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Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013

Wisconsin: An Up-And-Coming Wine Region

Kewaunee's Parallel 44 leads the way

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In the world of wine making, the French term terroir refers to “sense of place”—the distinct flavor profile associated with a particular region. Named for the longitudinal line it shares with the renowned wine regions of New York, Oregon, Tuscany and Bordeaux, Parallel 44 Vineyard and Winery (N2185 Sleepy Hollow Road, Kewaunee)—along with its new sister winery, Door 44 (4020 Highway 42/57, Unit 2, Sturgeon Bay)—are hard at work to put Wisconsin’s terroir on the map. Founded in 2005 by the husband-and-wife team of Steve Johnson and Maria Milano, the vineyard features specially hybridized modern grape varietals known for their ability to withstand sub-0° temperatures and produce high-acidity grapes suited for complex, sweet wines that are excellent for food pairing because of their palate-cleansing properties.

This forte is fortuitous since, Johnson notes, “Wisconsin has a relatively sweet palate.” Furthermore, he divulges, his “gut feeling is that the ageability of our wines, [a characteristic associated with high acidity], is what will become Wisconsin’s calling card.” Last spring, Wisconsin’s wineries won a major victory in the quest for international recognition when the federal government designated the Wisconsin Ledge (located in northeast Wisconsin) an official American Viticultural Area, thus placing it in the same league as Napa Valley.

Parallel 44’s own products have been recognized for their quality and uniqueness with several major awards, including Best of Show honors for top white wine with its La Crescent in the International Cold Climate Wine Competition, and a Best of Class designation for its Frozen Tundra White in the Wisconsin State Fair Professional Wine Competition.

Johnson notes that since Parallel 44’s founding, the number of wineries in the state has tripled and that the local culture of wine drinking is rapidly democratizing. No longer should good wine be associated with snobbery. Rather, he contends, “Drinking wine shouldn’t have to be intimidating. Everyone’s got a palate and no one has a better or worse palate than another person.”

In Johnson’s experience, the younger generation of wine drinkers is eager to try new vintages and vocal about what it wants, meaning all Wisconsinites can look forward to an increasing array of fine wines made from locally grown grapes.

Parallel 44 hosts several public events each year. Up next is the Frozen Tundra Wine Fest on Feb. 22. Sampling, vineyard tours, live music and gourmet food will be available. For more information about the wine selection or to purchase event tickets, visit parallel44.com.
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