By Steve White, Grand Island Bureau Chief - bio | email
"We're looking at a Phoenix in the ashes right now, and hope a year from now we'll be back bigger and better than ever."
Now, 345 days after he spoke those words, Mick McDowell and his wife Loretta place wine bottles on the racks at Miletta Vista, the winery they built and then rebuilt in part because of overwhelming encouragement.
"When people would recognize me at the store, they'd ask 'when are you going to open,'" Loretta said.
Open for just four and a half years, the winery north of St. Paul built a loyal following, that pushed them to give it another shot.
"Those things keep that spark of a dream alive," Mick said.
"I think that played into our decision," Loretta added.
Photos from a year ago show the fireball that passers-by saw, as they alerted the McDowells and got help.
The fire cost them more than their business, but Mick's real estate office and their home.
He said, "It really does turn your life upside down."
And it took away their ability to produce wines with names like Workhorse.
"After the fire we were three weeks away from harvest and had no tanks, no chiller units. Nick and Kristen (from Central City)-- really appreciate the help they gave us," Mick said.
Friends in Nebraska's small but growing wine industry pitched in.
And it gave the McDowell's an opportunity to expand with more seating and an area for retreats and business meetings.
"A way to recharge themselves, way to recharge the staff and we think the view on the North Loup river gives them the opportunity," Mick explained.
It may not be California's Napa Valley, but has wines that have been judged to be just as good, paired with a picture perfect view.
Mick said, "It really makes you proud to know we created something people want to come to from central Nebraska, central Illinois, or Napa Valley."
Loretta says it's actually nice to be ordering office supplies and scheduling staff, because that means they're not dealing with contractors but settling into a routine.
They are doing a "soft open" now, with a grand opening planned for July.