17 Ranch Winery Review
Address: 304 Main St. Lewellen,Nebraska 69147.
Phone Number: 308-778-5542
Tasting Hours: Wed-Sat 1:00-6:00 and by appt.
Reviewer: Mark and Sonja
Review Date: 5/27/2014
Reviewer: Mark and Sonja
Ellen Burdick is a no-fuss, no-muss sort of lady. Straight forward, yet kind and gentle in her mannerisms, Ellen opened the 17 Ranch tasting room for us on a day it is not normally scheduled to be open and reminded us of our grandmothers as she smiled and ushered us inside. When we arrived, she had the front door propped ajar to let in the fresh air and welcomed us to step up to the bar. We probably could have talked to Ellen for hours, listening to her stories of anything from ranching, to winemaking, to her fond reminiscences of time spent traveling in Spain. We could tell she was a busy lady though, being a full-time rancher in addition to a vintner, so we did our best not to keep her there all night. We’re not sure Ellen would have minded if we had though, as she seems like the kind of person who takes the time for everyone she meets, even stepping away from our tasting for a moment to feed a stray cat that began loitering by the open front door. As she poured our tastes, she would tell us about each wine and how she made it, where the grapes or fruit was sourced, and she even mentioned a batch that she decided not to bottle because it just hadn’t turned out the way she wanted it. We could tell that Ellen was passionate about her wine.
The tasting room at 17 Ranch is as no fuss, no muss as the woman who runs it. Wood paneling and a hodgepodge of furniture and wine racks adorn the room. While it has a bit of the feel of your grandmother’s basement (or our grandmothers’ anyway), it is also a place that one could easily imagine local ranchers coming to relax and “drink local” after a hard day’s work. And in the rural Midwestern community of Lewellen, Nebraska, that’s probably more of what is needed.
Ellen is, as she put it to us, a “one girl band.” For this reason, it is understandable perhaps that 17 Ranch does not offer the vast array of wines that some of the larger Nebraska wineries boast. This spring, there were six wines on the list, and for a mere $5 we enjoyed them all (and even got to keep the glass!) “Traildust,” a semi-dry red made of Frontenac, was served chilled. “Prairie Breeze” and “Ash Hollow Gold” were two variations on Edelweiss, the former dryer than the latter, while the blended “Sandhills Rose” was complex, semi-sweet, and enjoyable on the hot afternoon. More interesting to us, however, were the two fruit wines that Ellen had recently created from two locally sourced fruits that are not particularly common to wine. The “Stagecoach” is made of chokecherry, and is dark, complex, and has a sherry finish. The Wild Plum Wine, named just that, was sweet, almost port-like, and, forgive us for saying so, but much better than the plum wines they try to serve to us in sushi bars.
17 Ranch Winery is an incredible blessing to the tiny western Nebraska town of Lewellen. In addition to making her wines, Ellen also partners with local sponsors to put on the Blue Water Blues Festival on an annual basis. Now in their seventh year, the festival features renowned blues artists, delicious food, 17 Ranch wines and Budweiser beer. If it wasn’t a six-hour drive from our home in Omaha, there’s no doubt we’d be there in July. If you’re planning a visit to Lake McConaughy this summer, or passing through the area on your way to the Rocky Mountains, we’d recommend you let Ellen know you’re coming and take a little detour to Lewellen, Nebraska, and 17 Ranch Winery.