What a Year It Has Been!
At Wollersheim Winery, we often find ourselves adapting to the ever-changing nature of winemaking. This year has been no exception. As we reflect on the challenges and triumphs of the 2023 harvest season, it’s clear that “normal” is a concept we must redefine continually. We’ve witnessed extremes, from the heavy rains of 2017 and 2018 to the drought that defined this past year. Here’s a glimpse into our journey through the ups and downs of this season.
The Rollercoaster of Spring Weather
The year began, as it often does, with a sudden warm-up in April, bringing hope for a fruitful harvest. Buds began to awaken, swelling with promise. However, April 16th and 17th brought a dramatic turn of events: rain, snow, and a sudden freeze that dropped temperatures into the 20s, reaching as low as 23°F overnight. These once-promising buds turned into ice cubes despite our best efforts. Philippe, along with our vineyard manager, Bruce, and our vineyard team deployed all available equipment, from wind machines to heaters, but, unfortunately, we couldn’t prevent the damage.
Within a week, the reality became apparent: 70% of the bigger buds, especially those with three clusters (our primary buds), had succumbed to the freeze. This primarily affected our red grape varieties, such as Maréchal Foch. Fortunately, Millot, Marquette, and the white grapes fared better, with only a 30 to 40% loss on these varietals.
Even with fewer buds, the vineyard required our usual care, including fertilization, fungicide application, training, suckering, and combing.
The Drought Challenge
As if the frost weren’t enough, the month of May brought its own challenge—a drought. We found ourselves eight inches behind our usual rainfall levels. To ensure the health of our vines, we had to install, redo, and repair our drip irrigation system, which we started using around May 15th and continued until the end of September.
While a drier year can be beneficial for quality, it presented us with unique challenges. We ended up harvesting only one-third of our typical crop. However, the grapes we did harvest were of exceptional quality, boasting high sugar content, rich color, and complexity. We couldn’t be happier with the results.
The Winemaking Journey
With harvest season in full swing, we’ve been hard at work. We’ve completed the processing of Wisconsin-grown grapes and are eagerly awaiting more tanker deliveries of juice from Michigan and New York. Riesling from Washington is fermenting, and we’re eagerly anticipating the arrival of red grapes from California, including Carignan, Malbec, and Pinot Noir.
Notably, Philippe and Celine believe that Domaine Reserve and Domaine du Sac are of exceptional quality, ranking among the top 4 vintages. The white St. Pepin grapes, harvested for the new St. Pepin wine, were also of outstanding quality.
Additionally, the St. Pepin grapes destined for Ice Wine are still waiting on the vines, ready to be picked at the first deep freeze, most likely in December. We can’t wait to bring you this unique and luscious treat.
One more exciting development this year is our acquisition of Marquette grapes from the Viroqua area. We’re using them to craft a full-bodied Marquette wine for Cedar Creek, which will be barrel-aged. We’re genuinely excited about the potential of this wine and can’t wait to share it with you as it evolves.
Challenges in the Wine Industry
It’s essential to mention that the wine industry is facing unprecedented challenges this year. Consumption has dropped drastically, affecting wineries, vineyards, retailers, and distributors alike. Many American wineries, from Wisconsin to Washington state, are sitting on unpicked grapes with no buyers. We are fortunate to have diversified by including a Distillery and a Bistro in our offerings, which have helped us weather these challenging times.
A Grateful Note
We want to express our deepest gratitude to all of you for your loyal support. Please continue to enjoy our wines and consider sharing them as gifts with your friends and loved ones. Your support means the world to us, especially during these challenging times.
Thank you for being part of the Wollersheim Winery family.
The Wollersheim Winery Team