Distilling is hardly a new process at Wollersheim. In fact, distilling on the winery’s property dates back to the late 1800s, when Jacob Kehl, the son of Peter Kehl (the winery’s second owner), started making brandy alongside the wine. The brandy was used to fortify the wine—much like with Port wines—acting as a preservative, and allowing it to be shipped and sold as far away as Maine.
Many years later, in the 1980s, Wollersheim Winery founder Bob Wollersheim dreamed of resuming brandy production at the winery. He shared this dream with his son-in-law Philippe, Wollersheim Winery’s winemaker. Unfortunately, due to regulations after Prohibition, Wisconsin wineries were not allowed to distill, and so the brandy dream was put on hold.
State law changed in 2009, allowing wineries to start distilling again. The winery purchased a copper pot still and started making Coquard Brandy not long after, reawakening the tradition of distilling at the property. Brandy was a natural fit as Wollersheim Winery’s first distilled product.
For one, brandy is made by distilling wine and aging it in oak barrels. For another, Winemaker Philippe has a lifelong love of Cognac, a particular type of grape brandy from France. His goal was to make the Coquard Brandy a Cognac-style brandy, best for sipping. The first batch of Coquard Brandy was released in 2013 and sold out in a matter of weeks.
Wollersheim Distillery continues to make Coquard Brandy alongside a variety of other family-crafted spirits, including several brandies, gin, and absinthe. Distiller Tom Lenerz has also crafted whiskey and bourbon, which are aging in barrels and will be released when deemed ready. Our barrel room is engineered to use Wisconsin’s weather changes to create the best conditions for maturation. Because we will not use distilled spirits from other producers, it can take one, two, even four or more years before our spirits are ready to enjoy. When it comes to maturing spirits, there is no substitute for time. Our approach of allowing spirits to rest in a barrel may take longer, but it is well worth the wait.
The Wisconsin riverside bluff on which we’ve built our distillery was first planted with grapevines in the 1840s, establishing the estate as a premier winery in the region. Historical records also reveal a tradition of brandy making, which we proudly carry forward by fermenting and distilling on-site all of our family-crafted spirits featuring Wisconsin-grown ingredients.
The distillery store features all of our Wollersheim spirits, and a variety of glassware and gift items. We offer a fine selection of Wisconsin cheeses, unique food items, gift boxes and a variety of distillery apparel.