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Fluffy Fields: Celebrating the land and fruits of North Dakota

by Cally Peterson


N.D. Tourism photo

Kevin and Deb Kinzel, top, own and operate Fluffy Fields Vineyard and Winery, southwestern North Dakota's only full-service, year-round winery.
Photos courtesy Fluffy Fields

It’s been quite the evolution for the husband-and-wife team of Kevin and Deb Kinzel, who own and operate Fluffy Fields Vineyard and Winery in Dickinson. Running a winery just wasn’t something they set out to do.

“It started as a hobby in our garage, which has exploded into lots of people wanting to buy our wine,” Deb says. “One great vine led to 600 great vines.”

That first vine was planted in 2009 by Kevin, the chief winemaker.

“He’s a farmer at heart,” Deb says. “He liked the grapes; it was a challenge for him.”

As the number of vines grew, so did the diversity of the vineyard. Fruit trees, berry bushes and rhubarb were added, and the winemaking picked up. In 2016, the Kinzels went all in, opening Fluffy Fields Vineyard and Winery to the public, on Roughrider Electric Cooperative lines. In addition to the vineyard and on-site winery, the grounds include a tasting room and restaurant with a “lite bite” menu.

At Fluffy Fields, the philosophy is to “break the rules and decide what tastes good,” producing wines celebrating the land and fruits of North Dakota. In fact, the name “Fluffy Fields” was inspired by the land they love.

“The farmer across the road plants wheat, and when the wind blows, it looks really fluffy,” Deb says.
 

YEAR-ROUND WINERY
As the only full-service, year-round winery in southwest North Dakota, plus a catering and event venue, the Kinzels stay busy. Fluffy Fields hosts weddings, graduations, company picnics and holiday parties from May through the December holiday season.

Winter is spent bottling wines, with monthly winter events at the winery. Currently, Fluffy Fields offers nine different wines, all of which are either cold-climate grape or fruit wines. In addition to grape vines, the Kinzels also produce a wide variety of apples, plums, rhubarb, raspberries, strawberries, haskap berries and Nanking cherries that are used in their wines. They also partner with the University of North Dakota (UND) to grow test vines for university research with the goal of eventually patenting North Dakota vines.

“We make the wine according to the produce we can get,” Deb says. “A lot of our stuff is locally sourced. We’ve got a lot of producers that grow for us, because there’s no way we can grow enough to produce the wine that we’re producing.”

Fluffy Fields wine is also made, when possible, using honey from the top honey-producing state – North Dakota!

“Some are made from sugar, some are honey,” Deb says, explaining that a different process is required to make wine from honey and takes longer than wines that use sugar.

Deb says all their wines are “pretty good,” but she and Kevin are loving the Fluffy Fields hascap wine and dry reds right now. Their winemaking success, however, hasn’t come without some failures.

“We have some (wines) that have failed, when we first opened,” she says. “Our wines have come a long way.”
 

SOMETHING DIFFERENT
Part of the appeal of opening Fluffy Fields was knowing their local area “needed something different,” Deb says. That “something different” has been well-received, because patrons keep coming back.

“A customer recently made a comment that it was such a pleasure because it was a place that had good wine and good food,” she says. “We have amazing regulars from all over the state. We have great community support, and tourism is huge. I can’t believe how many visitors we get, and a lot of them are from North Dakota.”

With the current state of affairs under the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, the winemaking has temporarily slowed, but patrons turn out to Fluffy Fields Vineyard and Winery for something different – hand sanitizer. Deb and Kevin were contacted by Maple River Winery in Casselton and asked to be a local distributor of their new “Germ Off” sanitizer. They are now distributing about 200 gallons of sanitizer a day from their Dickinson location.

“I had absolutely no idea that it was as bad as it was,” Deb says of the initial contact with Maple River Winery. “I’m so lost for words. I just can’t believe this is happening.”

While hand sanitizer is the “something different” at Fluffy Fields today, it won’t always be that way. When North Dakota gets back to being North Dakota, the customers will return for good wine, good food and a good fluffy field view.

For more information, visit www.fluffyfields.com, email fluffyfieldsvineyard@gmail.com or call 701-483-2242.

Cally Peterson is editor of North Dakota Living. She can be reached at cpeterson@ndarec.com.