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Heard About the Harvest

Ten Spoon Vineyard & Winery connects our community

When Connie Poten and Andy Sponseller started Ten Spoon Vineyard and Winery in the heart of Missoula’s Rattlesnake valley, people laughed at the idea. Twenty-five years later, Connie and Andy have earned their place by creating a thriving business within the local wine industry.

Neither Connie nor Andy had any experience producing wine when Connie first purchased the property along Rattlesnake Drive with the aim to save it from development. They tried their hand at farming, but the rocky soil proved too difficult to grow vegetables. So, they turned their eye to grapes. Andy, who had been a welder for 15 years in Missoula, took courses on winemaking and visited vineyards in Minnesota and Wisconsin where he studied under Elmer Swenson—a pioneer in growing grapes in cold climates. Connie and Andy planted their first grapes in 1998, the winery was built a few years after that, and they sold their first wine commercially in 2004.

Andy explains that their grapes are French-American hybrids, which are Mediterranean grapes that have been hybridized with American grapes making them more suited to withstand Montana’s colder climate and shorter growing seasons. Eight varieties are grown on their eight acres, including Marechal Foch, Frontenac, St. Pepin, and Swensen Red.

Andy now believes that they are the first, possibly second, winery in the state that makes their wines solely with Montana grown grapes. He and Connie take great pride in that. Look on the back label of any Ten Spoon bottle to find out more about the wine you’re drinking. Many labels state, “Grown, Produced, Bottled by Ten Spoon Vineyard and Winery,” reflecting that the entire process from vine to bottle happened on-site.

Aside from grapes, Ten Spoon also uses locally grown fruit in some of their wines. Flathead Cherry Dry, one of their flagship wines, uses organic cherries from a variety of growers along Flathead Lake. The dry white Paradise Pear is 100% pear juice from the Yakima Valley.

From 2013 to 2019, Ten Spoon experienced a severe decline in business due to pressure from large wholesale wine facilities, so in 2019 they went about making less wine, but charging more money per case. They currently produce about 2,000 cases of wine each year. They also hold events on the grounds of the winery like private parties and weddings, as well as live music and standup comedy, to supplement the wine business, but Andy is quick to point out that wine is still their focus.

“It’s a winery that does events, not an event center that does wine,” he says. “We pride ourselves on being wine crafters and growers.”

One of the best ways to get to know Ten Spoon is to visit their tasting room on the beautiful grounds of the winery. You can have a glass of your favorite wine or sample four different wines with a flight. For a refreshing pour, try Going to the Sun white wine made from 100% estate-grown St. Pepin grapes. For a bolder taste, choose the red Moonlight Estate Blend, which is 67% Frontenac and 33% St. Croix grapes.

You can also brag that you played a role in the wine-making process by attending Ten Spoon’s annual harvest party. Spend the morning picking grapes, then enjoy lunch and beverages courtesy of Ten Spoon. The exact date is dependent on each growing season, but Andy says it’s a safe bet to count on it being held between September 28 and October 15.

Andy and Connie have been putting everything they have into Ten Spoon for so many years and they are now in the very early stages of dreaming about doing other things with their time.

“It’s a physical job. You start to think about giving your body a rest,” says Andy. “We are looking for the next steward of Ten Spoon.” But they will only pass it on to someone also willing to put their all into Ten Spoon and continue its legacy. What has motivated Andy and Connie to put their all into Ten Spoon for 25 years?

“Wine is food,” says Andy. “If you can be involved in growing and producing it, selling it, then—to me—that’s the essence of local economy and local food growing.”

For tasting room hours and a full list of events, including the date of this year’s harvest party, visit www.tenspoon.com, and follow them on Facebook and Instagram at Ten Spoon Vineyard + Winery.

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