Winery Starts Its Winter Work

Photo courtesy of Wollersheim Winery and Distillery.

2020 was a great year for growing wine grapes… 2021 not so much. The growing season proved tough for the vines at Wollersheim Winery and Distillery in Prairie Du Sac.

The harvest is wrapped up, starting with brandy grapes in mid-August. Only the Ice Wine grapes remain on the vines until December. Winemaker and owner Philippe Coquard says the majority of the harvest happens between August and September.

In a season review of the summer and the harvest with the Mid-West Farm Report, Coquard explains the extremely wet and extremely dry weather throughout the 2021 growing season was an issue for grapes. But the good news is, the winery was spared from the late spring frost that had done damage in the northern part of the state.

Coquard says the biggest issue for grapes is in the spring of the year, when a polar vortex or late frost comes after warm weather has woken up the buds. Wollersheim Winery and Distillery has a solution for that — a wind machine. The machine mixes the warm air on top of the vineyard with the cool air on the bottom to keep temperatures a few degrees warmer when a damaging frost comes through.

But what about Wisconsin’s severe winter? Coquard says healthy grape vines do fine in the winter. He says if you have a weak vine, they will freeze when it gets 10 or 20 below in Wisconsin. That’s when vineyards would see winter kill. Wollersheim’s team will be preparing the vines to go into the cold season “in good health” by making sure the vines are clean, for example.

Just because the vines are not producing grapes during the winter, it doesn’t mean winemakers get to sleep. The fermentation processes of their wine and liquors are underway. They’ve got to produce more than 1 million bottles.

And speaking of bottling, Coquard says liquor sales and attendance this year have been great. The winery and distillery have seen extremely busy weekends. He says they welcome about 250,000 people per year. He adds guests have been understanding that the winery is short of staff like many other places. And he says he’s appreciative that people have been drawn to more local products during the pandemic, like wine, liquor and food, which has been good for the local winery.

In addition, Wollersheim is looking forward to its upcoming slate of new releases, new menus and the first taste of the 2021 vintage this month. The distillery is also releasing a new whiskey and a new bourbon.