VIROQUA — John Pedretti continues to grow his winery and party barn businesses.
Five years ago, he bought the Vernon Vineyards winery and tasting room business from its founders, and built a new tasting room next to the Pedretti’s Party Barn event venue, at S3426 Peterson Lane west of Viroqua.
Last year, Pedretti replaced the party barn (which was in a former dairy barn) with a new, much larger building with modern features such as air conditioning and heating.
“It can seat 300 people with lots of room to spare,” Pedretti said as he gave a reporter a tour of the new party barn, which has rustic decor and amenities such as self-contained rest rooms, a furnished kitchen, a large loft with a projection screen, movable serving bars and a sprinkler system.
It’s open year-round, unlike the old party barn, which was open from spring through fall and could seat about 220.
The new party barn’s first event was last fall.
“I’d like to have about 40 major events here during the year,” Pedretti said. Most will be wedding receptions. “But we also have things like employee Christmas parties, retreats, anniversaries and business meetings,” Pedretti said.
As he spoke, preparations were under way for an outdoor wedding near the vineyard, that would be followed by the reception inside the party barn. The wedding itself could be moved into the party barn if it was about to rain.
The nearby Vernon Vineyards tasting room is available for smaller events, such as smaller weddings, wedding rehearsals, family reunions, girls night out, music events, book clubs and business events.
Pedretti has been planting grape vines since 2002. His father, also named John Pedretti, also planted grape vines and in 2014 sold land and some buildings including the party barn to him.
The younger John Pedretti graduated from West Salem High School in 1988 and from 1991 to May 2016 worked for the Menards retail chain in Wisconsin and Minnesota.
A couple miles from Pedretti’s property, Bob Starks and Loren Cade opened the Vernon Vineyards winery and tasting room on Starks’ farm in 2006. Pedretti bought the retail and winery portions of the business in 2012, but Vernon Vineyards’ wine-production operation has remained at Starks’ farm. That will change next year, when Pedretti moves wine production to a building on his 75-acre site.
The new tasting room that he opened in 2012 has inside seating for up to 50 people, as well as an outdoor patio and a partly-covered outdoor deck. Guests also are welcome to spread a blanket on the lawn.
The tasting room and the party barn each have their own Facebook pages listing upcoming events. Besides weddings and parties, some of the events hosted over the past year include sip-and-paint, dessert and wine pairing, cheese and wine pairing, musicians and events with vendors.
Pedretti said Vernon Vineyards’ 16 varieties of wine are made entirely from locally-grown, cold-climate grapes. Seven of its wine varieties are available at more than 50 grocery stores, liquor stores, restaurants and bars in Western Wisconsin. All 16 are available at the tasting room, by the glass, bottle or case.
The tasting room also sells cheese, crackers, soft drinks, gift items and Vernon Vineyards merchandise such as apparel, glassware and wine jelly made from its wines.
House Red is Vernon Vineyards’ biggest-selling wine at the moment, Pedretti said. It’s a blend of white grapes and cranberries. Some of the winery’s other biggest sellers are La Crosse, Eagle Eye Blush, North Fork, Edelweiss, Three Chimney Red, Ridge Red, Sunset and Bad Axe River Sweet.
Vernon Vineyards has about 20 acres of grape vines and produces most of the grapes used in its wines. As for the rest of the grapes he uses, Pedretti said, “Everything I purchase is from probably within five miles of here except for the cranberries, which come from the Warrens area.”
Vernon Vineyards grows eight of the 12 varieties of grapes that it uses in its wines.
“It’s turned out to be a pretty good year for growing grapes,” Pedretti said. Vernon Vineyards began harvesting this year’s crop Sept. 7 and Pedretti hopes to complete the harvest by late October.
He expects to harvest about 80 tons of grapes this fall. Vernon Vineyards probably will use about 30 tons of those for its own wines and sell the other 50 tons to other area wineries.
Last year, Vernon Vineyards produced about 4,500 gallons – or nearly 25,000 bottles -- of its wines.