The wonderful husband and wife winemaking team of Steve Johnson and Maria Milano at Parallel 44 in Kewaunee are ready to welcome area oenophiles to their 4th Annual Frozen Tundra Wine Festival on Saturday February 23rd.
I spent time with Maria discussing how the rough 2012 growing season affected their wines and what 2013 may bring. That was for the radio side of things.
But more on the event, which is located at Parallel 44 Vineyards on N2185 Sleepy Hollow Road in Kewaunee. It runs from Noon until 6 p.m.
It costs $10 per person, which gets you a wine glass, tastings of their 13 wines, free live music, tours of the vineyard every hour, and other vendors offering samples of their products. There will also be food available for purchase.
Its outdoors, so Milano says, "dress hearty."
Hearty is a word mentioned a lot there, especially when it comes to their vines. The vines need to be, to survive not just a crazy weather year, but every winter in Wisconsin.
These are grapes are different than the vitis vinifera (like cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, etc.) you may be used to. Those tend to struggle with rough Badger State winters.
Vinifera hybrids are what's grown on the 10 acres in Kewaunee County that Steve and Maria oversee. Grapes like Frontenac, Marechal Foch, La Crosse and St. Pepin are the fruits which you'll see on the vines (when it's a bit warmer).
But combined with winemaking techniques, the end result can be every bit as exciting and tasty as what is grown in other states.
Maria says among the featured grows this year are:
- 3 Frozen Tundra Wines (Rose, Red and White) = The rose and red are made from Frontenac, while the white is a blend of Frontenac Gris and La Crescent. The red is a deep bold wine, rose is crisp (like a rose should be), while the white has a lot of peach and tropical fruits with a hint of honey.
- St. Pepin Late Harvest Wine = Maria says last year, they made their St. Pepin into an ice wine. This year, they went the late harvest route. Beautiful dessert wine with flavors of honey, vanilla and peach.
- Frontenac Dessert (Port-style) = It's a hat tip to the big chocolate, cherry flavor ports. 17 to 18 percent alcohol and fruit forward.
- Rosso = Maria says it's a medium-bodied red made from the Marechal Foch grape. Lots of berry and cherry flavors in a fruit-forward wine.
- Glacier Red and Glacier White = Maria tells me these are Parallel 44's answer to the Bordeaux-style of winemaking. It's the best of everything the vineyard has to offer. Both are complex wines, with the red giving more of that Bordeaux feel of currant flavor and earthy tones.