Our President of Alcohol Operations and Official Winemaker and Distiller
“An integral part of the team at Chankaska makes him the right Winemaker to take us forward into the future of wine and spirits from the state he now calls home.”
John’s career takes several twists and turns on the road to Minnesota. A native Californian, John grew up with wine as a part of everyday life. It was not until his 21st birthday trip to Napa and a 13-year-old bottle of Napa Cabernet that he considered wine as a career. After falling in love with wine chemistry and changing his major, John embarked on a number of different experiences both during his undergraduate and early career.
Interning with Edna Valley Vineyards, John worked with Cool Climate grapes for 2 years while finishing his Bachelor of Science from Cal Poly Concentrating in Enology. Immediately upon graduation, he spent 3 years with E & J Gallo Winery in a number of roles and facilities learning not only the art and science of wine, but logistics and production efficiency. Desiring to head back into a hands-on winemaking role, the next 3 years were co-managing a vineyard and crafting Estate products with Ecluse Wines in Paso Robles. The next 4 years would be spent working with winemakers the likes of Randall Graham, Alison Crowe, Jim McMahon, Nathan Carlsen, Jeremy Leffert, Mike Sinor and so many others.
John joined Chankasaka in 2018 after making wine for Crow River Winery in 2017. An integral part of the team at Chankaska makes him the right Winemaker to take us forward into the future of wine and spirits from the state he now calls home.
“An entrepreneurial fire with a passion for business. As proprietor of Chankaska Creek Ranch & Winery, Kent feels strongly about giving back to the local community that afforded him so many opportunities.”
Just as the grapes of Chankaska are forming a lineage of excellence, the Schwickert family line has fostered a legacy of hard work, passion and entrepreneurial fire. This spirit and flame continues with Kent Schwickert, proprietor of Chankaska Creek Ranch & Winery.
The Schwickert name may already be familiar to those in the Mankato and surrounding area. In 1906, Kent’s grandfather, George Schwickert, established Schwickert Hardware in Waterville, Minnesota. With sound business practice, it prospered and is presently a leading facility systems contractor in the Midwest. Kent followed in his father and grandfather’s footsteps to boldly lead the Schwickert Companies, along with his brother, Kim, into the next generation.
Born and raised in Mankato, Kent graduated from Mankato West High School in 1977. He left Mankato for college, simultaneously attending Dunwoody Technical Institute and the University of Minnesota, both in Minneapolis, MN. He graduated from each respective institution, receiving a BA Degree in Economics and Finance from the U of M in 1982.
Since his return to Mankato in 1982, Kent has devoted his career to helping build the family business. His efforts were so successful that in 2000, the business became a founding company of Tecta America Corporation, a national provider for roofing services. Whatever venture he is involved in, Kent strives to not only provide excellence, but also broaden the scope and reach of the business.
This passion and zeal for business extends to Kent’s work with Chankaska Creek Ranch & Winery. Here, he can utilize the combination of his entrepreneurial drive, business acumen and also foster a deep connection to the Southern Minnesota ground on which he was raised. He loves the duality and challenge of balancing the diverse and special needs of both companies he represents.
Just as the roots of the grape vines yield something beautiful to share with the community, Kent is adamant about establishing strong roots in the surrounding area and giving back time and resources to the community he cherishes. He sits on a number of local Boards and Advisory positions. He also actively seeks out philanthropic ventures for both businesses to partner with as a means of strengthening the community he loves.
Kent is married to Jane Haldorson-Schwickert, also an active partner in, and general manager of Chankaska Creek Ranch & Winery. He has two grown children, Ian and Greta. He feels fortunate to be able to take his family with him on the journey to making Chankaska one of the most prominent wineries in the Midwest.
Our General Manager
“Coming from a background that is as unique and diversified as our wines and spirits, Jane Schwickert adds an irreplaceable note of creativity and organization to Chankaska Creek Ranch & Winery as our General Manager.”
Coming from a background that is as unique and diversified as our wines and spirits, Jane Schwickert adds an irreplaceable note of creativity and organization to Chankaska Creek Ranch & Winery as our General Manager. Present from the very inception of our winery, Jane is a shareholder and partnered with our chief manager, her husband, Kent. Together, they share the dream and mission of making Chankaska one of the most prominent wineries in the Midwest.
Jane draws from the experience of several roles to compliment her management style at Chankaska. She is the mother to two wonderful children whom she is proud to involve in the business to give them ‘real world’ experience. She is the wife of an incredibly busy entrepreneur and joins him in strategically bringing their dreams to fruition. She is a former registered nurse and the sense of order, systems management and compassion she learned from this occupation is utilized at Chankaska daily!
Like her husband, Jane is also a community activist, wanting to give back to projects that will make her community stronger and healthier. And, of course, Jane is a wine connoisseur, and uses her distinguished palate to influence the wine offerings at Chankaska. She loves keeping ahead of industry trends in the wine world to ensure that Chankaska offerings are current and relevant.
Believing that to truly offer a well-rounded variety of wines, one must pull from a variety of experiences, Jane is proud to have visited over 100 wineries both at home and abroad. She has a distinct passion for adventure and travel and uses this exposure to enrich the Chankaska experience for our guests.
Jane’s leadership skills, creativity, proficiency, and her knowledge of the community, are employed every day as she manages four teams and over 30 staff members. In a world of wine that is typically dominated by men she is proud to represent her fellow sisters in this business. She feels strongly about affording future opportunities to women who wish to be involved in the exciting wine world of the future!
Assistant Winemaker and General Manager of Precision Wine Bottling
“As a part of our Winemaking team, we look forward to many years of his growth and personal success as Alex takes Chankaska and Precision Wine Bottling to new heights.”
Alex is no stranger to the Midwest. A native Nebraskan, Alex grew up in a 5th Generation farming family. It was not until his Fermented Foods course at the University of Nebraska that he considered wine as a career. After graduating with a degree in Microbiology and Minors in Biochemistry, Economics and Business, Alex decided to take an internship in Wine Research with E & J Gallo Winery. After his first harvest, he asked what he should do next to continue his budding career in wine. He was pointed in the direction of premium wine. In Napa with Beringer Estates for a vintage he had the opportunity to then go to a sister winery in Australia. At Penfolds, he gained valuable experience in not just another country but with varieties and styles not necessarily as prevalent in the States.
Alex joins Chankasaka with a thirst for knowledge and excitement in making wines and spirits from the land they are grown. As a part of our Winemaking team, we look forward to many years of his growth and personal success as Alex takes Chankaska and Precision Wine Bottling to new heights.
Our Minnesota Distribution Sales Manager
“In his role as Minnesota Distribution Sales Manager, Nick carefully farms and builds lasting relationships with over 300 accounts in the state that carry Chankaska Wines.”
To fulfill Chankaska’s dream of extending the reach of our wine’s exposure and availability, we needed an exceptional talent to take our message, mission and wine to the masses! We found that in Nick Paterson. In his role as Minnesota Distribution Sales Manager, Nick carefully farms and builds lasting relationships with over 300 accounts in the state that carry Chankaska Wines.
Nick is home grown! He was born and raised in the Mankato area and graduated from Mankato West High School in 2001. After graduation he moved to Phoenix Arizona to pursue a business degree at Arizona State University. Working in the highly competitive golf industry, Nick honed his skills at building relationships and working as a team.
Chankaska Creek Ranch and Winery originally hired Nick on a part-time basis in 2013 to begin the distribution of our wines in Minnesota. He took to the position right away and was promoted to a full-time position to continue building accounts throughout the state. Since then, he has acquired over 150 accounts and helped get Chankaska's distribution to nearly 300 accounts statewide in liquor stores, restaurants, hotels, resorts, golf courses and professional sport arenas.
Nick loves that the world of wine is fast paced, sophisticated and constantly evolving. It allows him to utilize his creativity and know that there will always be room to grow with the opportunities the wine industry affords him. Building relationships with accounts based on respect, honesty and incredible customer service are his paramount business values. He is proud to play a role in elevating the exposure of Chankaska wines throughout the country.
Our Tasting Room Manager
“With Chankaska from the very beginning, Kelsey Long’s role as Tasting Room Manager includes guiding our guests through the sensory journey of experiencing our wines, and helping to educate our team on the story behind each vintage.”
With Chankaska from the very beginning, Kelsey Long’s role as our Tasting Room Manager has grown and flourished as much as our wines! Her journey began with us behind the Tasting Room bar. It was in this position that she learned and began to appreciate the power that wine has to draw people together as they commemorate special occasions. To witness the public choosing Chankaska to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, the birth of babies, and friendships truly touched her. In turn, she made a habit of striving to make each experience unique, educational, and memorable for guests in our Tasting Room.
Kelsey and her family reside in Mankato and can’t think of a better place to raise their daughter, Tenley! Together they enjoy the incredible outdoor activities that this area has to offer and the stunning scenery of the Southern Minnesota River Valley. She loves relaxing with her family outdoors on beautiful summer nights and enjoying a glass of her favorite Chankaska wine, Four Oak Red.
Beyond the extensive responsibilities of Tasting Room Manager, Kelsey also plays an integral role in educating the rest of the staff about each wine. She has helped to create a strong culture of knowledge at Chankaska that empowers the staff to make intelligent recommendations to our guests. Kelsey is adamant that an educated guest will have an enhanced appreciation and enjoyment of the wine and spirits they purchase.
In her role, there is nothing Kelsey loves more than guiding our guests through the sensory journey of experiencing our wines and helping to educate the team on the story behind each vintage. Chankaska is proud to have such a wonderful educator who is passionate about the experience our guests have when they visit our Tasting Room!