We recently went on a little day trip of Wollersheim Winery in Prairie du Sac. It is such a charming place, and it was so nice to go with Jenn and Mike! What a fun couple!
First of all, the tour was wonderful. I learned so much about the land in Wisconsin and how treacherous the winters can be for grapes. In the mid 1840s, the first landowner thought the slopes of the land would be perfect for grapevines, but he underestimated the harsh weather. That guy, Agoston Haraszthy, ended up moving to California to become the founder of the California wine industry!
Read: Wollersheim wins wine of the year at San Diego International Wine Competition
There was one more winemaker-owner before the Wollersheim family took over. And from there, the story just gets more fascinating.
Bob Wollersheim was a UW grad who had a passion for wine. When he and his wife bought the land in the 70s, they started experimenting with grapevines and tried to figure out which ones could survive the cold climate. They invited a young man from France on an agriculture exchange. Philippe Coquard came from a long line of winemakers, but instead of staying only a few months, he fell in love with Bob's daughter Julie.
Read Philippe's story
These days, Philippe and Julie can be seen working around the winery. We happened to see Philippe getting ready for the harvest on the day of our tour. Jenn bravely approached him and introduced us! He was very gracious, and even gave us a quick, private tour of the facility! We had a chance to drink some port and brandy - which is very exciting because the brandy is a new addition. Not only did Philippe advocate to change distilling practices in the state, he is also doing something never done before...by using all-Wisconsin products. He's using Wisconsin wood for the barrels, against the advice of people who said it wouldn't work, and he's surprising them all with its rich flavor!
RSVP for the Brandy Party
The one thing I didn't get to taste was the ice wine. It's a seasonal wine that had already sold out before our tour, however, I just learned ice wine is again available right now! In case you wanted to know, it's the sweetest of all of them... best paired with dessert!
I have to be honest - I've been to Napa, and in many ways, this is a better experience. It's more personal, and the wine is just as good! I love the innovation that's happening in order to produce Wisconsin wine. To see a Frenchman go out of his way to use all-Wisconsin products shows a real respect for the people and the land.
If you want something to do, this is a great tour and a really neat Wisconsin experience. You can bring a little picnic and eat your lunch with a glass (or two) of wine! I highly recommend ordering a wine flight and comparing notes. Then, order a bottle of wine and sit by the grapevines. I was pleasantly surprised at what a great experience we had. The wine was quite good, and our company was even better!
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is my opinion only, and I don't get any perks from it. We all paid for our tours and our wine and made no announcement that we were going to visit the winery. It's just a real-life experience of learning about Wisconsin's coolness. Speaking of which, if you have any good tips, please share them! @MichelleLiTV