- Associated Press - Sunday, September 7, 2014

WATERTOWN, S.D. (AP) - Ghost Town Winery brings a little South Dakota history to life with every ounce of wine it bottles.

Remember Appleby? Heard of Travare? How about Crandall?

“We’d love to hear from people who had ancestors in any of these towns. The stories just make them all the more interesting,” said Chris Marotz, who co-owns and operates Ghost Town Winery with his father, Mike Marotz.

Now entering their second month in business, Watertown’s first and only winery creates, bottles and markets wines named after South Dakota ghost towns, the Watertown Public Opinion reported (https://bit.ly/1pmnkkg ).

The Marotzes have done their research - from product development to perusing historical documents. And they have also had a great deal of fun along the way.

“We’ve visited several of the towns we chose for our labels,” said Mike Marotz. “The old elevator is all that remains in Appleby. And in some cases, a historical marker is the only sign that a town ever existed.”

Yahota, Travare and Medary are also among the somewhat forgotten towns featured on Ghost Town Winery’s first labels. The Marotzes are interested in hearing additional stories about the towns they have selected - and are open to suggestions for additional ghost towns to add as their line of wines expands.

“We chose Grover early on as my great-grandfather lived there in the early 1900s,” Chris Marotz said of the small village that once existed along the railroad tracks southwest of Watertown. The old granary still stands and a few foundations of other buildings remain in Grover, he said.

Located in Uptown Watertown, Ghost Town Winery is in the same building as the Watertown Confectionery. Regulations currently don’t allow tours of the cellar, but tastings are available in the Confectionery, owned by Mike Marotz and his wife, Vickie Marotz.

A former chemist, Mike Marotz, has brewed beer for years — and recently ventured into making specialty wine at the Confectionery. For the past couple of years, customers have been able to book appointments in the store’s cellar to create and bottle wine, finishing with their own custom labels.

Chris Marotz, recently retired from the U.S. Navy, was looking for a new venture. When the idea of starting a winery in Watertown was proposed, he jumped at the chance.

“Watertown is a great place. And we deserve to have a winery,” he said.

The business plan for the wine enthusiasts began long before the product hit the shelves in late July. The labels (right down to the images, written content and size of type) had to be approved both on federal and state levels.

While there was no exact science involved in choosing the wines and their corresponding labels, the Marotzes have been pleased with the way the pairings have turned out.

“We held some wine tastings to see which ones would do the best in this region,” said Chris Marotz. “Those are the ones we decided to pursue.”

Father and son currently plan to focus their marketing and distribution efforts right here, eventually branching out throughout the state. For now, the two-person startup company handles everything from ordering product to tending the process, bottling, labeling, sales and distribution.

The duo seems to be moving as quickly as they physically can to keep up with their rapidly occurring ideas for the business. With the holidays approaching, they are preparing a wine which will feature the ghost town of Igloo on the label.

A recent afternoon found them bottling their first “limited edition” wine, which will feature the Kampeska label. It should be ready for release next summer.

In the grand scheme of things, Chris would love to create his own destination “Ghost Town” - featuring a tasting room, gift shop and possibly even banquet facilities. For now, however, he is happy to focus on getting the business established and the wine distributed.

And while “Watertown” won’t ever be one of the city names on a Ghost Town label, they do hope the winery will make a name for itself - and for Watertown.

“We’re looking for another way to pull people off of the interstate,” said Mike Marotz.


Information from: Watertown Public Opinion, https://www.thepublicopinion.com

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