Dakota Sun Gardens and Winery blossoms
Floral display at Dakota Suns Garden and Winery
by Maxine Herr
Bruce and Merleen Gussiaas have turned their farmstead near Carrington into a tourist attraction and thriving winery.
When the couple lost their bison ranch lease in 2009, they rolled up their sleeves and began a new business of growing fruit for wineries and bakeries. Soon after, they chose to apply for their own winery license and it was granted in 2010. Meanwhile, one small flower bed behind their home had inspired several more and by 2009, people were encouraging the couple to open up to tourists. Since the flowers and winery seemed to fit well together, Dakota Sun Gardens and Winery was born.
“People like to have a glass of wine as they go around the yard,” Bruce says. “There are various berries on the tours and they are able to try the wine that’s made from them.”
Their location is served by Northern Plains Electric Cooperative, Carrington/Cando.
The Gussiaases grow 20 different fruits now – from rhubarb to haskap. Since the winery business has expanded, full tours for horticulture and specialty groups will continue, but they plan to switch to self-guided tours for smaller groups. It will allow visitors to go at their own pace based on their interest level.
“We were doing so many tours per day and almost burning out,” Bruce says. “So we have decided the self-guided tour should take some of the pressure off.”
Adding special events
Regular admission charges are applied, and the Gussiaases hope to attract guests by featuring some ticketed events this summer. They will showcase the talents of western North Dakota’s Jessie Veeder and Blind Joe, from “The Voice.”
“People can come and have a glass of wine and listen to music or relax and visit with friends,” Bruce says. “We’ll have food vendors where they can purchase a light meal if they want.”
Prices will vary depending on the event, and ticket sales will be announced on their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/DakotaSunGardensWinery.
“I think that’s going to be a big hit with people,” Bruce says. “People are looking for something to do and they will really enjoy the evening.”
Busy on the wine side
The winery business has tripled within the last four years, so the Gussiaases are busy preparing wine for different seasons and sales. Besides direct sales, they also sell their wines at Pride of Dakota events, craft shows and bottle shops.
“People are excited to see what we’re doing,” Bruce says. “We try to come up with something new and make them appealing to the larger crowd of wine enthusiasts.”
One of the wines made from Haskap berries has been honored in several national competions. Another multi-award winning wine is the Aronia, also known as black chokeberry. These berries grow in a clump like chokecherries – but resemble miniature black apples.
“Most people would not know they have it in their shelterbelt, but they certainly could,” Bruce says.
In addition, the flower garden has grown to be “bigger than a city block with a house on it,” Bruce says. To supplement the flowers, the couple has transformed the yard with other treasures worth seeing, too.
“A lot of men, especially, don’t think they’ll enjoy themselves, saying they don’t drink wine and don’t care about gardens,” Bruce says. “Then they see the different things we’ve done with metal, the water fountains, and some old grain bins which many visitors find especially interesting.”
But Bruce encourages even the skeptics to try his wine.
“Most of our guests have never had anything other than a merlot or cabernet,” he says, “so getting the unique flavors of our fruit wines is a pleasant surprise..”
Maxine Herr is a freelance writer from Bismarck.