New Minneapolis winery to make booze from foraged ingredients

Jeff Zeitler harvested apples in St. Paul.
Jeff Zeitler, founder of Urban Forage Winery and Cider House, uses a homemade tool to shake apples from a tree in St. Paul.
Britta Greene | MPR News

The number of Minnesota's breweries and distilleries continues to grow, and the success of taprooms across the state is inspiring more entrepreneurs to give it a try.

St. Paul couple Jeff and Gita Zeitler are starting their own winery and cider house, but they're taking a particularly creative approach to sourcing ingredients — they want to forage as many of them as possible.

That means their ingredients will change with the seasons.

"We'll start making rhubarb wine, and if we can source enough dandelion flowers and lilacs, we're gonna make dandelion-lilac wine," Jeff said. "And in the fall, we'll be harvesting apples and pears and whatever fruit ... carrots make a great wine believe it or not."

For now, the Zeitlers are getting most of their fruit from peoples' yards all over the cities.

They've been leaving fliers at houses with fruit trees, and have been surprised by how many invitations they've gotten to come back and harvest.

"Over time, we hope to establish sort of an urban orchard," Jeff said. "It's dispersed throughout the city ... fruit trees hiding in plain sight. If you think about it, in Minnesota, we are sitting on some of the best farmland on Earth. We have good soil. Even in the city, we have our little 1/8th-acre lots that you can grow some pretty nice fruit trees on."

Gita Zeitler gathered apples in St. Paul.
Gita Zeitler, Jeff's wife and co-founder of Urban Forage, gathered apples that had been shaken from a neighbor's tree.
Britta Greene | MPR News

While gathering apples recently in St. Paul, the Zeitlers were approached by Marijo Wunderlich, who lives in the neighborhood. She was interested in having the Zeitlers harvest fruit from her yard.

"I feel overwhelmed by the waste," Wunderlich said. "You know, the squirrels get it now. It's just all on the ground and there's something that should be done with it."

Jeff and Gita say this kind of interaction happens all the time. They see themselves as not only creating a sustainable business but one that fills a real need in the community.

"Most people can't use 14 bushels of fruit, but we can," Jeff said. "We can come clean up this fruit which you find to be a nuisance, and put it to good use."

It remains to be seen how customers will take to the Zeitlers' wines and ciders and how much of their ingredients they'll ultimately be able to forage around town.

They're calling the business Urban Forage Winery and Cider House. They plan to start producing in their Minneapolis facility in October and hope to open a taproom in 2016.

Correction (Oct. 1, 2015): The original headline incorrectly identified the location of the winery. It has since been updated.

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