As soon as next year, Region brides will be able to tie the knot by trellises of grape vines in a pastoral Napa Valley-like setting.
New owners have been revamping Anderson Winery and Vineyards in Valparaiso, and plan to build a banquet hall for weddings there.
The family that built Aberdeen Manor south of Valparaiso now hosts 300 weddings a year there, and is pretty much booked every Friday, Saturday and Sunday year-round. So owner Denna Fyock saw the need for another ballroom, and jumped at the opportunity to buy the 42-acre Anderson property at 430 E. U.S. 6.
"We purchased it last March and we've done a lot of renovations and rehab," Fyock said. "My main interest was a new events center that would be Napa Valley- or wine country-themed. It's the perfect place, off a major highway and centrally located between Chesterton, Valparaiso and Portage. It will be kind of a California barn with a lot of natural surfaces and exposed stone. It will be very similar to what you see when you visit Napa Valley."
Fyock also wanted to preserve the longtime community institution that started as an apple orchard in 1927, which she used to visit regularly with her family.
"I've been in this area for more than 40 years," she said. "I used to take my children there to pick apples and buy cider in the fall. I always had kind of a soft spot for it. It was a fun place to go in the fall. I am thrilled to be able to bring it back and come in and make sure it's still going to be viable."
She's looking to build a 16,000-square-foot events center with a ballroom, reception area, kitchen, party lounge for cocktails and a ceremony space so that both the wedding and the reception can take place on site. It should be able to accommodate up to 300 and could open as soon as 2020, with construction starting this year, she said.
Fyock runs Aberdeen Manor and the winery with her husband Jim Fyock, her son Chuck Gleason, and her son-in-law and daughter Trey and Megan Wiesjahn.
"The whole idea with Aberdeen was to make it wedding-friendly," she said. "That wasn't on anybody's radar at the time. All the other venues were interested in corporate events and business gatherings. Weddings were a redheaded stepchild. We wanted to create a place that is wedding-friendly so the bride and groom could have a special day that's as perfect as possible. That attitude has prevailed since."
Since taking over Anderson Winery, the new owners have done extensive renovations that have included new electric wiring, plumbing, heating, air conditioning and bathrooms. It now hosts showers, corporate functions and weddings in the garden, greenhouse and indoor party space.
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The winery sells a variety of red wines, white wines and roses, as well as wine slushies. The top seller is the fruit- and chocolate-flavored Raspberry Kiss, which was described by a reviewer as "dessert in a glass."
"We have a really broad selection with dry wines, sweet wines and everything in between," Fyock said. "Everybody can find something they like."
Anderson Winery brings in most of its grapes from Pennsylvania, Michigan and California. Eventually, the owners hope to start producing a few estate wines with grapes grown on-site again, but plan to make most of the wines with grapes that hail from other terroirs.
"Our area does not have a lot of migrant workers who are knowledgeable about how to pick grapes," she said. "While we eventually want to do estate wines, we'll always get the majority of our grapes from other vineyards. We're not a grape climate. The area has problems with mildew, diseases, high humidity and harsh winters. A California Cabernet won't grow here. And it's very labor intensive when there aren't a lot of migrant workers."
Anderson Winery currently sells all its wines on-site in its tasting room, but it is investigating how to ship bottles out of state. The focus is on doing enough production to satisfy demand on the premises.
The winery offers classes, hosts special events, stages live acoustic music on Sunday afternoons and plans concerts for as many as 300 or 400 spectators in an outdoor setting. Upcoming shows include Colorado-based Acoustic Eidolon in July and a Woodstock 50th anniversary commemorative concert in August.
Anderson Winery can accommodate about 80 to 100 people in its tasting room, where it sells food like flatbread pizza, cheese plates, artichoke dip and a different soup each weekend.
"I think a lot of people who haven't been back in awhile should come and give us a try," Denna Fyock said. "Everything from the wine to the building is new and improved. People will be pleasantly surprised."
A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the grand reopening is planned with the Valparaiso Chamber of Commerce on March 7.
For more information, visit www.andersonswinery.com or call 219-464-4936.