Showing posts with label Wisconsin. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Wisconsin. Show all posts

Monday, March 23, 2015

Wine Country Wisconsin: Wollersheim Winery

When a young man leaves Beaujolais after wine school to travel to America and take an entry-level job at a winery, you might expect him to go to California. After all, the Golden State - as far as wine is concerned - is the France of the U.S. Second choice? New York, maybe. Or Oregon, or Washington. Possibly Virginia.

When Wollersheim Winery's winemaker, Philippe Coquard, came to the United States as an exchange student he chose Wisconsin. Over thirty years later he still considers it the best move of his life, and not just because he loves the Marechal Foch grape.

Coquard grew up in Beaujolais with twelve generations of winemakers preceding him in the family tree. Immediately after graduating from wine school, he traveled to Wisconsin as an exchange student. There, he hired on with Wollersheim, fell in love with the vintner’s daughter and got married. The rest, he says - without a hint of irony - is history.

The Wisconsin winemaker tells me, "Wisconsin is a bit colder than Beaujolais {!} but I use the same grape growing and cellar methods that I learned in France. It's the same approach I would use in Beaujolais with Gamay or Chardonnay grapes. Looking at wine globally, rather than regionally, he says "I could make wine anywhere using these techniques."

Marechal Foch - Coquard calls the grape “one of the most noble hybrids of all” - is “closer to a Côtes du Rhone than a Pinot Noir,” he says.  In fact, it has been around Europe a few times and thrives now in America’s cold Midwest.

In addition to Coquard's pet grape, the Wollersheim vineyards are full of French-American hybrids like Marquette, La Crosse, La Crescent and Frontenac. The winery was founded in 1847 by Agoston Haraszthy, a Hungarian who later founded one of California's first commercial wineries.  Wollersheim closed its doors for Prohibition and did not reopen until 1972.

Wollersheim does source some grapes from gentler climates - their Carignane comes from Lodi and they also buy grapes buy from Washington and New York. Aside from these outside grapes, everything they use comes from within a mile of the winery in Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin. The lion's share of the winery's production is distributed in-state, with about five percent ending up in the Chicago area.  Very little goes to the twelve states to which they ship.

The fine folks at Wollersheim kindly provided a sample of two of their home-grown wines for the Now And Zin Wine Country series.

Wollersheim Domaine Reserve 2013

This wine is a perfect example of why the winemaker has a favorite grape. Estate-grown - 95% Marechal Foch and 5% Millot - the Domaine Reserve shows the terroir of the Lake Wisconsin American Viticultural Area. The grapes are destemmed before crushing and the juice undergoes a long, warm fermentation. After twelve months of barrel aging in half American and half French oak, the wine has aging potential of five to ten years, according to the winery. Alcohol stands at 13.5% and it retails for $25. They have made this wine since 1976.

The winery says Domaine Reserve is "among the rare single-field wines, using only grapes from our oldest vines located on our steepest slopes."

Dark garnet color, the nose displays blackberry, plum, spices and herbs with an amazing, mouthwatering mocha angle. On the palate, there is dark berry, herbs, coffee, and a tart acidity to make this a great wine to have with dinner. The tannic structure gives the green light to beef, but its spicy side says pork.

Wollersheim Prairie Blush 2014

This deep pink semi-dry, dubbed "white Marechal Foch," is made completely of Wisconsin-grown Marechal Foch grapes. It gets a cold fermentation, with a natural residual sweetness achieved by stopping the fermentation. The winery advises we enjoy it young, within two years of bottling. It sells for $10 and carries an 11% alcohol content..

This blush - the Midwestern word for "rosé" - has a beautiful, ruby-red glow and a fresh-as-spring nose full of strawberry, raspberry and cherry aromas. The Wisconsin earth comes through as well, but does not overwhelm the fruit. The flavor is rather like a fruit salad, too, with good acidity on a palate that hits a step drier than the "off-dry" meter reading suggests. It goes great with cheese - in Wisconsin, it had better go great with cheese - and it is perfect for picnics.

You can hear my three-part interview with Coquard on the Now And Zin Wine Report: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Craft Beer From Milwaukee: Lakefront ESB Ale

Man does not live by wine alone - just ask a winemaker.  They'll tell you how important beer is.  Today, a bit about a craft beer from a town known more for its big breweries, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Lakefront Brewery proudly declares that their suds are "Brewed in Milwaukee for people who like beer."

A recent visit to Real Food Daily in Los Angeles put us in the belly of the organic beast.  Denise introduced me to the place years ago with the caveat, "Great food, just stay away from the bread products."  She is a person who knows her bread, so I took her word for it.  Everything else we have had there has been great - organic, healthy, vegetarian and tasty - even if seitan sounds more like something that wouldn't play with the Sunday School crowd.  Try the lentil pâté - it's to die for.

In keeping with the healthy surroundings, I scanned the organic wine list first, but was drawn to an organic beer, the Lakefront ESB Ale.  It cost $6 in a 12-ounce mug.

Lakefront bills this brew as "the country's oldest certified organic beer," made with organic malted barley and organic bravo hops.  It's a British-style ale - extra special bitter - and hits 5.8% abv on the alcohol meter.The beer pours up with a beautiful copper color and a light frothy head.  The nose is mainly citrus, owing to the hops, while the palate shows a great nutty character and has the bitter finish its initials promise.  Unlike organic bread, this organic beer fit the food perfectly and would serve very well on a shady porch after mowing the lawn or gardening.

Follow Randy Fuller on Twitter

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


Holy Spirits Wine

I'm sure you've heard the expression "God moves in mysterious ways."  There's a priest in Wisconsin who has devoted his life to proving that.

Father Domenic Roscioli makes wine.  Not the sacramental stuff they serve by the sip, but honest-to-god actual wine you can take home and serve with more than wafers.  Holy Spirits is the name of his company, and a portion of the profits go to charitable organizations in much the same way the Newman's Own brand, started by Paul Newman, benefits the Hole In the Wall Gang.  That group helps children with life-threatening illnesses.  Holy Spirits Wine benefits Next Step, for young adults who are in the same life-threatened boat.

Father Dom has long been a maker of homemade wine, like his father and grandfather before him.  He still makes wine in the same Wisconsin basement used for that purpose by his grandfather.

The padre has also given of his time for the Newman's Own charities in the past.  A little brainstorming with partner Jody Becker - the marketing maven behind the brand - tied his two passions together.  Now his wine hobby is raising money for good causes.

Holy Spirits produces, and markets, St. Valentine Pinot Noir, St. Patrick Pinot Grigio, St. Michael Zinfandel and Joan of Arc Chardonnay, among others.  Holy Spirits also has non-alcoholic gifts - including seasonings, spices and marinades - which are named for different religious figures just like the wine.  All eight of their wines sell for fifteen dollars per bottle, and a new "Guardian" line - with angels on the labels - will sell at the ten-dollar mark.

The wine is not made from Wisconsin grapes, but fruit from California.  Windsor Vineyards of Santa Rosa, California makes the private label wine for Holy Spirits.

For non-imbibers, Holy Spirits offers their St. Christopher non-alcoholic sparkler.  Since St. Christopher is the patron saint of travelers, Father Domenic refers to this alcohol-free drink as the "patron saint of designated drivers."

The Holy Spirits bottles are adorned with labels featuring beautiful artwork created by Zunda Design Group, who donates their services to the cause.

Father Dom truly believes the saints can come marching in - right into your home, as a matter of fact.  The fundraiser is on all the time.  The wine is sold in stores and restaurants around southeastern Wisconsin and online. 

Wine tasting events have replaced the old-fashioned bake sale as a means of raising money.  "The wine is working well as a fundraiser," Father Dom says.  "So well, in fact, that other parishes have come to us to get help raising money for charities. We've started a workshop to teach other parishes how to do what we do."