Mark and Lynita Delaney own and operate Elmaro Vineyard in Trempealeau with their daughter Laura Roessler and her husband Todd and their son Cameron Delaney and his wife Megan. Elmaro Vineyard sits on the original farm homesteaded by Mark’s family.
Grapes are a relatively new phenomenon on the farm.
“My father was a carpenter by trade,” said Mark. “When he found out that I wasn’t interested in carpentry, we expanded the farm. Back in the 1970s Elmaro Farms began to grow with more land and crops. Corn, soybeans and canning crops were our mainstays.”
The Delaney’s were first inspired to grow grapes and make wine while on a trip to northern Italy in 2003 to watch Laura compete in a curling tournament. Lynita fell in love with the vineyards and wanted to plant grapes back in Wisconsin.
“I was skeptical at first and wasn’t going to give her a prime location on the farm to grow grapes,” Mark.said “So we started with a little hillside in front of the house -- three rows of grapes, each about 75 feet long.”
“When I was farming before, my family wasn’t really involved,” Mark explained. “I was fairly good at what I did and I enjoyed it. Our kids weren’t involved in the farm though. When the grapes came along I frowned a little bit, but everyone enjoyed it. I decided that if everyone had the same dream of growing this business, that I would sell my equipment and follow their dream instead of mine. I still get to be outside and I enjoy it. Things have worked out really well.”
Today, the vineyard has grown to nine and a half acres of grapes, a medium sized vineyard for Wisconsin. “It is not feasible to support a family by growing grapes alone,” said Mark. “Making wine from your grapes is how you can make a living.” Wines from Elmaro are made from grapes grown by more than 10 different vineyards in Wisconsin, Minnesota and one in Arkansas. Juice from the Finger Lakes region of New York is brought in to craft a wine as well.
Elmaro has been recognized with 10 gold medals and is a sweepstakes winner at national and international competitions for their wines.
“Our focus has been on making wine from cool and cold climate grapes,” said Mark. “Generally, there aren’t as many grapes grown in those climates. We’ve even made an award winning ice wine. In order to create a good ice wine, conditions need to be perfect for grapes to freeze in a timely manner without rotting. This winter didn’t provide the correct conditions with the warm start we had.”
In pursuing a future in the winery business, both Lynita and Laura took two-year programs in viticulture (the production of grapes) and enology (the study of wines). Wine was first made under the Elmaro label during 2010 in the temporarily retrofitted farm shop. Construction of a modern winery and tasting room took place in 2011 and is open throughout the year for guests to taste and purchase wine. During the summer, it is not unusual for upwards of 1,000 people to visit on a single day. Holding events such as dance class, yoga, couples massage class and live music every weekend help bring people in the door.
“One of us is always here at the winery,” said Laura. “When you visit for a tasting or buy a bottle of wine in the store, you can be assured that a member of our family was involved in every step of the process.”
The family does all of their own distribution. Elmaro wines can be found at select stores and restaurants in Black River Falls, Eau Claire, Holmen, Hudson, La Crosse and Madison.
“Farms are often times a family business, ours is no different,” said Lynita. “Due to the intergenerational nature of the business, it can cause emotions, stress, and lots of work. It’s all worth it in the end because of how important our family is. Making wine teaches patience.”
Giebel lives in Baraboo.