Like much of the Midwest, Wollersheim Winery and Distillery experienced some of the coldest air in recent memory when the temperatures fell far below zero, putting strain on both the vines and crew alike.

The temperatures were the coldest in a generation according to local news outlets.

“We are becoming extremely concerned with these cold temperatures,” said Wollersheim’s Winemaker, Philippe during the prolonged cold stretch. “One night exposure to temperatures like this might do some damage, but this extended period of bitter temperatures will certainly create issues.”

While making wine and growing fruit has never been a simple task in the Badger State, the Polar Vortex brought with it temperatures that were extremely cold, even by Wisconsin’s frozen tundra standards.

Temperatures on Sugarloaf Bluff plummeted to below -30 degrees F with a windchill factor of below -50 degrees F. While the vines within Wollersheim’s vineyards are winter hardy and are built for Wisconsin’s winters, these temperatures are even beyond the natural limits of our French-American hybrids.

Pruning and proper vine management are critical to a successful vineyard, but become ever more important when the vines are tested as they have been this winter.

“It is highly likely that we will see a 30 – 35% bud loss due to this historic cold snap, if not more,” stated Philippe. “We will have to adjust our pruning, leaving more buds to minimize our losses.”

Thankfully the Polar Vortex has now subsided and warmer temperatures are on the way. It will be a couple of weeks before the crews at Wollersheim test the vines in order to see just how much damage was done by this recent weather phenomenon, but it isn’t the first, and it certainly won’t be the last hurdle they overcome as Wisconsin grape growers.

“Our vines are hardy to -30 degrees for the most part and the snow cover should be good for some insulation,” said Céline Coquard-Lenerz, Wollersheim’s Enologist and 14th generation winemaker. “Challenges like this obviously aren’t easy or ideal, but it makes it that much more rewarding to capture the sunshine of each and every vintage.”

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