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Tuesday, Sep. 1, 2015

Winery honors determination of ancestors

Monday, March 1, 2010

Gary and Ricky Wach stand among the sleeping grape vines at "Three Brothers Vineyard and Winery" in Farnam.
(Connie Jo Discoe/McCook Daily Gazette)
FARNAM -- Gary Wach is in awe of the drive and the determination -- and faith -- that his great-grandparents must have possessed to leave their home in Russia and immigrate to a young, wild America 125 years ago.

Gary's great-grandparents, Friedrich Hermann and Maragaretha Minna Nagel Wach, came to America with nine children in tow, and arrived on Ellis Island on June 18, 1885, the same day as the Statue of Liberty, Gary said. "They traveled by train to meet family in Sutton, Nebraska, and then homesteaded west of Hayes Center," Gary said.

"My great-grandfather was 54 years old," Gary said. "I've often wondered what drive, and nerve, it took to move his family like that."

The label on Wachs' wine bottles features the faces of Gary's grandfather and his two great-uncles, after whom the vineyard and winery are named.
(Connie Jo Discoe/McCook Daily Gazette)
Gary's grandfather, William, and William's older brother, Julius, were born in Worms, Russia; William was just nine months old when his family set out for America. William's and Julius' brother, Otto, was one of six babies born in America. The three brothers married three of the four Schultz sisters, Gary said, and the Wach family grew with their new country.

Gary must have inherited some of that drive and determination -- and faith -- because he and his wife, Ricky, are growing grapes and making wine in the middle of corn and wheat and iced tea and beer country.

Out of respect for Gary's grandfather's and great-uncles' pioneering spirit, Gary and Ricky have named their wine-making and wine-tasting venture, "Three Brothers Vineyard and Winery."

The Wachs opened their wine-making and wine-tasting venture during the summer of 2009, offering nine semi-sweet and semi-dry white and red wines, and a variety of events, activities and opportunities to taste them.
(Connie Jo Discoe/McCook Daily Gazette)

Gary and Ricky met while they both taught at the agriculture college in Curtis. They moved to Chicago and then to Sioux City, Iowa. For years, one or the other was working while the other was looking for a job, Ricky said, with a smile.

Then, two jobs came open back at the college in Curtis, and the Wachs decided they would like raising their children in a small town, and they could be closer to Gary's family at Hayes Center. "It was a good mix," Ricky said. "Two good jobs and a good place to raise our kids."

The family moved to Curtis, and for two years, they looked for a house to buy. At a friend's urging, they looked at a house in Farnam, and fell in love with it and the community.

"Farnam's such a welcoming town," Ricky said.

With the new home came 10 acres of pastureland that the Wachs rented out.

Gary thought originally of planting an orchard on those 10 acres, but that was in 2000, and there was a lot of talk of small vineyards and family-operated wineries, even in Nebraska. "Grapes were in the news," Ricky said, "And grapes provide a crop slightly quicker than an orchard."

So, Gary researched and studied, and planted -- "as a hobby and a distraction from everyday life" -- 300 vines -- three varieties of grapes -- on just more than half-an-acre of land. "It's very labor intensive" Ricky said, so the first plot was kind of experimental, to see if that's what they really wanted to get into.

The Wachs added more plants and varieties every year, or replaced plants killed by late freeze, and by 2009, had just more than five acres of plants.

In 2004, a huge tree came down at the south end of the pasture, making room for the foundation of a winery. Over the next five years, Gary and Ricky, family and friends built the winery with a fermenting and work room, lobby and tasting room with seating for 24.

In 2008, Gary and Ricky waded through the legalities of labeling, and bottled their 2008 grape harvest.

On June 6, 2009, the Three Brothers Winery opened, and the Wachs hosted their grand opening weekend on July 18 and 19. "We had a very busy two days," Ricky said.

Their calendar has since been filled with bus tours, wine tastings, "fifth quarter" gatherings during Eustis-Farnam High School's football season, Christmas parties, a prime rib dinner night, Valentine's Day hors d'oeuvres, musical entertainment featuring local talent, an "Open That Bottle" night with shrimp and pork loin.

The Wachs plan card nights, family movie nights, star-gazing nights and "Sunset on the Patio."

The Wachs have planted 10 varieties of cold-hardy grapes and bottle nine wines. "They're semi-sweet and semi-dry whites and reds. Nebraska is a relatively new wine state -- most prefer semi-sweet and semi-dry wines," Gary said. "Our wines are middle-of-the-road," Ricky said. "Not super sweet or really dry."

The Wachs produce their wines with their own grapes, although a devastating hail storm just before an August harvest last year forced them to purchase some grapes from other vineyards for blending with their own grapes. When the Wachs have an abundance of grapes, they do the same -- offer them to other wineries.

The Wachs hire local help to pick their grapes, and then Gary and Ricky -- short version -- weigh, de-stem, crush, press, ferment, rack and filter the grapes and the resulting wines, and bottle, cork, and label the finished wines.

Wachs' wines are named for the variety of grape:

* Seyval, a white wine: Fruity aromas and well-balanced smooth taste.

* Brianna, a white wine: Hints of pineapple and citrus.

* Vignoles, a white wine: Fruity with notes of pear.

* Frontenac gris, a white wine: Amber colored from a gray ("gris") grape; hints of peach and apricot flavors.

* Tradition, a red wine: A blend of Marechal Foch and Frontenac grapes; hints of blackberry and butterscotch aromas.

* Rougeon, a red wine: Pepper aromas with hints of elderberry.

* Landot Noir, a red wine: Licorice flavors and aroma; a beautiful deep color.

* Frontenac, a red wine: Lightly oaked to give a hint of smoke and toasted almond; cherry undertones and a deep garnet color.

Coming soon: LaCrosse, a dry white wine: Unique taste, very "Nebraska."

Despite the fact that one wine-taster was looking for a wine "that tasted the closest to beer," the Wachs said the appeal of wine is growing. Gary said he is pleasantly surprised by the number of woman who enjoy wine, and is even more pleased that men will also enjoy a glass of wine with their meal.

The Wachs have had visitors from Russia, Canada and Australia and many states between California and Florida. "And we're seeing increasing traffic in Farnam," Ricky said.

"It's so nice to sit in the tasting room, drink our wines and see the vines from which the grapes came framed in the north window," Ricky said.

The Wachs want to create a Nebraska "wine trail," promoting and marketing Nebraska wines with other vintners across the state.

"We are dependent upon each other to promote the wine industry," Ricky said. The Wachs gladly direct their visitors and wine-tasters to other vineyards and wineries.

Three Brothers Vineyard and Winery is located on the northwestern edge of Farnam, in the gray and maroon building just a block north and a block west of the Methodist and Catholic churches at the north end of Main Street.

Hours at the Three Brothers are:

Summer Hours:

May 16 - August 19

Thursday: 1-6 p.m.

Friday: 1-8 p.m.

Saturday: 1-8 p.m.

Sunday: 1-5 p.m.

Winter Hours:

August 20 - May 15

Friday: 1-8 p.m.

Saturday: 1-8 p.m.

Sunday: 1-5 p.m.

"Or call," Ricky said. "If we're here, we're open." The phone number is (308) 569-2501.

E-mail can be sent to: 3brothers@atcjet.net

Three Brothers' Web site is: 3brothersvineyard.com

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