Our vineyard and winery were built from the ground up by three generation. We are family-owned and family-run.
(From left to right: Sam Verbitsky, Alan Verbitsky, Nikolai Verbitsky)
The Sawyer Crossing Vineyard and Winery is located at the crossroads of the Hidatsa Trail and the Canadian Indian Trail on the lower Souris River Valley just west of Sawyer, North Dakota. Our vineyard and winery is established adjacent to the site of a Métis hibernant and trading post. The trading post was established by Antoine Desjarlais in the 1840s and was operated on and off until the early 1900s. Remnants of the trading post and some of the hibernant cabins are still visible today.
Part of the original Hidatsa Trail followed today’s land routes of Highway 200 from the town Mayville to the Spirit Lake Reservation and then continued to the Wintering River and followed the southern bank of the Souris River “Loop” through what are now the towns Velva, Sawyer, Logan, and Minot. The Hidatsa Trail then continued to the established Hidatsa villages on the Missouri River.
The Canadian Indian Trail was established by Antoine Desjarlais when he became an active free trader in the Souris River Basin. Between the years 1836 and 1850, he established an independent trading post on the Souris River near what is present-day Sawyer, ND. This was done in defiance of the Hudson’s Bay Company. This Trading post was the halfway point on an active trade route that occurred between the trading post at Fort Desjarlais near present-day Lauder, Manitoba and the American Fur Company at Fort Union on the Missouri River near Bismarck, North Dakota.
One of the intriguing aspects of this trading post concerns its very survival as an independent trading post in a region notorious for the raiding activity by the Dakota. Antoine Desjarlais’ immunity to Dakota harassment lies in a combination of marriages by his relatives and the liberal payment of bribes to Dakota chiefs.
At the age of 81 years Sam Verbitsky traveled with his wife to California to visit his nephews Jonathan and David. Each of his nephews had planted vineyards in southern El Dorado County, California. When Sam came back to North Dakota, he was convinced that this was the thing to do. He and his son Alan began this new vineyard adventure.
Sam and Alan’s first vineyard started with three vines planted in the Spring in the garden behind Alan’s house in Crystal Springs south of Minot.
150 more vines were planted and the Crystal Springs Vineyard was established.
Sam and Alan enlisted the help of Alan’s son, Nikolai. 85 acres were purchased near Sawyer, North Dakota, and the Sawyer Crossing Vineyard was established. The first planting was 1500 vines on 4 acres.
The concrete foundation for the winery was poured and the steel for the winery building was purchased.
The winery building was erected. On July 3, 2009, at the age of 89, Sam passed away, leaving Alan and Nikolai to continue the dream.
The winery building was finished, electrical utilities were installed, and the processing equipment was moved over.
The Souris River flooded and the vineyard was underwater for more than 90 days. Many of the vines died and the trellises were severely damaged. See Photos.
The alley rats have been out and cleaning out the debris in the vineyard. The bonfire pile is getting very large. It looks like the Alley Rats are going to have a good graduation bonfire.
The Sawyer Crossing Vineyard is being replanted.