Fine wines

By - Jun 1st, 2009 08:25 am
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Cedar Creek Winery’s vineyards in Prairie du Sac. Photo courtesy Cedar Creek

Summer is blooming at last. The festivals and music are about to begin. Calendars are open; adventures are ready to be plotted out. It’s time for romance, getaways, gatherings with family and friends. The change of season brings certain cravings. Why not savor a good wine? What is your fancy? Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Sangria perhaps? Cabernet, Merlot or Mead? Not sure which is which, or what your taste in wine is? This is the year to discover; this is the summer to become an expert. Wisconsin offers many vineyards and wineries all around the state and the ones in this article you can even buy at any Outpost.

Though known for our dairy, Wisconsin also has a rich wine history dating back to the 1840s. Hungarian Count Agoston Haraszthy began his vineyards in Prairie du Sac on the land that is now Wollersheim Winery. In 1849, after a few brutal winters and ruined vines, he left to seek his fortune in the Gold Rush and became known as the founder of the California wine industry.

The land he left behind was operated as a regular crop farm for many decades, but was restored to a winery in 1972 by Robert (a rocket scientist at UW-Madison) and his wife JoAnn Wollersheim. Not long after, a French winemaker from the Beaujolais region, Phillipe Coquard, joined the Wollersheims in business and has been making wine here ever since.

In 1990, Wollersheim purchased Cedar Creek Winery in Cedarburg, resulting in a greater variety of wines on offer at each location. Wollersheim has grown from producing 15,000 gallons in 1987 to more than 250,000 at present.

Steve Danner is the general manager of Cedar Creek Winery and is very proud of the intimate relationship Cedar Creek has with growers both in-state and out. He says about one quarter of their grapes and other fruit are grown locally. Many of the growers are longtime friends or business associates, going back decades. Even when farmers are out of state, like in Washington, there is a close relationship between the growers and the wineries.

“We visit the farms at least once a year, and come harvest-time in September, we are on the phone every day, getting weather reports, step by step information and consultation on when the grapes will be picked. We don’t just buy grapes from our farmer, she grows them for us,” says Danner.

Danner offers this recommendation for summer: The Strawberry Blush, released on May 15, which is one of their most popular wines because, Danner claims, it goes with everything. “It’s crisp, refreshing and tastes like a handful of strawberries,” he says. Loyal customers love to stock up on it so much they have in previous years run out by July or August. We also spoke of an autumn variety, their Spiced Wine, which Danner says is excellent mulled. Danner said this wine has become popular in the summer now too, because people love to camp with this one. He offers their Sangria recipe for summer:

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The Cedar Creek Winery in Cedarburg. Photo courtesy Cedar Creek

Cedarburg Sangria

1 bottle Cedarburg Spice wine
2 Cups white soda
1 Cup fruit juice (orange, cranberry, pineapple, white grape, or your choice)

Mix all together. Serve over ice, and garnish with fresh fruit slices (strawberries, oranges/lemons/kiwis).

Danner recommends the Old Mill Red for pizza, burgers and brats and he raves about the new un-oaked Chardonnay, which debuted May 16. Danner explains that oak barrels can sometimes interfere with the crisp taste of the grape so this wine has been stored in cool stainless-steel instead. This allows the palette to experience the apple/lemon character of the grape. He predicts this new emerging style of wine will be a big success.

Both locations offer private after-hour tours and wine-tastings. Visiting either Wollersheim, in Prairie du Sac, or Cedar Creek, in Cedarburg, can easily be a day-trip for southeast Wisconsinites, or it could turn into a weekend getaway. Cedarburg is brimming with antique stores and restaurants. The Washington House Inn <www.washingtonhouseinn.com> and The Stage Coach Inn <www.stagecoach-inn-wi.com> will make you feel like you got away from the city, and have traveled back in time.

Cedarburg celebrates its famous Strawberry Festival June 27th and 28th. Wollersheim Winery hosts the ever popular, Fumé Picnic Days, where you bring your own food and checkered blankets but enjoy music, kid games and, of course, good wine. The focus of this event is really family oriented.

But if you are looking for something more adult and catered toward a little decadence with your girlfriends (sorry, guys) you won’t want to miss the Ladies of the Vine Festival on July 11, hosted by Von Stiehl Winery in Algoma, 35 minutes east of Green Bay. For the $30 admission price, ladies will get a commemorative Ladies of the Vine glass, two fill-ups, a chocolate truffle and a 15-minute massage. There’s food and live music (The Mango Bros and Janet Macklin) as well as salsa, ballroom and possibly zumba lessons and, of course, the opportunity to shop with vendors that will line an entire closed street.

Von Stiehl General Manager, Sallie Marquardt said Ladies of the Vine has gathered quick momentum. The idea began with just 48 girls wanting to have fun, and grew to 500 attendees at their first festival last year. For more details about the festival call 800-955-5208 or visit their web site at www.vonstiehl.com.

Von Stiehl is Wisconsin’s oldest licensed winery and was founded in 1967 by Dr. Charles Stiehl, creator of Door County’s famous cherry wine. But over three generations later, Von Stiehl now boasts other award-winning varieties – 29 in all, from Rieslings to Merlots. Its loyal following often praises them for having a wine for everyone and its Stoney Creek Blush has been very popular throughout the years. Marquardt says people used to sign up for the two-bottle annual quota of the label, and says they now produce about 350 cases a year.

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Attendees enjoy the Ladies of the Vine Festival at Von Stiehl Winery in Algoma. Photo courtesy Mike Peters, Open Mind Photography

The number one seller is the wine they created especially for the Ladies of Vine Festival. Named Naughty Girls, it is described as a Petite Sirah with a twist of black raspberry. The winery grows all its own fruit and the owners recently opened a sister winery, Captain’s Walk, in Green Bay. You can find them at www.captainswalkwinery.com or (920) 431-WALK.

In the same area, you’ll find Stone’s Throw Winery of Door County. They have been featured on the Food Network, Fine Living Network … specifically on Food Finds, which profiles local, specialty vendors. Stone Throw’s wines can be sampled on June 27 as the winery celebratez Festa Italiana, and on July 18 and Aug. 15 when it hosts its Summer Concerts in the Vineyard.

If you want to try an award–winning drink, more unusual perhaps, but with a rich history, consider White Winter Winery’s many mead and cider varieties. Mead is a honey, yeast and water drink. As far back as Renaissance times, mead was a traditional gift to newlyweds, symbolizing a fruitful marriage. Mead is like wine in that it ranges from very sweet and fruity to dry in taste.

White Winter Winery is proud of its sustainability efforts, sourcing the rich local honey and fruits and therefore cutting down their carbon footprint by not transporting ingredients across the country. They proudly feature their seven growers on their web site, www/whitewinter.com. Outdoorsy types could combine a winery visit with a fun vacation; the winery is located in the Iron River area, close to the Apostle Islands <www.apostleislands.com>. The Iron River Summer Fest is June 15 and the Iron River Blueberry Festival is July 26.

Visiting these great places, all rich with a flavor of history and good tasting things should provide you with endless adventure this summer. Enjoy the tastes of the season. Drink, be merry, be safe and tell them we sent you. Cheers!

For a complete list of Wisconsin’s wineries, their daily tours, special events, and maps, visit www.wiswine.com.

Keep the wine, lose the headache?

You would love to savor a pour of Malbec after dinner, but wave the waiter away because you can’t handle the sinus pressure and headache that always seems to be served with it. Sound familiar? Well, some say you can have your glass and drink it — if you switch to an organic label.

The sulfites in wine are blamed for the pesky and unpleasant side effects that some wine drinkers experience, and if a label bears the USDA organic seal, the wine must not contain added sulfites.

But you need to know what to look for on the label, because sulfites are naturally occurring, and “organically-grown” and “organic” do not mean the same thing.

Jim Surwillo, Beer & Wine Coordinator at Outpost, offers this advice:

At Outpost, we have three “levels” of wine.

1. All Natural – Chemicals or other artificial crop-growing compounds are used in the raising of the grapes. While vineyards which use these methods claim that none of these compounds end up in the wine, other parties say that some small percentage do in fact end up in the glass of their drinkers.

2. Organically-Grown – The vintners of these wines use no chemicals or artificial compounds to grow their grapes, but to protect the grapes (and the wine) after the grapes are picked, these vintners add sulfites. Sulfites are a natural preservative, acting as an anti-mold and anti-fungal agent.  If you look at a wine label for both all-natural and organically-grown wines, you will see a warning: “Contains Sulfites.”  If a wine has more than 10 parts per million (ppms) sulfite content, the label must bear this warning.

3. Organic –  This is wine grown without the use of any artificial compounds or chemicals, and to put organic on the label, vintners must not add sulfites at all. 

Perhaps 99% of all wines made in the world are either from category one or two above, and it could be estimated that only two percent of wineries are certified to grow their grapes organically. 

Outpost has the largest selection of organic (category #3) wines in Southeast Wisconsin, possibly the entire state. We actually have more organic wines (about 20) than organically-grown wines. The organic wines that we sell include Frey wines from California, LaRocca wines, also from California, Badger Mountain wines (no not from Wisconsin, but from Washington state), and Nevada County/Orlean Hills wines from California (one winery with two different labels). Most of these organic wines contain levels of sulfites varying from not detectable to about 3 ppm sulfites, but it must be remembered that sulfites are naturally occurring, and minute amounts do occur in the wine during fermentation.

By Shannon Sloan Spice

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2 thoughts on “Fine wines”

  1. Sarah Morgan says:

    I recommend Trout Springs Winery in greenleaf WI. http://www.troutspringswinery.com/It's smaller but has a wonderful tasting room with some great appetizer pairings. The patio is also a nice place to sit and relax, drink some wine and share an appetizer. And of course there are trout!

  2. Jen Clearwater says:

    Stone’s Throw Winery is one of the best in the state! If you haven’t tried “Uncle Gino’s Vino” this Cabernet snob highly recommends it, and you can pick it up at some local shops (like Shopko Express in Port Washington) without making the trek to Door County. Uncle Gino’s Vino is a table red with this terrific peppery influence that lingers long after each sip. Delish!

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