By Jason DeRusha

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — This is a love story about a grape, a woman, and German wine. They all came together for Bill Hooper one night at the Turf Club in St. Paul about 15 years ago.

“It was great. I kind of charmed her,” Hooper said.

At the time, he was in his 20s, working in the wine industry in the Twin Cities. He was the wine buyer for Zipp’s Liquors in Minneapolis.

“I kind of cut my teeth on the more esoteric wines,” he said.

Something drew him to German wines, especially Riesling.

“Number one, it’s delicious,” he laughed. “There’s a lot of minerality, fruit, aroma, but more than anything they’re really fun to drink.”

After Zipp’s, Hooper worked for local distributors, including The Wine Company, but that one night at the Turf Club he met a young woman who was a German citizen, studying in the Twin Cities.

“My love for German wine didn’t hurt,” he laughed.

The two ended up falling in love, getting married, and having children. Then in May 2010, they moved to Germany in pursuit of knowledge to help him someday open his own winery in the United States.

“Going to school in tandem of working with wineries, you learn the practical side of things and the theoretic,” Hooper said.

After training with some of the best winemakers in the Pfalz region and graduating from school, Hooper and his family decided to move back to the United States, searching for the perfect place to open his own winery. He landed in Willamette Valley of Oregon and opened Winebau Paetra.

“Certainly the climate and soil were perfect,” said Hooper, “The Willamette Valley checked all our boxes. Great wine culture out there.”

Hooper brought his German knowledge to a unique form of farming in Oregon: he thinks the leaves in his grape plants carefully to expose grape clusters to sunlight which can lead to the flavor profile he wants. It’s labor-intensive — he can spend 50 hours per acre pruning, 50 hours per acre thinning the leaves.

“This is one of the great stories we like to tell,” said Patty Douglas, sales manager for The Wine Company, Paetra’s Minnesota importer. “The style, the way he makes it, those aren’t usual techniques used in the United States to make really authentic Riesling.”

In early May 2018, Hooper walked the aisles of the store he used to work at, and saw his own Paetra Riseling on the shelves.

“You know what, it’s emotional,” he said.

He’s just on his third vintage, but Hooper’s wines have a balance and depth of flavor that’s impressing the critics, perhaps all because of that one night at the Turf Club.

“I didn’t marry her because of this,” he laughed, “But who knows? I should go to the Turf Club right now and thank all those guys.”

You can find Paetra at 1010 Washington Wine & Spirits, Solo Vino, Zipp’s, Lake Wine & Cheese North Loop, Liquor Barn and on restaurant lists at Spoon & Stable, Bellecour, Nightingale, and Alma, to name a few. The Rieslings retail from $20 to $30. He also makes a rose of pinot noir for $20 to $25, and a pinot noir around $35.

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