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Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2008

A Guided Tour

Door Peninsula Winery

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Along a stretch of Highway 42 just north of Sturgeon Bay, a fresh layer of snow covers the long, neat rows of grape vines owned by Door Peninsula Winery. In the spring, these particular vines will bear a red French-American hybrid grape that thrives in northeastern Wisconsin’s challenging climate and short growing season. Grapes haven’t always been the go-to fruit for wine production in these parts. Instead, the most common ingredients have been fruits that flourish in the area, like apples, cherries and pears.

Door Peninsula Winery is owned and operated by the Pollman family, who purchased the winery in 1984. The winery is located in a quaint, turn-of-the century schoolhouse and currently produces 54 different wines, including fruit wines, holiday wines, special event wines, blended wines and signature series grape varietals.

At Door Peninsula Winery, fruit wine production is nearly identical to grape wine production. Before the fruit is brought to the winery, it’s pressed for juice. The stems, skins and seeds are removed from the fruit juice to reduce the rough tannin flavor from the finished wine. Once separated, the juice is collected in large, stainless-steel vats where the fermentation process begins. To supervise and direct the winemaking process, the winery employs an oenologist, a scientist that studies wine and winemaking. The oenologist is responsible for gauging how much sugar is needed, as well as selecting yeast that is best suited for each fruit wine fermentation.

During fermentation, yeast is added to act as a catalyst, feeding off the sugar in the fruit juice. The subsequent breakdown of complex molecules can take from six weeks to three months, and when it is complete, voil: alcohol. The still wine is then ready for its first filtering to remove sediment. Once filtered, the wine will rest and mature in aging tanks, where the more complex flavors of each fruit develop and mature into a distinctive wine. After the aging process, which can take two to six months or longer, the wine is then bottled.

The winery utilizes a machine that can cork, bottle and label 1,200 cases in an eight-hour day. For just $2, visitors can observe the winemaking process and taste the goods during Door Peninsula’s 20-minute guided tour of the winery.

Door Peninsula Winery has been winning national recognition for its wines for more than 15 years in competitions like the International Wine & Spirit Competition, the Great Lakes Competition, the Los Angeles County Fair and the Pacific Rim International Wine Competition. In addition, the winery’s on-site restaurant, The Vineyard, has won the Wine Spectator “Award of Excellence” for the third year in a row.

“This is a rare accomplishment, and it’s one of which we’re extremely proud,” says Rob Pollman, chief operating officer of Door Peninsula Winery. “It takes most restaurants at least five years to win the award, and The Vineyard has received it every year since we opened the restaurant’s doors in 2005.”

Wine Spectator recognizes restaurants with wine lists that offer interesting selections, are appropriate to their cuisine and appeal to a wide range of wine lovers. “Award of Excellence” restaurants typically offer at least 100 selections; The Vineyard offers more than 140 different wines, including the Door Peninsula Winery’s own and varieties from acclaimed wineries around the world.

5806 Highway 42, Sturgeon Bay; (920) 743-7431 or (800) 551-5049; www.dcwine.com. Year-round tours take place daily, every 45 minutes, startingat 9:30 a.m. and ending at 4:15 p.m.