Nuzzled on an attractive knoll facing the Wisconsin River, Wollersheim Winery is rich in history. It is one of America’s oldest wine-making estates, and its original 19th-century, limestone winery is its handsome centerpiece. The Wollersheim family has been producing red, blush and white wines for just over 40 years and had further reason to celebrate its anniversary upon winning “Winery of the Year” at the San Diego International Wine Competition in 2012.
Wollersheim Winery Wisconsin
An ambitious, Hungarian count by the name of Agoston Haraszthy chose this location for his vineyards in the 1840s. However, following a number of years of failure with winter damage to the vines, he sold the property to his vineyard manager, Peter Kehl, and pursued the great Gold Rush out West in December 1849. In due course, Haraszthy became noted as the founder of the California wine industry.
Robert and JoAnn Wollersheim purchased the neglected grounds in 1972, with the goal of re-establishing it as a working- family winery.
More than 120 years later, the Wollersheim family sowed the banked slopes with vineyards, cultivating in the unique climate and growing conditions of Wisconsin.
As part of the fix up, the Wollersheim had the underground limestone wine cellars reconditioned with oak barrels and the upstairs of the main building turned into a wine store. It was a veritable dream come true for Robert Wollersheim, who was born in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, and attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison. An electrical engineer for the UW-Space Science program, Robert helped build weather radar and space satellites during the 1960s and 70s. Once tiring of engineering life, he moved to Prairie du Sac with his wife and children and started a new career as a vintner.
Frenchman Philippe Coquard, who grew up in France and worked at his family’s wineries, joined Wollersheim Winery and became a winemaker here 1985. The prominence of family heritage lives on as Philippe and his wife, Julie Coquard, Robert and JoAnn’s daughter now operate the estate winery.
Wollersheim Winery Midwest Nationally-Recognized Winery Tours
Wollersheim harvests 27 acres of vineyards and produces seven different wines, such as Prairie BlushFumé, Ruby Nouveau and Domain du Sac, from four hybrid varietals. The family further collaborates with wineries in Washington and New York to grow varietals like Chardonnay, Sangiovese and Pinot Noir.
Annual productivity, including the Cedar Creek label, has surged from 15,000 gallons in 1987 to of more than 240,000 gallons in 2014. The winery mostly markets wines in Wisconsin, with the majority sold at Prairie du Sac and Cedarburg locations. This provincial South Wisconsin winery has received ample awards for its productions and has earned recognition as a principal winery in the Midwest.
Since 1995, Wollersheim Winery has undergone several expansions to augment wine production capacity. In 2008, it commemorated the 150th anniversary of the original winery building, with the expansion of its visitor space.
In December 2010, Wollersheim announced that it would begin to distill white wine. The liquid will become brandy after aging in oak barrels for two years. The company began distilling 2,500 gallons of wine made from Wisconsin-grown La Crosse and St. Pepin white hybrid grapes with the use of a Portuguese pot.
The Winery offers scheduled, daily tours and wine tastings are available at anytime. The outdoor balcony and wine garden provide particularly attractive vineyard views from spring through fall. Wollersheim Winery is on Highway 188 and across the river from Prairie du Sac, just 25 miles northeast of Madison. Hours: Monday – Sunday: 10am – 5pm; Closed: New Years Day, Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving and Christmas Day.