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Ice Wine release offers taste of exclusivity at Wollersheim
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Ice Wine release offers taste of exclusivity at Wollersheim

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Wollersheim Winery is known for its robust variety of wines – from its dry, red Domaine Reserve to white, sweet River Gold.

But the wine du jour Oct. 6 at the family-owned and operated facility was its locally favored Ice Wine. People from all over the state were on hand to celebrate the release of Wollersheim’s 2015 vintage Ice Wine, complete with fall colors, horse-drawn wagon rides through the vineyard, wine sampling, vineyard tours and more.

According to Wollersheim winemaker Phillipe Coquard, Ice Wine was discovered around the time of World War II, because soldiers were off fighting and the grapes stayed on the vines until much later in the season.

“Ice wine is frozen on the vine and is picked and pressed frozen,” Coqaurd said. “I stress this because some wineries cheat – some freeze their grapes in a freezer and that’s not (true ice wine). True ice wine has to be grapes frozen on the vine and pressed frozen.”

Coquard said workers picked last year’s grapes at 5:30 a.m. with headlamps. “If we waited too much longer the temperature would have been too warm for us to pick them,” said Julie Coquard.

The perfect temperature to pick the grapes for ice wine is 12-15 degrees Fahrenheit. The grapes typically are picked in November and December.

The grapes are then taken from the field and crushed and pressed. “We collect juice that is as sweet and tick and maple syrup,” Phillipe said. “Then it ferments for 4-6 weeks and we end up with our ice wine.”

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Phillipe Coquard said until recently, Germany had been the leader in making ice wine. However, warmer temperatures have meant no frozen grape harvests there. Coquard said Germany has produced an ice wine only once in the past 10 years. “Now the world leader is Ontario, Canada – the Great Lakes region.”

Wollersheim has produced its Ice Wine every year but one since 2004. “In 2014, we didn’t have any grapes (for ice wine) so we didn’t have an ice wine release last year,” Julie Coquard said.

That could be why so many people turned up for this year’s event. Sheboygan resident Emily Wodach called the Ice Wine release “a tradition” for her and her father.

“We have been coming to the Ice Wine release here for years,” Wodach said. “It’s something my father and I always look forward to.”

Wodach was first introduced to Wollersheim at a cousin’s wedding, where Wollersheim wine was served. “That’s why we come here,” she said. “It reminds me of family.”

Wollersheim produces about 20 different wines, from ports to rieslings, and now operates a distillery as well. But, as Phillipe calls it, “Ice wine is a wine above all wines.”

Just a handful of wineries make authentic ice wines these days, which is what makes it so popular, and exclusive. “It’s something we want to be known for,” Phillipe Coquard said. “It’s rare.”

Even the grapes used in Wollersheim’s ice wine are local, Coquard said. It is grown on the estate using a grape native to Wisconsin, the St. Pepin.

“It’s completely different than other wines,” Coquard said of Wollersheim’s Ice Wine. “It’s the nectar of the vines.”

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