Nine miles past the hustle and bustle of Columbia Falls hides the Flathead Lake Winery, a small retreat where owner Paddy Fleming works on his craft.
"When I moved home to Montana, I'd been away about 15 years," said Fleming, "I started making wine from a cherry tree and an apple tree I had. And people said 'This is good, you should sell it.' So that's how it started."
Fleming originally rented a space in Ronan but was able to move into the Columbia Falls location four years ago, where the winery does all of its production in-house.
He explained the wine-making process, "First we get the fruit in, we crush it to get the juice out of it. If it's a white wine we discard the pulp and add yeast. If it's a red wine we add the pulp back in. The red color comes from the skins. After about a year of fermenting we'll put it in oak where it ages in oak, and then we'll filter it and bottle it."
Each bottle label represents where the fruit came from, such as chokecherries from Lewistown or huckleberry from Glacier Park. Fleming says he taste tests each and every batch to make sure it's just how he likes it.
"In the past I might have been swayed by one person saying 'Oh, it's too dry,'" he said, "and I've gotten to the point where I decide well if I like it, it's good!"
Since it's the winery's tenth anniversary, Fleming is looking to the future. That means pairing up with restaurants to create a private reserve as well as connecting with more small batch fruit growers in the state. He says it's a great feeling to stay true to Montana with every bottle he corks.
"[It's] amazing, yeah. Kind of started off as a hobby that got a little out of hand and here we are ten years later," he exclaimed.
Some facts about the winery:
Flathead Lake Winery opened in 2002
It's the only winery in Montana that uses 100% Montana-grown products.
Their most popular wine is their huckleberry, which FLW says is the original and only real huckleberry wine.
They produce about 800 cases of their wines, which are distributed in Montana as well as shipped to 14 other states.