growing season,” she says, with a sigh. But she leans heavily on the University of Minnesota-developed, cold weather-hardy grape varieties and the University of Minnesota’s extension resources. When she can’t grow quality grapes herself, she contracts growers, most of whom are in Minnesota. The result has been a full lineup of wines that have started to draw a large following, both for on-site tastings and at select retail venues across the state.
“From sweet and fruity to dry and oaky, red, white, rose, port, and fruit—we cover it all!” Dietman says.
Make the Trip
It’s about a half-hour drive from Plymouth to the winery, which is open to the public weekends May through October and one weekend per month in the winter. A tasting includes pours of five wines out of the 25 on the list—and there are yard games and sprawling tasting counters both inside and out. There’s rarely a wait, except for Ladies Day Out on April 27, which is quite popular.
Want to skip the drive? Find Buffalo Rock wines locally at Plymouth Liquor Barrel.