North Folk Winery: Building a winery one timber at a time

By Randy Gutzmann

Mike and Ann Tessneer were hobby winemakers for many years before deciding to take their hobby to the next level in 2008, when they decided to open a winery called Stark Wines. Mike even described the winery as “a hobby gone wild” in an interview with a reporter from the Cook County Herald, a local community newspaper. Coincidentally, a parcel of land adjacent to their homestead was put on the market in 2008, which eventually became the site of their winery, which was rebranded to its current name, North Folk Winery.

To say the winery is a beautiful building is an understatement. The timber frame construction of the winery was an easy choice for Mike and Ann, who have constructed three other timber frame buildings. The timbers were cut at the North House Folk School in Grand Marais under the direction of master timber-framer Peter Henrikson. “Peter was our teacher and guide from the beginning to the end of the project,” Mike and Ann say.

A group of more than 30 volunteers helped the Tessneers construct the winery building from over 200 timbers over the course of five days. In fact, many of the people lending a hand didn’t know anything about timber frame construction when they started. Luckily, as they learned how to use power tools, they became more confident as the project continued.

North Folk Winery Timber Frame

Courtesy of North Folk Winery

The winery structure was erected on the site in 2011, and the tasting room opened shortly thereafter in 2012. The decision to build a timber frame structure came early on, as it communicates the values the Tessneers wish to share with visitors.

As they explained, the wine business, and North Folk Winery, centers on celebrating the seasons, harvesting ingredients from the land, and making things by hand. The timber frame building accomplishes that by incorporating wood from the land and literally hand-pounding nails to build a high-quality winery from scratch. Not to mention the fact that their wines are hand-made as well.

Speaking of their wines, which are made from grapes and other locally grown fruits, a few of my favorites include:

  • Frontenac Gris: A nice, tangy white wine with notes of grapefruit and green apple.
  • Marquette: An oak aged red wine with notes of cherry and plum.
  • Plum Wine: An easy drinking social wine made from Minnesota wild plums that has a nice, warm finish.

And even though it’s not technically wine, their “Two Springers” hard cider, made from locally grown apples, is worth a mention!

North Folk Winery

Courtesy of North Folk Winery

Since the original winery was built, the Tessneers have added a wood-fired pizza oven and a porch to accommodate long afternoons of sitting outside with a glass of wine. Start planning a visit of your own to check out the timber frame winery and see what it’s all about.

North Folk Winery is located in Harris, Minn. For more information, visit www.northfolkwinery.com.

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