“You can have a glass of wine at our winery. You can enjoy a bottle of wine, and we can also recork a bottle if you don’t finish it. We do tastings such as a flight board of wine, and currently, we have six wines available. We just opened Dec. 3,” Stephen Mortenson said.
Located inside a custom-built barn at 3526 Somerville Jacksonburg Road in Middletown, Seven Mile Winery is open Thursday through Saturday evenings. Hours are 5-9 p.m. on Thursdays and Fridays and 1-9 p.m. on Saturdays.
Signature wines from Seven Mile Winery include red wines like Husker Red, named after the couple’s 10-year-old Labrador Retriever, Husker, and Bella Nott as well as white wines such as Apple Crisp or Ad Amare Vino.
“I don’t overly sweeten my wines, so I keep the residual sugar a lot less than a lot of other sweet wines, and people have told me how much they really enjoy that,” said Mortenson.
Mortenson, who served in the Army National Guard in Kentucky for nine years, has been making his own wines for about 13 years. In addition to owning the winery, Stephen and Stephanie both work full-time careers. Stephanie earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from Wright State University and works in the dental insurance industry. Stephen is a self-taught winemaker, and he works as a corrugated box salesman during the day. When it comes to his skills as a winemaker, he has taken many online courses, watched YouTube videos and refined his wines through “trial and error” and tastings with family and friends.
“We basically make wine like everybody’s grandma or grandpa used to make. They’d have a grapevine in the backyard, and they would try to make a batch of wine for Thanksgiving or Christmas, so that’s what we want to be known as,” Mortenson said, “Everybody seems to love our wines.”
Mortenson, originally from Nebraska, moved to Seven Mile about 14 years ago. With a business background, and his marriage to Stephanie on the horizon, he said he sat down and came up with a business plan. His plan was backed by Farmers & Merchants Bank in Miamisburg, which loved the couple’s story and funded them with a small business administration loan. Then, the family started construction on the barn.
“I proposed to my wife in 2017, so we tried to find a barn to get married in and these barns or wedding venues are booked solid all of the time. We could not find a barn to get married in, and we looked at each other and said, ‘You know what, you wanted to take your wine pro, why don’t we build a winery and get married in the barn.’ We wanted a timber-frame barn, which is something different than a lot of wineries have,” Mortenson said.
The Mortensons were married in 2020. They bought the property the winery is located on in 2017. The barn was delivered in March 2018 and the couple started building the barn in April. They did not end up getting married in the barn due to building delays, but after about 15 to 18 months, they started building again and completed the barn.
“We just kept our feet to the fire and kept moving, because we knew our winery was going to be successful. The big story here is Stephanie and I want to leave a legacy for our children and grandchildren, something where they can look back and say ‘my parents and grandparents built this, we’re happy they did it,’ and hopefully, it stays in the family,” Mortenson said.
Inside the winery, there is a tasting room, a wine shop and more. At full capacity, the barn seats 96. During COVID, the barn can accommodate about 60 guests. On nights when there is live music, the crowd is limited to about 40.
“I’m most proud of the wines, and that we have people coming in. We have a lot of regulars who come in and drink the wine, and a lot of repeat customers. I am pretty proud of how our wine recipes are being enjoyed by our customers,” Mortenson said. “I’m glad my wife has been with me and it’s been a great husband and wife journey. We’ve learned a lot about working together.”
Initially, a trip to Grand Junction, Colorado inspired Mortenson’s interest in making wine. While there, he visited a few wineries and talked with an assistant winemaker, who gave him some advice.
“She said start growing some grapes. That is the worst advice I ever got,” Mortenson mused.
“I started growing grapes, and it is difficult to grow grapes in this area, so I have been through my share of grapevines, but I think I have the process down now for our area. You have to have the right grapevines for our winters.”
After about a year of growing grapes, Mortenson continued building his dream with some home wine-making kits, where he incorporated his own juices and pressed his own berries.
“It’s not wine kits anymore. Wine kits are basically for home wine makers. As a professional winemaker, you are starting with a whole lot more than two gallons of juice,” Mortenson said.
Currently, there are about 42 grapevines on the property and there are plans to add more than 100 in the next few weeks.
Seven Mile Winery operates four 230-gallon, egg-shaped “Apollo” fermenters and the wines are bottled and labeled in-house.
Mortenson said he and his family have created an atmosphere where families, friends and neighbors can gather. Seven Mile Winery is also on the Ohio River Valley Wine Trail.
“We have a country atmosphere in rural Butler County. Come see the sunset. We have a beautiful sunset every night on the west side of the barn, and you can see it right above the trees. It is just a cool setting with a country style. Come and get away from the city,” Mortenson said.
Live music is offered on select nights, which is promoted on Facebook as well as on the Middletown and Butler County Visitors Bureau websites. For more information, visit Seven Mile Winery on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sevenmilewinery.