Penny Aguirre: Richwood Winery Owner, Wine Maker and U.S. (Patent) Agent

By Randy Gutzmann

Calling all wine lovers, vacationers, scenery admirers and individuals looking to relax and unwind: Your mission, should you accept it, is to meet U.S. agent (and winery owner) Penny Aguirre at Richwood Winery. You’re welcome.


Penny is another woman who has left a lasting impression with me.  I’ve known Penny for a while; she is an active participant in Minnesota Farm Winery Association, but I had no idea until visiting her at the winery that she was the registered U.S. patent agent responsible for writing the patents for most of the University of Minnesota grapes. As a Richwood Winery owner AND registered U.S. (patent) agent, Penny has worked with plant breeders from all over the world through her own small business, unearthing her passion for horticulture.

A big part of her job in the early years was working at the University of Minnesota on getting patents for the cold-hardy plant varieties that university researchers had developed: Crops like apples, shrubs, perennials and grapes. “That’s how I found out about these little Minnesota wineries and grape growers,” Penny explains. “I had started to meet the people who got me interested in doing it.”

In 2006, Penny and then-partner Mike Bullock stumbled upon the winery’s property of 9 acres of pristine land overlooking Lake Buffalo in northern Minnesota, as a great point of destination for residents, travelers and anyone and everyone in-between. It had everything they needed to start their own vineyard and winemaking operation.

When Penny opened up the winery in 2007, she was convinced that the grape varietals created by the University of Minnesota would not only survive the conditions of northern Minnesota, but that with care could thrive to create a great wine. Penny purchased the location to put her notion to the test. Mission accomplished.

Her vision for Richwood extended far beyond just the grapes. As she fondly remembers, “I wanted to make a community gathering place where people in the area can meet each other and become friends.” Today, the winery and grounds of Richwood are that vision personified: a place where family, wine and science penny_aguirreplay happily all day, every day.

Starting in the spring of 2008 with LaCrescent, Frontenac Gris and Marquette grapes, the winery expanded, bringing those cold weather loving, hearty vines and their delicious products together with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinot Noir grapes from California.

With all of the grapes crushed on-site, the wine is made, blended and bottled in the “wine laboratory,” a converted garage combining the quality of any Napa Valley winery with all the charm of northern Minnesota. A combination of the log cabin tasting room overlooking the vineyards, the former-airplane-hangar storage facility AND the rest of the gorgeous nine acre, you have an experience not to be missed.

Currently, Richwood Winery produces eight different vintages of red, white and rosé wine, though that number ebbs and flows as different varieties are developed and become popular, or not, as the case may be. The names are as colorful as the winery itself: Carmen’s Cab, Rosie’s Red, Buffalo Red, Marquette, Metro Marquette, La Crescent, Frontenac Gris, and Frontenac Rosé.


Richwood Winery is located in Callaway, Minn. For more information, visit or find them on Facebook by searching “Richwood Winery.”

For more information about Aguirre’s plant patenting business, please visit, and check out DL Online’s detailing of her journey as a U.S. Agent of Patents here.


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