GRAND ISLAND, Neb. Miletta Vista winery owner and wine maker, Mick McDowell. is always looking for the next big thing.
"We're always five years down the road because as soon as you put a grape in the ground, it's really three years to five to eight years before you get great wine," he said.
The St. Paul winery, sitting approximately 350 feet over the North Loup River Valley, is expanding to keep pace with the state's growing wine industry.
"[Nebraska is] now producing and selling almost 100,000 gallons a year, which is a lot, but California sells 8 billion gallons," he added. "[Miletta Vista] sold roughly 7,450 gallons in 2015 so we were the third largest farm winery in the state of Nebraska."
He said more posts with wire will be inserted in the grounds in about two weeks so employees can add another 800 to 1,000 grape vines in the spring. He estimates the juice from the vines will be able to fill several tanks in three to five years.
The winery is also making experimental wines, such as the dry, crimson Cabernet. While the sample- smell and taste-approved by McDowell- makes up less than five gallons, McDowell said there could be nearly 600 gallons of the new wine within two years.
"Those are some of the things we do this time of year," he said. "We check the varieties that we think that will appeal to our customer. We do test fermentations and we treat one differently than another and then we're ready to put them in the barrels for next year."
Another addition made earlier in the year was a nearly $80,000 kitchen renovation while welcoming a new executive chef.
"It's just a culmination of places that I've worked before that I've created to be my own," Larry Cordova said. "I would never have experienced [the winery] before if I had not come out here and I was so impressed with it that I ended up staying."
Miletta Vista has welcomed guests from 52 countries, 49 states and nearly 400 Nebraska communities after rebuilding from the ground up because of a devastating fire in 2012, McDowell added.
"Every day, [I] think about that fire that occurred four years ago- June 23, 2012," McDowell said. "We've been very blessed. When I think about being able to rebuild this in roughly 220 days, I think of our plumbers, our electricians, our contractors that helped us succeed and get back on our feet. And, as you can see, it made it bigger and better."
The winery is an example of how far the industry has come in the Husker state since the first Nebraska winery was licensed 20 years ago.
According to a survey based on 2013 incomes, farm wineries and grape growers add $151.6 million to Nebraska's economy.
More fun facts about Miletta Vista Winery:
Nebraska has a "75/25 rule," meaning 75 percent of everything used to make the wine has to be grown in the state.
Each barrel in-house holds roughly 60 gallons of wine and the tanks hold 500, 800 and 1,850 gallons.
Each wine is filtered four times. The fifth run goes through a .45 micron filter to help clarify and purify the wine before it goes into the bottle.