Five Questions with Scott Ellenbecker of Round Lake Vineyards & Winery
Q: What prompted the opening of a winery in southwest Minnesota?
A: We started planting grapes because we wanted to grow something. Eventually, the plan was we’d open a winery, but it was going to be a retirement job. It turns out we did it before retirement and we’ve made it into something more of a destination where people come from an hour away or more. We are a winery but also a restaurant that has all the food and beverages that people expect.
Q: What kinds of wine do you have available?
A: We grow seven different whites and five different red varieties. We finish wine both sweet and dry, and reds and whites; we have different wines for different people’s tastes. Around here we have to have a big variety — around here a lot of people like it sweet, and more and more people are drinking dry wines. Some people like their wine with food, and some people just like casually drinking wine.
Q: What led to opening a restaurant to accompany the winery?
A: We opened the winery in 2015, and people wanted more food. We were giving people meat and cheese platters, but at 4 in the afternoon our place was empty and everyone was going somewhere else to eat.
In 2016 we added pizza, hamburgers and sandwiches, and that has evolved to where we’re at today. We’re offering steaks and seafood and pastas and and all those other things we’ve had from the beginning. People come here more now as a unique destination, but also as a place to have dinner. … Our desserts are also really good, incredibly good. And this fall we’re going to start our Sunday brunch with bloody marys, mimosas, omelets and steak and eggs. There are other options, too, but we wanted people to have a place where they could get a bloody mary on Sundays.
Q: What else do people enjoy about visiting Round Lake Vineyards & Winery?
A: This past Sunday was our last Sunday for music for the season. … It was cool and windy, but there were still a number of people outside listening. We would like to do more events in our cellar, and we’re going to be adding some things there as the weather changes.
We’re at 50 percent seating inside the tasting room now with the governor’s executive order. We do have upstairs and downstairs seating, but it’s limited. Still, we want people coming out eating lunch and dinner indoors, but please call for a reservation to ensure you get a seat.
Q: The winery is also a popular place to host an event, right?
A: We host a lot of weddings as well as reunions, anniversaries, birthdays and similar parties. We offer full service, so we take care of the food and setting up and can even decorate if you’d like. There’s the very unique lakeside setting for the weddings, and more than half our weddings do the ceremony here. We have a lot of people that come here because we have so much space for the reception. Most of our weddings are in that 200- to 250-people range ... and there are still a few prime dates available for weddings next summer.