[The Vineyard at Marion Lake]
Story by Tracy Nicholson
Photography by Dan Francis Photography
We consider ourselves well-traveled when it comes to the lakes area, but every so often, we discover a hidden gem that's escaped our radar. This month, we're taking you to The Vineyard at Marion Lake, near Perham, Minnesota. We'll show you their fantastic barn venue, new vineyard treehouse and bonus log cabin nestled deep in the woods. We were too early in the season for grape stomping, but we did get a chance to meet the charming owners, Mike and Becky Muston.
Vineyard + Venue
Mike and Becky Muston opened The Vineyard at Marion Lake in 2011 as a red barn and vineyard on several acres of farmland near Marion Lake. If a barn and beautiful vineyard wasn't enough to lure you in, they recently completed the build of an extraordinary tree house, perfectly perched to view the vineyard and orchard below.
Their nine-year-old vineyard specializes in growing Marquette, Petite Pearl, and La Crescent grapes for local wineries, but doesn't currently sell their own wine. At least for now, their wines are made strictly as an inspired hobby, something they fell in love with when the two lived in California, visiting many times after over the years. In their travels, they'd stay in the charming foothills town of Sutter Creek, which was near a viticulture hot spot, Shenandoah Valley. This valley sparked their interest and further education into the study of grape production.
On our visit to the vineyard, we met up with the couple, along with Lumber Depot's Peggy Rutten, and her daughters Maria Rutten and Emily Dreyer. Dreyer manages the Lakes Area Home Tour and had highly recommended the treehouse to us. Peggy Rutten had worked with the Mustons on the drafting of the treehouse, along with supplying all of the structure's materials from their New York Mills lumberyard.
To help design the treehouse, Becky Muston worked closely with Rutten to make the most of the smaller footprint. "They came up with a 14x20 and Becky already had a good vision for what they wanted to do with it; we just needed to make the pieces fit," said Rutten. Mark Dobbelmann constructed the main structure, then Jim Wurst Construction finished the lower deck and shower.
"I knew I wanted the outside to be brown with the siding hung vertically, something that I felt would help it to blend into the trees," said Becky Muston. "The red trim is something that ties it to our red barn that's just around the corner. I think one of my favorite things about this place is the surprise you feel coming around the corner and seeing the treehouse up here. It's a really unique spot for a getaway."
Inside the treehouse is an undeniably chic living space and bedroom loft; finished with white shiplap planks the Mustons painted and then Dobbelmann installed. Further up, you'll find a stained glass window from the old church where they got married. A charming kitchen is perfectly designed, lending just enough space for intimate dining and a cozy living room with fresh arrangements from Kellie Smith Floral in Perham, Minn. "We were just trying to think of the best ways to maximize the space and use. This is the kind of place where you can entertain a lot of people or just a few," said Becky Muston.
"We changed the original roof elevation because we wanted to make sure there was enough headroom in the loft so they could really use the space," said Rutten. "The new elevation gave it some really interesting charm."
Climb up the unique ladder staircase and you'll find a cozy bedroom in the loft. The treehouse may not have air conditioning, but the structure is primarily shaded by trees, designed with plenty of windows to capture the breeze. While upstairs, make sure to take a closer peek at the custom railing, designed by one of the country's few remaining blacksmiths, James Virnala of New York Mills. "I love the railing, he made grapevines on it, a small mouse, and even a dragonfly. I was just so happy he was able to do this for us," said Becky Muston.
Below the treehouse stairs, guests are delighted to see the newest addition; an outdoor shower constructed from tin the Mustons had on an old farm. The tin structure also helps hide the shower's water heater and extra storage from the nearby deck, porch swings and outdoor seating area.
Tucked into the woods near the treehouse, guests can follow the wooden stepping stones to the property's charming outhouse. Slammer, the craftsman who made it, named the outhouse the Head, an old military term for a bathroom's location on sailing ships. Beyond the exterior's quaint wash station, inside is a traditional outhouse toilet, along with a clever, fabricated beer keg urinal.
Treehouse Date Night!
For the Love of the Lake
The Mustons have lived all over the country but now spend their summers on Marion Lake, just across the road from the red barn and treehouse. Their connection to the area is from Mike Muston's grandparents who had a cottage on the lake for many years; their family visited in the summers until his grandmother eventually sold it. "Three years later, the woman who lived next door called and asked us if we wanted to buy her place," said Becky Muston. "At that time, we were only 27, but we said we'd love to. But in order to do that, she'd have to be our bank. So, she agreed and we made payments to her for several years."
Mike Muston's career required the couple to move quite a bit, starting in agricultural products, then biotech seeds, food ingredients, ethanol, and biomass power. Amidst their adventures, they raised three sons - one who recently moved to the lake in order to help develop the vineyard's wines.
If you ask Becky Muston, she'll laugh and say both the vineyard and treehouse were her husband's idea. "California inspired the vineyard, but with the treehouse, I just felt it was a great spot for it," said Mike Muston. "Becky handled the rest and I think she did a great job with it; it's a happy place."
Just when we thought the tour could not get better, Becky Muston took us on a walk past the apple, pear, and cherry orchard, sharing one last hidden gem. Tucked away beyond the vineyard resides the most charming (and tiniest) log cabin we've ever laid eyes on. "We found the sale notice for the cabin on the public board at Nootzi's in Dent, then had it moved out to the land. When our kids were in college and would get too loud, we'd tell them to 'Get out to the Outpost'," laughed Becky Muston. "They'd have bonfires back here, so they didn't disturb everyone in the neighborhood. It was a great place for them to entertain their friends."
Amidst its own grove of trees, these days, the Mustons have reserved the area for vineyard cocktail hours, campfire picnics, and winter snowshoeing excursions with family and friends. They've even held a ladies' night where guests arrived at the outpost on side-by-sides. Becky recently ran electricity to accommodate crockpots for gatherings. "When we have charity events, this area is always where we have appetizers, drinks and games," said Becky Muston.
The Red Barn
The property's red barn, not far from the treehouse, has given the Muston's a beautiful venue to host weddings in the vineyard or on the lake, along with charitable events, grape harvest parties, wine tastings and more.
Find the Finishes: Treehouse
For more information, contact:
The Vineyard at Marion Lake
Book your Treehouse Date Night!
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