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Like an endless row of grapevines, the new Old Oaks Winery in Milan feels like it goes on forever. When visitors enter the winery’s main tasting area, the new space feels big, big enough even. But down the hall the renovated space opens into another event space called the Barrel Room. Further on there’s a third, private event space and next to that, the main dining room is even larger along with a side bar. And don’t forget the spacious patio plus a yard with gas fire pits and picnic tables. In fact, there’s a space for anyone’s taste. Old-timers will remember the Milan location at 10814 1st St. as the home of the Old Oaks restaurant, where you could cook your own steak. It’s three minutes south of many of Milan’s retail businesses on Highway 67. Inside, the capacity is 300. The patio allows for 40 more, and, sitting on 36 acres, the side yard is unlimited. Chris Larsen, one of the winery’s owners, was once a pitcher on the University of the Pacific college baseball team in California. His father — Chris Larsen Sr., a Quad Cities dentist and also one of the winery’s owners — used to fly out to watch his son play. But since he wasn’t an everyday player, they had plenty of time to enjoy the fruits of California’s Napa Valley. When Chris Jr. came home to the Quad Cities, he got into teaching and coaching. The next thing he knew his dad had purchased the commercial property which had been sitting empty after two other businesses had used it and moved on. “My dad asked me what I thought of it all and I told him I thought it was pretty rough and needed a lot of work. He said, ‘Well, we better get to work because I bought it.’ I replied, ‘You did what?’” the younger Mr. Larsen recalled of their entrance into the winery business. This was in late 2013 and it was an empty shell with the building taking up three and a half acres. In 2014, they hand planted French hybrid vines, known for their hardiness in low temperatures. He says the grapes they’re growing here can withstand temperatures to 35-below. They’ve been producing experimental wines, first in their own homes, since 2017. Soon they’ll use their new production building, built just last year. Their first harvest of Midwest, smaller-batch wines will be phased in soon. “Our own grapes will be a bit more acidic and even spicer, but they won’t be predominant on our tasting sheet because there’s more demand for the California wines,” he said. That’s their main objective: Bring in quality California wines. “We’re bringing Napa back to the Midwest, through my California connections,” he said. “We’re doing a Moscato, we have a Chardonnay, a family white blend, a rose, a red blend, and a Cabernet Sauvignon.” For now, he said, it’s more efficient for their new business to use California grapes to produce the wine out west. This, versus bringing the grapes here and worrying about spoilage and winter weather. “There’s nothing wrong with the French hybrid style, but we think folks will always want and appreciate the Cabernets, the Pinos, Chardonnays. Those don’t have the cold hardiness to grow here,” Mr. Larsen said. He adds that wine rookies shouldn’t be afraid to try any wine. “Drink what you like and if you don’t like it, it’s OK to dump it out,” he suggested. “Our wines are approachable.” He wants patrons to remember the five S’s: “See, smell, swirl, sip and swallow.” The Old Oaks Winery also offers a limited menu of small, medium or large food “boxes.” “With the patio in mind, we wanted food on-the-go,” he added. “This is food you can take as you wander the yard where we have picnic tables, the bean bag corn hole game, and the vineyard. We offer a meat, cheese, & fruit box, a veggie box, and a dessert one which includes cookies, popcorn, chocolate-covered pretzels, grapes, brie, etc.” On occasion they also offer live music on the patio. As if the winery and its amenities aren’t enough, the owners of the new business — which opened over the July 30 weekend — also are erecting an outdoor tent area to host large weddings next to a ceremony spot created for the nuptials. For now, it’s all family owned and operated. But the word is spreading, and they have bookings already for some weddings in 2023. Don’t let your first impression from the road fool you — this place and its options — go on forever.