Brewer, winemaker gets ready for fall
BRANDON — It’s early morning in Brandon and activity is already picking up at the Neshobe River Winery. The sun rises over the hill behind the barn, bed and breakfast and garage, and the thick morning dew glistens on the grass.
Clad in a blue work shirt and boots, Robert Foley walks the rows of grapes he and his family have been growing for the past nine years. There are three varieties of grapes, Saint Croix, Marquette and Frontenac, which are used to produce wine. The winery produces eight varieties of wine, including cassis, gluhwein and port.
The trellises of grapes produce between two and three tons of grapes in a season, which is a good amount but not enough to meet demand, so Foley buys more grapes from another nearby winery. The grapes are mashed and are added to barrels where they’ll age.
“For good wine, you have to start with good grapes,” Foley says. “The other thing is it takes time and patience. With beer you can start to see your results in just a few hours or days, but with wine you have to be willing to wait a lot longer.”
Up the hill from where the grapes hang, activity is picking up inside a garage used by Foley Brothers Brewing. A sweet, malty smell lingers in the air as steam pours from equipment pouring hot water. A team of four, including brothers and co-brewers Dan and Patrick Foley, get ready to add sacks of malt and hops.
Out on the lawn overlooking the neighboring golf course, yard games like can jam or corn hole sit idle this early morning awaiting the crowds of the afternoon or busier weekends. The pizza oven, built from brick and cement in 2011, looks well used and ready for more rounds of food, beer and laughter.
And as the surrounding hillsides begin to transform into their autumnal yellows, reds and oranges, more visitors will make their way down Stone Mill Dam Road for a taste of the Greybeard witbier or Blackbeard’s porter inside the barn built in the 1800s that now serves as a tasting room during the warmer months.
“The fall season is always our busiest,” Foley says. “In just a couple of weeks, we’ll have groups and buses pulling in” and those idle games will be put to good use.