Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The United Grapes of America - Wisconsin - Wollersheim Winery Domaine du Sac

It's difficult to procure wines from across the United States; you either need to travel or pay shipping fees. But fortunately through the virtues of Protocol Wine Studio's #WineStudio twitter forum (focusing on The Independent Spirit | Wines of the USA), I was able to receive a Wisconsin wine from Wollersheim Winery. This was their 2013 Domaine du Sac ($14), a blend of French-hybrids Marechal Foch (90%) and Leon Millot (10%) from the Lake Wisconsin AVA. There are actual two AVAs (Lake Wisconsin and Wisconsin Ledge) within the Badger state as well as parts of the Upper Mississippi River Valley AVA which spans parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin,  Illinois, and Iowa.

Wollersheim has a compelling history. The land was orginally planted with vines by Agoston Haraszthy in the 1840's. You may recall that Haraszthy would become the Father of California Viticulture by introducing more than three hundred varieties of European grapes and founding Sonoma's Buena Vista Vineyards - with Charles Krug as the winemaker. According to wikipedia, Haraszthy is also "remembered in Wisconsin as the founder of the oldest incorporated village in the state. He also operated the first commercial steamboat on the upper Mississippi River". One fact I never knew is that he died in Nicaragua while trying to develop a sugar plantation and rum distillery.

In 1972 Bob and JoAnn Wollersheim purchased the former Haraszthy Wisconsin property from the Kehl family who had possessed the land since Haraszthy sold it to Peter Kehl, his original vineyard manager. In 1899, a bitter frost destroyed the grape vines and the farm was converted to dairy and livestock. The Wollersheim's replanted grape vines immediately, soon opened the winery, and in 1985, hired the current winemaker Philippe Coquard. In the 1970's, Wollersheim experimented with viniferia varieties based on advice from Dr. Konstantin Frank and Hermann J. Wiemer - with no long term success. Today the winery has 27 acres of hybrids and native labrusca grapes - mostly Marechal Foch, as well as Leon Millot, St. Pepin & La Crosse. 

The United Grapes of America The United Grapes of America
The  2013 Domaine du Sac is made in the Beaujolais style - cold soak and whole berry fermentation in order to express the grape character without the stem and seed tannins. The wine spends five months aging in American or French oak before bottling. The result is a juicy blackberry-blueberry flavored wine with a wet barnyard earthy aroma; finishing with a spicy, acidic character. And there are still a few tannins to balance the wine - and it is balanced. To a few of us, the wine resembled an Austrian Zweigelt - not bad for a Foch wine. Pair with Wisconsin's Bon Iver. Cheers.

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