New winery to use Montana-grown grapes

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  • Wil Nieman, an associate of White Raven Winery owners Dan and Rebecca Murphy, holds a glass of wine created from Montana grapes. (Mackenzie Reiss/Daily Inter Lake)

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    A variety of wines from White Raven Winery will be available when the business opens in March.

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  • Wil Nieman, an associate of White Raven Winery owners Dan and Rebecca Murphy, holds a glass of wine created from Montana grapes. (Mackenzie Reiss/Daily Inter Lake)

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    A variety of wines from White Raven Winery will be available when the business opens in March.

  • 2

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White Raven Winery will be the epitome of a home-grown business when the new winery opens this spring.

Columbia Falls natives Dan and Rebecca Murphy are moving back to their hometown to introduce the community to wines made on-site from Montana-grown grapes at their new winery and tasting room.

“There’s a burgeoning industry up there with Montana grapes,” Dan said. “The whole goal is to have people come to the winery, taste it and realize, ‘hey, I like this.’”

Montana may not be known as prime wine country, but Dan said he and his wife are excited for locals to taste wines made locally from Montana-grown grapes. At first the winery will carry wines from grapes grown on Finley Point, around Flathead Lake, in Billings and elsewhere in Montana. In a few years, they plan to go even more local when the grapes mature at their vineyard on Montana 206.

“We’re hoping this will spark a love for non-standard wines,” Dan said.

The “cold, hardy grapes” grown in Montana require less sunshine and can withstand colder temperatures — up to 30 degrees below zero — than their traditional counterparts. “They have a completely different flavor profile than what people are used to,” Dan said. “They’re going to blow people away.”

Not only will the grapes be grown in Montana, but the wines will all be made on-site at White Raven Winery.

“There aren’t many [places] in Northwest Montana that make their own wines,” Dan noted.

He and Rebecca feel equipped to produce the wines since they have run their own wine-bottling business for years in Southern California. “We have a lot of experience of what is good and what is faulty,” he said.

White Raven Winery will also include some of the more familiar European varietals from California grapes for less adventurous wine drinkers. They’re starting with 14 varietals, about half from Montana and half from California.

“We have interesting wines, wide selections and the usuals they love,” Dan promised.

Locals and tourists will have the opportunity to try these unique offerings through wine tastings in the new tasting room and on-site bottle sales. The winery will also host wine pairing dinners, live music, food trucks and other special events periodically.

In the summer, they plan to be open seven days a week from around 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. The intention is to give people a chance to experiment with new wines, rather than to create a night life destination. “Wine tasting and bottle sales is the main focus,” Dan emphasized.

They hope to have the winery open in March, but already offer special opportunities to try their wine. They have started a “treasure hunt,” where they hide an empty wine bottle somewhere in the area and provide clues to the hiding spot on the White Raven Winery Facebook page. The lucky local who finds the bottle can turn it in for a free bottle of their choice from the winery. “We’re trying to be a fun thing to get you out and doing something in winter,” Dan explained.

The unique initiative is another way Dan and Rebecca are hoping to introduce Montanans to local flavors. “The whole thing is I want them to try it and expand their palates,” he said. “A lot of people didn’t know Montana can grow grapes and make good wines.”

White Raven Winery will be located at 7457 U.S. 2 E., northeast of Columbia Falls in Columbia Heights.

Reporter Bret Anne Serbin may be reached at bserbin@dailyinterlake.com or 758-4459.

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