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Richard Ryman column: Northeastern Wisconsin grape growers sweep awards

9:02 PM, Jan. 25, 2013  |  Comments
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Northeastern Wisconsin's wine industry continues to make progress in establishing its identity.

At the recent Wisconsin Grape Growers Convention, Northeastern Wisconsin viticulturists swept the awards categories.

The Industry Award, presented to someone who made a major contribution in advancing the interests of the Wisconsin grape and wine industry, was given to Dean Volenberg of the University of Wisconsin-Extension office in Door County.

Carl Johnson of Parallel 44 Vineyard & Winery near Stangleville in Kewaunee County received the Grower Award, which recognizes a viticulturist who made exceptional contributions to the Wisconsin grape and wine industry.

Trout Springs Winery near Wayside received the Winery Award, presented to wineries that have advanced the widespread recognition and quality reputation of Wisconsin wines.

"I thought that was pretty significant for our area," said Steve DeBaker, owner of Trout Springs. "We're all within an hour of each other."

DeBaker took the lead last year in getting The Wisconsin Ledge American Viticultural Area designation for about 3,800 square miles from Cedarburg to Door County. An AVA is a grape-growing region distinguishable by geographic features. Napa Valley is an AVA.

DeBaker said Johnson has a long history of grape growing in the region - Parallel 44 has one of the larger vineyards - and Volenberg was instrumental in keeping vineyards aware of growing issues throughout the year. There were a number of them in 2012, when growers had to contend with an unseasonably early spring followed by colder weather and inconsistent rainfall.

Trout Springs' grapes turned out especially good last year, though half of the crop was lost to birds, DeBaker said. Other vineyards had losses as well, he said.

"That's farming. What are you going to do?" he said. "The stuff we did get was above average. It will be reserve wines."

Reserve wines are those considered to be of higher-than-normal quality.

The Wisconsin Grape Growers Association is an agricultural nonprofit dedicated to uniting and educating growers, assisting with research, and promoting and protecting the art, science and commerce of viticulture in Wisconsin, according to the association's website.

Its nine-member board of directors includes William Schmiling of Algoma's Stony Creek Vineyards and Tim Abel of Greenleaf's LedgeStone Vineyards.

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