Wisconsin wineries tasting success despite regulatory pressure: The List – As seen in the Milwaukee Business Journal

Wisconsin wineries tasting success despite regulatory pressure: The List – As seen in the Milwaukee Business Journal

Co-owner Jean McIlquham was quoted in the Milwaukee Business Journal’s The List: Largest Wisconsin Wineries.

While the winemaking industry is surging around the state of Wisconsin, vintners and business owners keep their eyes on a tough regulatory climate and the weather forecast as they keep their businesses afloat with the strength of family ties and commitment to their industry.

John Pedretti of Vernon Vineyards Ltd., Viroqua, said he finds challenges in the fact that many people are not yet familiar with cold-climate grapes.

“The flavor and chemistry of cold-climate grapes is somewhat different and is unfamiliar to locals so they do not always know what to expect in locally grown wines,” he said.

While some state winemakers count on grapes grown in other regions of the country, many are growing a large percentage or all of the grapes they use in the wines they make.

For these growers it is often a balancing act, the challenge of what works for them.

Julianne Dahlen of Villa Bellezza Winery & Vineyards in Pepin says simply, “It’s farming,” of the unpredictable climate, from early springs followed by late frosts and disease pressures from higher humidity levels.

The challenge for Steve Johnson, owner/winemaker at Parallel 44 Vineyard and Winery in Kewaunee, “It is to grow enough quality grapes that will allow us to develop the quality and quantity necessary to reach the rest of the nation with signature style much like Oregon, New York and Washington have done.”

And winemaker Matthew Scott of Chateau St. Croix Winery, St. Croix Falls, also talked of the challenges that Wisconsin winters pose.

“As we learn what grapes grow well in our cold-climate environment and micro-climates, more of our locally grown wines are earning international awards.”

Besides the farming and manufacturing aspects of the winemaking world, the retail and entertainment aspects of running a winery come into play as well.

Owners of wineries on The List and those smaller wineries sprinkled around the state beckon the public to come taste their wines in tasting rooms on scenic patios and at festivals and events on their grounds.

And the frustration with state restrictions on their businesses has many industry insiders bubbling over.

“By far, the largest challenge (besides being profitable, of course) are legislative and regulatory challenges and threats,” said Alwyn Fitzgerald, owner of Fisher King Winery in Verona.

He noted that wineries in Wisconsin are subject to “very archaic, inconsistent and harming” laws that other alcohol segments in the state do not have to contend with.

Vernon Vineyards’ Pedretti concurred. State regulations that require use of distributors for wholesale selling “greatly reduce revenue to the vineyard and winery that generate the products,” he said.

Pedretti also noted that regulations requiring wineries to discontinue sales and close at 9 p.m. interfere with hosting events such as evening wedding receptions.

Many respondents for this year’s list shared similar views on the topic.

“In the past and present, the House bill — wineries cannot stay open past 9 p.m. — has been tough for some (state) wineries,” said Jean McIlquham of Autumn Harvest Winery in Chippewa Falls.

Inequity, say winemakers, is evident in these regulations, putting a damper on aspects of their business.

“We have hour limitations compared to all other alcohol sectors in Wisconsin,” said Rob Lewis of Lewis Station Winery in Lake Mills. “Other alcohol industries have later hours.”

And getting more specific about an organization that she sees as putting up roadblocks to business is Gail Nordlof of Northleaf Winery in Milton.

“State laws and the Wisconsin Tavern League — we are constantly fighting for less regulation, and the Tavern League is always trying to limit our sales,” she said.

Fisher King’s Fitzgerald concluded that the growing wine industry in Wisconsin is one that generates more than $50 million in annual direct tourism revenue and an additional $100 million in tax revenue, wages and industrial purchases per year.

“We are nonetheless the target of large and politically influential special interests who seek to keep our independent craft beverage industry suppressed while increasing their own monopoly on the alcohol beverage marketplace,” said Fitzgerald.

Summer Wine Pairings As Seen On WEAU

Summer Wine Pairings As Seen On WEAU

Owner of Autumn Harvest Winery, Jean McIlquham, joined WEAU‘s Grill Week in honor of National Wine Day! She shared her simple wine paring tips for summer’s classic grilling favorites. McIlquham challenged WEAU to their wine pairing skills and apparently, they know their wine! Some of the key tips she shared were chicken goes great with a dry white wine, steak pairs with a dry red wine and shrimp pairs perfect with a sweet wine. As far as grilled desserts, grilled pineapple is a summer must and goes perfect with a sweet white wine.

My “Small” Business Partner

My “Small” Business Partner

If you have visited Autumn Harvest Winery and Orchard, chances are you have met Violet. Violet: the eight-year-old winery/orchard queen bee that will sell you on just about anything, bag it up, and give you your receipt and change. Although some are hesitant to hand over their twenty dollar bill, most customers are simply amazed at her professional manner, ability and the customer service she exudes.   She always wins them over, especially when she smiles and says, “I love your shoes!” She makes everyone feel welcome.

She was born into the apple orchard business, like her dad. She will be the first to tell you that it is not always easy. Sitting in the shed next to a space heater on rainy days only to sell a peck of Honeycrisp can be tough. Spending every weekend at the business can get old, and boredom creeps in. But, it always amazes me how she overcomes it. On busy days in the tasting room, and even when we are bottling wine, she is a huge help and keeps us all smiling. Everyone agrees it’s just better when she is around.   It’s not all hard work though – she cruises around on the four-wheeler and tractor, has access to all the goodies we sell, and is surrounded by the natural beauty 80 acres has to offer. All that fresh air has to do a kid good, right?

I think the best thing Violet has learned is how rewarding it is to support and spend time with family. She is aware how hard work can pay off, and I think it is embedded in her general way of thinking. The socializing and interactions she has encountered from a young age will no doubt prove priceless in the years to come. As her mother and “partner”, I continue to teach her but admittedly learn more from her than I ever thought possible. I am so proud of her each and every day. I hope that she always remembers the good times we have had at the orchard and her experiences have positively shaped her life, and will continue to facilitate the gifts God has given her.

Favorite Local Winemaker: As Seen in Volume One Magazine

Favorite Local Winemaker: As Seen in Volume One Magazine

We’re grateful to all of our loyal customers who have put us in the top three local winemakers in the Volume One Best of the Chippewa Valley Reader Poll! We were recently featured in the April 19, 2017 issue of Volume One Magazine. 

Known as the first winery to open in the Chippewa Valley in 2004, Autumn Harvest has grown over the years from making six wines to 13, and now they even bottle a hard cider. Using apples from their long-time family-owned orchard, Autumn Harvest makes crisp, fruit-flavored wines that give you a real natural taste. All production, bottling, corking, and labeling are done by hand right in their own facility…

Read more in Volume One

As seen on WEAU 13 News – Savoring the Arts for the Heyde Center

As seen on WEAU 13 News – Savoring the Arts for the Heyde Center

Co-owner Jean McIlquham is on the Savoring the Arts Online Auction committee for the Heyde Center for the Arts/Chippewa Valley Cultural Association’s Savoring the Arts fundraiser, and she was on WEAU 13 News sharing details about the event!

More information for the online auction and Savoring the Arts event on April 22nd can be found on the Heyde Center website and Facebook page. Auction items include tickets to the Eaux Claires Music and Arts Festival, local stay-cations, original works of art, and much more, including a patio party at the Autumn Harvest!

We’re the exclusive wine sponsor of the 2017 Eaux Claires festival – June 16-17

We’re the exclusive wine sponsor of the 2017 Eaux Claires festival – June 16-17

We’re very excited to announce that we will again be the exclusive wine sponsor of the Eaux Claires Music and Arts Festival, June 16-17! According to their website, Eaux Claires is “a two-day, multi-stage experience featuring live music, performance art, visual art, food and more.”

This year’s lineup has been released on their website and features Paul Simon, John Prine, Bon Iver, Wilco and many more.

The festival is held at Foster Farms in Eau Claire. Passes are on sale now, and we look forward to seeing you there for great music, amazing art and a weekend full of local goodness, like Autumn Harvest wine!

We’re the official wine sponsor of the Blue Ox Music Festival – June 8-10

We’re excited to announce that we will again be the exclusive wine sponsor of the Blue Ox Music Festival on June 8-10. We had a great time last year and can’t wait to “Dance Our Grass Off” with you all again!

This is the outdoor Bluegrass, Roots, and Americana music festival’s their year. Held at Whispering Pines Campgrounds in Eau Claire, it’s sure to be a fun weekend full of great music. Follow us here and on our Facebook page for updates on the festival.

As seen on WEAU 13 News – Wine Pairing Tips for the Holidays

As seen on WEAU 13 News – Wine Pairing Tips for the Holidays

As seen on WEAU 13 News:

Quite simply, wine selection for a holiday party can be overwhelming. Make it easy on yourself and go right to you local wine section. It won’t limit your choices, it will save you time and make the process easy!

jean-on-weau-12-22

If you’re cooking beef, steak or stew, match the intensity of the food with that of the wine. If you’re serving beef or steak or a hearty stew, grab a Merlot or Cabernet with stronger tannins. Italian food can be great with a Pinot Noir, which is usually medium-bodied and less intense. Do not chill. Chicken, seafood, or soups would be enhanced by a lighter white wine like a non-oaked Chardonnay, Riesling or Pinot Grigio.  Serve chilled.

We all have cookie platters this time of year and is paired well with a sweet or semi-sweet Riesling like Northern Lights.  You can never go wrong with a nice Moscato. You can also leave that out for cheesecake and pie!

I total agree with Michael on Facebook that a red semi-sweet fruit blend like Blue Heaven goes nicely with dark chocolate covered pretzels, or this red wine fudge recipe we just put on our Facebook page!  You use 2 tablespoons of red wine and bring the rest of the bottle with you to serve them together. It’s an easy last-minute recipe if you need something to bring to your holiday gathering!