News in the Neighborhood


A Vintage Year for Wine

The recent drought conditions have left many Minnesota crops struggling. However, a few southwest metro winemakers explained why the hot and dry climate has them excited about this year’s harvest.

The weather has proved beneficial to vineyards, said Aaron Schram, owner and operator of Schram Vineyards Winery and Brewery in Waconia. There has been about a quarter of an inch to an eighth of an inch of rainfall per week, so the grapes are doing “exceedingly well,” Schram said.

But why is that? Viticulturist Isaac Savaryn, of Sovereign Estate in Waconia, said that when the vines get only the amount of water they need to survive, it stresses the vine.

“It forces the roots of those vines to grow even deeper and search for more nutrients and water,” Savaryn said. “Some different flavonoids are going to be expressed in some ways that possibly we’ve never seen before.”

A unique thing about wine is that it is completely dependent on the environment, Savaryn said. While it isn’t set in stone, since the grapes have yet to be harvested, he thinks they are looking at a vintage year, which basically means really good wine.

“Everything has been just absolutely lining up in the way we want it to,” Savaryn said.

This season’s weather has gotten Schram excited about entering wines for awards and competitions, which could set the bar for Minnesota, since few wineries in the state have won anything noticed by wine critics.

Minnesota is a “micro wine industry” and Schram hopes it starts to gain some traction and that this year will change the perspective of Minnesota wine as more than just a novelty.

People think of California as a powerhouse in the wine industry, but it wasn’t always that way, Schram explained. While Minnesota isn’t going to be the new Napa, there are wine varieties such as Itasca and Marquette, that they need to develop as well as develop an industry for them.

“This year could be one of the defining years. I hope we break some ground in getting those out into the wine world,” Schram said.

John and Jenny Thull are research viticulturists at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. Every season, there is a finite amount of time to accumulate as much heat as possible, John said. This year, things have been moving more quickly because the heat came earlier, which means the color of the grapes is changing earlier as well as their flavors.

“All of this – aspects of the heat and the drought combined – is really coming together nicely for the fruit,” John said.

Other growers echoed that the heat has sped up the grape growing process. According to Savaryn, the winery is about two weeks ahead of schedule for harvesting. Schram estimates they are about one week ahead. Things are moving faster than he likes, but it’s not so bad that it’s out of control, he said.

The roots of younger vines aren’t as deep as mature vines, so they need to be manually watered, Savaryn said. Schram goes on what he calls “walkabouts” to monitor for signs of leaf shrivel or curling, as well as discolorations, and has watered his young vines around four or five times.

The past few years have been wet, so grapes such as the Marquette haven’t had much flavor development, Jenny said. Even when they were ripe, “you just didn’t get much for flavors.” This year, the grapes aren’t even quite ripe yet, but there are flavors developing that she hasn’t tasted since 2012.

“If I were to do this at the same time last year, we wouldn’t have been able to even eat it, because the acid would have been high,” Jenny said.

Another benefit to this season’s weather is that there is reduced fungus and disease pressure. Diseases such as downy mildew, black rot, and powdery mildew are more easily controlled by the dryness, John said. The Thulls have sprayed only once to combat the diseases, instead of the typical four to six times a season.

“Less spray is healthier for us as workers and then, ultimately, for the consumers, too,” John said.

However, this season isn’t without its drawbacks. The Thulls have anticipated more birds because the worms they typically eat are too deep in the ground. The birds are looking for something with moisture and nutrients, and grapes are the next best thing.

When it comes to grape growing, it is a balance of all the jobs and the weather, John said, adding it is a perfect blend of science, art, and passion that makes great grapes for good wine.

“This is the kind of year where the vines really do express themselves the best. When it’s dry and warm, you get the best expression out of the fruit and that translates well into the wines later,” John said.

Jenny joked that it’s been about nine years since the last time there were conditions like this season. “Every nine years or so, we’re going to have a great year,” she said with a laugh.


Masks Required for

2-12 Yr. Olds

Three weeks after announcing masks would be recommended but not required for students and staff at the start of the school year, Superintendent Lisa Sayles-Adams announced on Thursday, Aug. 26, that some masks would now be required.

With COVID cases continuing to rise in Carver County, masks will be required for ECCS students ages 2-12 inside Eastern Carver County Schools buildings, including children in Early Childhood and Family Education through sixth grade.

“I have spoken at length about our core values of health, safety, and a quality education, which is the foundation of our Safe Learning Plan. My commitment has been to use our local data to inform any changes we have to our mitigation strategies. Our local data has moved into the substantial category and stayed in that range for several days. That tells us that to preserve in-person learning, while keeping our students and staff safe, our youngest learners need to be wearing masks,” stated Sayles-Adams, in a district release to parents.

The district continues to strongly recommend that all students, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks. At the Aug. 16th school board meeting, district leaders shared the district-wide masking recommendation, and many parents in attendance voiced their concerns over the potential of future policy change. Sayles-Adams acknowledged the divide which the topic has created in the community.

“I know the issue of masks is dividing our community. What unites us is our love for and dedication to our children. What we all want is for our children to be together, in-person, learning, and growing this school year. By working in partnership, doing what we can to keep ourselves and our families safe, I know we can make that happen. Together, we will make this an incredible year for our school community,” Sayles-Adams said.

The mask requirement for students in sixth grade and younger begins on the first day of school, Sept. 7, and will be required through at least Oct. 1. The district will update families on whether an extension is needed.

As of Aug. 26, the current 14-day case rate (cases per 10,000) is 34.43, up from 16.1 on Aug. 16.

The case rate has risen from low to substantial, moving past moderate. If the number would climb past 50, masking would be required for all persons inside school buildings.

Carver County is experiencing its highest level of new COVID cases since late April but nowhere near the largest spike in November (140-plus new cases daily) and an intermediate spike in April after spring break (70).

Eastern Carver County is not the only metro-area school district to require masks.

Prior Lake-Savage Area Schools voted unanimously to update masking protocols and now require students up to grade 8 to wear face masks indoors, reversing course on the Back-to-School Safe Learning Plan safety protocols put in place earlier this month.

Students in the Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District will be required to wear masks at the start of the school year under a resolution adopted by district officials this month.

Minneapolis and St. Paul Public Schools have also announced similar masking policies for its students.


Purple Heart Medal

Returned after 49 Yrs.

Albert A. Van Bergen lost a leg to a German sniper in the battle for the Argonne Forest in World War I, one of the biggest and bloodiest battles of the war. For his service, he was awarded the prestigious Purple Heart medal.

The fate of that medal, earned by blood and sacrifice, spanned the decades. It was stolen, then discovered in a garbage dump, before dedicated volunteers recently returned it to the loving hands of Van Bergen’s grandson, Bob.

Vietnam veteran Bob Van Bergen, of Shakopee, had last seen the medal in 1972. Back then, he had been out of Vietnam for less than a year and was living with his father, World War II veteran Richard Vernon Van Bergen, and his third wife and two children.

When Richard died in July 1972, his wife presented Bob with the medals from his father’s and grandfather’s military service. Bob combined them with his own medals, locking them in the glove box of his 1968 Mustang at his father’s funeral. Within two hours, they were stolen, and for almost a half century, they were all missing.

Then, on July 6, Bob answered a phone call from his cousin, Nancy Van Bergen, who said, “Guess what? They found the Purple Heart.”

About 18 years ago, sanitation worker Wayne Ingebritson, of Janesville, was dumping trash at a Waseca County landfill when something purple caught his eye. As a fellow Vietnam War veteran, he knew its significance immediately. Why that medal ended up in the landfill and how it got to Waseca at all remains a mystery.

For years, Ingebritson kept it safe and searched for its rightful owner. He visited Veterans Affairs offices and repeatedly declined offers from veterans’ groups to take the medal off his hands and find the owner for him.

It was important to Ingebritson that he personally made sure the owner was found. He did not want it to get lost or become a neglected project of a larger organization. He spent time at a library in Mankato pouring over Purple Heart records.

Finally, Ingebritson saw an organization called Purple Hearts Reunited mentioned in the newspaper and gave them a call. A little over a year later, he heard from them again.

Jen Moeller, Bob’s second cousin and the great-granddaughter of Albert, received a call from Purple Hearts Reunited in late June asking whether she was a relative of the Van Bergen family. Moeller’s records were accessible due to her extensive research in her familial ancestry, allowing the organization to contact her.

Purple Hearts Reunited connected Moeller and Ingebritson. The two met at a Faribault Dairy Queen on July 6 and traded stories. Ingebritson turned over the Purple Heart.

“I would have traveled anywhere to have picked it up,” Moeller said. “The Purple Heart has so many stories that are attached to it.”

The same day she received it from Ingebritson, Moeller stood outside Bob’s house with the med al in her hand.

“He hugged me first, and then he looked at it. I think it was kind of surreal for him that it was back in our family’s possession,” Moeller said. “He was very grateful.”

The Purple Heart is tattered but intact, with Alfred Van Bergen’s name inscribed on the back side. Moeller believes that she and Ingebritson were meant to be part of the story.

“It blows me away because this medal could have been lost forever had he (Ingebritson) not been at the landfill that day,” Bob said. “[I was] elated and surprisingly emotional for something I thought I had forgotten about after all those years,” Bob added. “[The medal has] had a rough journey.”

Purple Hearts Reunited is dedicated to returning lost medals to their owners or owners’ kin.

“It happens more than most people know,” Bob said. “Especially with today’s younger generation, things that are generational don’t seem to mean as much.”

Years ago, Bob purchased duplicates of his own lost medals at a Minneapolis military antique store for $150. They now sit in a shadowbox designated for his eldest son when the time comes.

The rest of his family’s medals remain missing, but the Purple Heart has been returned to its rightful place and serves as a tangible symbol of hope and restoration.

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