The Backup Grape Buds Save the Day!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Bob and Vines

So last week Wednesday during the wee hours of the morning, our vines were going through some tough weather.  The temperature in the vineyard dropped into the mid-twenties.  While the vines themselves can take that, young tender shoots are vulnerable.  Unfortunately, our vines had started to grow out their new shoots for this season.  The frost last week did definitely kill many young buds and shoots.  Frost events are not absolute, that is a vine might lose a certain percentage of young primary shoots to frost but still have a good deal of shoots that somehow don't get killed by frost.  (Don't ask me why. I don't understand either.  You would expect if it's cold enough to kill one shoot on a vine, all the other ones would die too, but they don't.  Don't get me wrong, I'm glad that it is not so absolute!) Some vines fared better than others, and we will see a drop in how many grapes we get this year from some parts of the vineyard.

That's the bad news.  The good news is that grapes, unlike cherry or apple trees have backups.  If a cherry tree is hit with a late spring frost, and all of the blossoms are killed by frost, its game over for that season - no cherries until next year.  If some of a grapevine's shoots are killed by a frost, the vine has two more buds right next to the dead shoot ready to go.  Those backup buds are like a baseball player on the bench ready to fill in should a starting player go down with an injury.  Just as in baseball, the backups aren't as good as the starter is typically.  Backup grape buds tend to have fewer and smaller flower clusters, and therefore yield less fruit.  That said, having a lesser backup is much better than having no backup!

The vines aren't the only ones with a plan for when the worst happens.  I too have employed strategy in anticipation of frost events.  When doing dormant pruning in winter I leave extra shoots and therefore buds on the vines.  In seasons where we don't get a late spring frost I have to remove those shoots or there would be too much fruit for the vine to handle.  In frost seasons like this one I tie down those shoots to help replace buds that were lost to frost.  While things might have looked downright dark last Wednesday morning, things will green up, the backup buds will start to push this week, I will tie down the backup canes, and we'll be off for the season, maybe a little beat up, but there will be grapes!

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What Do Red Poppies, American Flags, Parades, and Picnics All Have in Common?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


Memorial Day, a day of remembrance for those who have died in service of the United States of America. Customarily the last Monday in May, this day also marks the unofficial start of summer picnics and barbeques for many.

Memorial Day grew out of Decoration Day observances, which began after the Civil War. In those days, families gathered from far and wide at the end of May to visit cemeteries where lost soldiers had been laid to rest. They cleaned tombstones and "decorated" with planted flowers. Veterans' graves received special decoration with the placement of small American flags. After the somber visits, more joyful picnics and cookouts followed back at home. The symbolic tradition continues on today.

How do you typically spend your Memorial Day? Mine is usually spent with family and friends. We take an annual trip up to Jacksonport, Door County for Maifest. Among the parade, music, food, run, art fair, and activities, we make the trip to attend the horse pull, a hobby that extends many generations in my family.  The weekend is filled with Red Remembrance Poppies, American Flags, and a visit to my church's cemetery to watch the vets give their gun salute to the fallen soldiers. The scent of brats and burgers on the grill certainly cannot be missed.

Of course, we can't forget the wine. Parallel 44 wines are essential for all of your summer cookouts, parties, picnics, and more. Here's my list of the top 5 wines that are delicious and pair perfectly with the brats and burgers frying on the grill this weekend.

  1. Vin Du Nord- semi-sweet wine with a sweet cherry flavor, offers the fruit forward expression of a white wine and the nuanced complexity of a red
  2. Nouveau Rouge- semi-sweet red with notes of raspberry and strawberries that give way to a black cherry finish, flavor is slightly drier at room temperature and fruitier when chilled
  3. Frozen Tundra Original- sweet and tart expressions of bright cherry
  4. Frozen Tundra Red- semi-sweet red, begins with a cherry aroma and finishes with flavors of blackberry, currant, and plum
  5. Red Door- easy drinking dry red with earthy undertones, flavors of black cherries, and a smooth finish

Stop in this weekend to try these wines plus many more! We would love to be a part of your Memorial Day festivities.



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The Vines are Springing into Action

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Wine & Buds

Last night was a worrisome night for me as we got precipitously close to frost damage. I checked the temperature at the vineyard every 15 minutes from 2:00 a.m. to 6:00 a.m. It reached a low of 36.5 F at 5:40 a.m.  Until the vines were greeted by the rays of early morning sun light and the temperatures began to creep out of the danger zone.

Most visitors to our vineyard and winery are surprised to hear me say that I worry much more about the vines in May than I do when it is 25 below zero in January and February. These vines can withstand subzero temperatures quite well, but they don't' fare well when we have frost in early to mid-May.

Swelling Bud

Now that the buds have swelled and opened, the unfurling leaves are very prone to the killing impact of frost.  While a frost will not kill the vine, it will kill the primary bud which contains the clusters of fruit for this year's vintage.  This is devastating in two ways.  One is that we would have a very minimal crop, the second, is that the labor involved through the rest of season would need to continue but with no payoff of a vintage to harvest in September.

We dodged a bullet last night and it looks like we are probably in the clear for the rest of the season. Three years ago we suffered severe frost damage in May of 2012.  As I have said before, wine growing is farming and as a farmer you have to roll with the ups and downs of season variability.

So tonight as you enjoy a glass of wine from Parallel 44 and Door 44 join me with a toast of thanksgiving that 2015 looks to be on track for a terrific vintage.



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Happy Mother's Day... Wait that's this Weekend?

Tuesday, May 05, 2015


Originally my blog post for this week was going to be about spring and how the vines aren't the only ones enjoying this beautiful late spring. However, this morning as I was headed into work I heard an ad on the radio talking about Mother's Day and it hit me Mother's Day is this weekend. My previous idea was tossed out the window and this blog post has taken its place.

So what are you doing for Mother's Day? Are you taking mom out to lunch? Spending the day visiting her? Or if you're a mom are you sleeping in while the children make you breakfast in bed? There are so many different ways to celebrate mom and everything she's done for you over the years.

Hopefully you aren't like me and spend the week before Mother's Day scrambling to find something awesome for mom that shows just how much she means to you. This year, the first in many, is the first year I'm not scrambling to figure out what I'm going to be doing for my mom. But if you are struggling to find something for mom a bottle or 2 or 12 of her favorite wine would be a great idea or a year membership to our Wine Club, Club 44 always makes a great gift.

If you want to spend the day with mom, I would defiantly suggest a visit to Parallel 44 be added to your list of places to stop. Enjoy a wine tasting, a special Mother's Day wine and cheese pairing. While you visit you can also enjoy the wonderful weather while sipping a glass wine out on our patio and on Saturday take a complementary tour of our vineyard and winery to learn how her favorite wine goes from the vine to her glass.

However you decide to spend Mother's just remember that in the end it really doesn't matter what you end up doing on Mother's Day, as long as she gets to spend it with you she'll consider it to be a great day!



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The Wine that has Seen It All!

Wednesday, April 29, 2015


Nouveau Rouge is one of the few original wines that Parallel 44 still produces.  Thinking about Nouveau Rouge makes me feel nostalgic… I look back at the early years of 2007 when Parallel 44 first opened its tasting room doors.  Back then, I was one the primary people behind the tasting bar and so I had the great pleasure of meeting so many of our original customers.

After all the work and sometimes self- doubt about our decision to plant a vineyard and open a winery in Northeast Wisconsin, meeting so many of our amazing customers, and having them enjoy our wines, made it seem all worthwhile!

Nouveau Rouge with its sweet light fruity flavors became a quick favorite of many customers.  It was a pleasure talking to customers about this easy drinking wine. At one point, we considered removing Nouveau Rouge from our lineup.  This wine had so much customer support we decided it needed to be a Parallel 44 staple.

Since those early days, we have produced many new wines, however, Nouveau Rouge remains a favorite.  If you haven't tried it yet, I would encourage you to do so.  It is a wine that can be served at room temperature or chilled depending on your mood.  It can be enjoyed on its own, or is a red that can be served with lighter dishes such as chicken, seafood, green salads or pasta with white sauces.  Cheers!

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How will the world learn of and become fans of cold climate wines?

Monday, April 27, 2015


Even though wine may be growing in its popularity worldwide, and especially in the United States, it is also one of the most difficult products to market.  This is a highly opinionated topic for those of us in this industry.  I invite others opinions to this debate and here are some of what I have learned over the last eight years.

As I discussed in last week's blog, our stated goal has gone from producing "Wisconsin wine from ground to glass" to "We are committed to growing and producing world class wines that just happen to come from Wisconsin".  This may seem rather trivial way of saying the same thing, but I firmly believe in the mindset of the customer we are saying something dramatically different.  This evolution of thought comes about from my experience and is now being confirmed by studies of tasting room customers and wine drinkers from the Midwest and across the nation.

This shift in mindset is an acknowledgment of frustration with myself, the industry, and the closed mindedness of many in the wine drinking establishment.  As for myself and the industry, we have been too caught up in the technical explanation or sometimes excuses for the wines being produced from this part of the world.  While I believe it is exciting to talk about how these varietals are, in essence, brand new to the world of wine, many wine customers heads start to spin when we talk about the nuances of varietals like St. Pepin, Frontenac Gris, and Marquette.  In other words, we talked about our varietals like California talks about their Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, and in the process we end up saying things like "This Lacrescent tastes like a Reisling."  First, many do not care what the varietal is and just want an excellent wine, but second, and more importantly, this type of statement sends a subliminal message that cold climate varietals are like "junior" wines or "wanna be" wines to California wines.  This just is not true, as many of the wines from this part of the world are winning national competitions where they outscore the vinifera varieties from well-established wine regions.

The second criticism of ourselves and the industry is that we need to get even better at what we do.  As I noted in my blog last week, many in the Midwest wine industry have relied on the popularity of wine tourism to start their wineries and have relied on this growing novelty as their strategy to success.  This however is misplaced, as I strongly believe there is too much poor quality wine being produced in our state.  We just can't rely on tourism to drive our business if we are not committed to excellence, quality, and a focus on a wine style or brand that drives national interest in our product.

As for the wine drinking establishment, my frustration lies in often an elitist mindset of some that the only good wine is Cabernet, Chardonnay, or Pinot Noir.  Some of it is due to lack of knowledge, but some is due to an attitude that has more to do with their own image or pride in being a "wine snob".  Once quality is established, there is no reason why more of our restaurants should not be highlighting these wines on their wine list, especially those restaurants priding themselves on locally produced ingredients for their entrees.

Obviously, I and hopefully many of you will have more to say on these topics.  This is only a brief overview of issues that will determine the fate of the wine industry in this part of the world.

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How to make World Class Wines that just happen to come from Wisconsin

Thursday, April 23, 2015


Cheers and welcome to my Winemaker's Blog.  As owner and winemaker here at Parallel 44 and Door 44, I want to introduce you to what will be what will be regular postings on daily musings on my activities, my thoughts, my passions, and my dreams for our vineyard and wineries.   Many just years ago many would have thought it was folly to try to grow and make wine here in Wisconsin, but now I am more committed and convinced that we will produce world class wines that just happen to come from Wisconsin.

It was during our honeymoon in August of 1994 that my wife Maria and I took a bottle of wine and a baguette between two rows of vines at the Coppola winery in Napa Valley and looked up at the vines and sky and said out loud, "Why can't we do this in Wisconsin?"  While Napa is world famous for its natural beauty and wonderful wines, there is no reason that Wisconsin can't rival or even surpass its reputation for natural beauty and superlative wines.

That is where Vision, Courage, and Passion come together to make this a reality.  While it may be a bit more difficult than it is in California, there is incredible potential here in Wisconsin for those with a pioneering spirit to make this happen.

We had nothing more than spirit and determination initially, but now as our momentum grows both literally and commercially, we have developed knowledge and experience that drives us towards a focus on quality.  Since we opened in 2007 the State of Wisconsin has grown from 35 wineries to over 105 wineries.  Interest in wine and its appeal as a tourism activity is certainly driving this growth.

I appreciate this, but my vision has been and always will be on the quality of the contents of the bottle.  I want people from California to Texas to Ohio to order and buy our wine grown and produced here not just because it's part of the tourist experience, but more importantly because the wine has developed a world class reputation for quality and uniqueness.

We say our focus has been, "Wisconsin wine from ground to glass," but now I want the world to know its "World Class wine that just happens to come from Wisconsin".

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Fun Times in Door County With Great Wine

Wednesday, April 22, 2015



As spring comes to bloom, a visit to Door County wine country isn't just an escape from the everyday, it's a journey for your senses.  As a member of the Door County  Wine Trail, we would love to see you for your perfect wine country weekend.


Sassy Sister Hood weekend is April 24-26 in Sturgeon Bay.  Live music, comedian and workshops.  Taxi vans will drive you to various places throughout the city so you may enjoy wine tasting and all the things Sturgeon Bay has to offer.  The Lodge at Leathem Smith will host a Friday meet and greet with Parallel 44 and Door 44 wines and appetizers.


Don't forget, a reminder that the Sip and Savor will becoming up on June 13 in Sister Bay. A celebration of Parallel 44 and Door 44 finest wines. Time is 1-4 pm across from Al Johnsons Restaurant.  Enjoying the sunset with a bonfire in the Waterfront park at sunset, with music.


Hope to see you soon.

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The Vines are Weeping for Joy, Spring is Here!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015




I don't want to talk too soon, but it would appear as though the weather has caught up with the calendar.  Yes, by all indications, spring seems to be here officially and unofficially.  It's warming up, its sunny, it's past the vernal equinox... and for me personally, spring starts when I hear the call of the red winged blackbirds, the pussy willows bud out, and my rhubarb starts pushing out crowns from the warming earth.  Check, check, and check.


Now officially in the vineyard I would say that I'm about half way through pruning, with only the St. Pepin and Petite Pearl left.  The vines are beginning to wake up as well.  Currently when I prune a vine, it immediately starts to weep from the fresh cuts which drip like a leaky faucets. This is a typical occurrence once daytime temperatures start to rise above 50 degrees.




Often the vines will keep on weeping like this for the next couple weeks until the buds start growing out. This bleeding of sap may seem harmful to the vine, but the grapes suffer no ill effect. If you come out to the vineyard right now, you can see the weeping vines for yourself.  There is one concern with the constant gush of sap, and I purposely make an angled cut on every shoot to make sure the flow of sap runs away from from the grape buds.  This helps keep the buds dry which is important to avoid problems with fungus.


Out of curiosity I've tried the grape sap, and it tastes mostly like water.  I suppose that it might sound odd to taste sap from a grapevine, but I would venture to guess that you've enjoyed boiled down tree sap on top of your pancakes.  Hmm...I wonder what grape sap syrup would taste like?



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Farewell & Cheers

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

Tammy cheers

It is with happiness and sadness that I write my last blog today.  After 3 wonderful years of working at Parallel 44, it is time for me to leave.  I have just been accepted into a program in Europe where I will be working on organic vineyards and farms.  This program has always been a dream of mine, one that I never really thought would come true. However, after months of waiting, I have finally been accepted! It's an incredible opportunity that is simply way too good to pass up.

I remember when I first started at Parallel 44.  My knowledge of wine was quite minimal, and my efforts at opening a wine bottle was pitiful at best.  I didn't even drink much wine to be honest!  However, over the last 3 years, my time and experience here at Parallel 44 has not only taught me so much about winemaking and grape growing, but it has given me a deep appreciation for wine.  I understand how much work and love goes into making a glass of wine.  I am very thankful for the opportunity to work for Maria and Steve, and for their patience and guidance during my time here.  I can't even begin to detail everything I've learned over the last few years.  But I can say that I am truly grateful for the education and experience I have received.  I am blessed to have worked with so many wonderful people at Parallel 44.

To leave behind Parallel 44 and all the customers, club members, friends, and staff, is really difficult for me. I have gotten to know so many of you quite well. I will truly miss being at Parallel 44 and seeing all of you. You have made this place very special in my heart. To everyone at Parallel 44, I wish you all the best and know that you will continue to grow and succeed.  To all our fans, I hope you continue to enjoy the passion, courage, and vision that Parallel 44 endlessly strives towards to provide you with the best, award winning wines possible.  Know that I will be thinking of all of you often and will for sure stop by when I get home to try all the new delicious wines!




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N2185 Sleepy Hollow Rd.
Kewaunee, WI 54216

(920) 388-4400
(888) 932-0044

(920) 388-4400     (888) 932-0044     N2185 Sleepy Hollow Road | Kewaunee, WI 54216

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