Cold Country Vines & Wines

Archives: August 2016

Wine Serving Temperature?

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Wisconsin the next Napa Valley

Ok, there are several so called rules on wine serving temperature that we will get out of the way right away.

  1. All white wines should be served chilled. This is true for the most part except in the area of chardonnay. Many chardonnay drinkers like it served closer to room temperature. It has to do with the amount of oak tannins that exist in a particular chardonnay. Still, most people drink even these whites chilled to about 52 to 55 degrees.

  2. All red wines should be drunk at room temperature. First of all, what most people don’t know is that this rule of thumb is talking about cellar temperature. If you are in a 75 degree room, it would not be ideal to drink any red wine at this same temperature. The second thing that most people don’t know about this rule is that it is referring to dry reds with a lot of tannin structure. So when you are drinking a dry red with some tannin in it, the ideal serving temperature is between 62 and 68 degrees.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s go over Jay Stoeger’s rules:

  1. Drink your wines at whatever temperature makes the wine taste the best to you! (or your guests).

  2. Sweet reds, without a lot of tannin, taste excellent all the way down to 40 degrees on hot summer days.

  3. Find your preferred temperature for whites by experimenting. I myself like most whites a little warmer than the typical serving temperature at restaurants, and definitely not straight out of the refrigerator.

  4. If you pull an excellent red off of your wine rack and it’s 70 degrees or more, put it in the refrigerator for a half hour. Get it down to between 58 to 60 degrees. It will warm somewhat in your glass and be at the perfect temperature when you drink it. Of course, this is slanted toward what I like which is about 62 degrees. If you don’t believe me, try this on a warm summer day. If you’re not amazed at how much better it tastes, I would be surprised, but again that’s me.

Now I hate to talk about Winter when the weather is still warm, but when you get out to that outdoor festival or ski slope or ice rink, consider trying the hot spiced wine. It’s amazing how good this tastes on those cold days. The other side of the coin is the wine slushie. I have not tried one of these yet but it sounds like something that would go good on those really hot summer days.

So you see, you can find the right temperature for a wine or you can find the right kind of wine for the temperature. It’s all about enjoyment of a delicious beverage.  Now some people consider me an expert, but I’m just a guy that cared enough to find out what really worked well for me.  It turns out that a lot of other people like it that way as well.

Until next week,

J Stoeger

Residual Sugar in Wine

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This issue is misunderstood even by some of the most devoted amateur wine makers that I’ve talked to.  When you make wine, especially fruit wine, you sometimes want to add sugar to the juice before fermentation.  It’s more common than I would have imagined that some of these wine makers believe that this addition of sugar sweetens the wine.  In most cases, it does not.  Sugar is usually added before fermentation to increase the final level of alcohol.  That’s what fermentation is, converting sugar into alcohol and the more sugar you add the more alcohol you will get to a certain point.  Grapes usually have enough natural sugar that you don’t need to add any to get an acceptable alcohol level.

Here’s where it gets confusing.  If you add enough sugar, you’ll get to the point where the alcohol is so high it will kill the yeast.  In this case, there will be sugar left over and the wine will be sweeter.  The left over sugar is called Residual Sugar.  The confusing part is that all wine has some residual sugar, even dry wine.  These dry wines are in the vicinity of about 0.25% sugar.  A sweet wine can be as much as 5% and even higher.  Our 2015 Ice Wine starts out at 36% sugar before fermentation, (all natural), and finishes at 14% residual sugar which is about average for that particular style wine.

The real question in your mind, I’m sure, is “Where does the sweetness come from, if in most cases it’s not the sugar added before fermentation?”  The wine is actually sweetened with sugar just before bottling.   If you add it too early it again will just start fermenting and creating more alcohol.  So add the sugar just before we filter all of the yeast particles, then you have sweetened and sterile wine that can no longer ferment because you’ve taken all of the yeast cells out of the wine.

If, however, all of the yeast was not removed during filtration or you haven’t sterilized the bottling equipment well enough you will get another round of fermentation only this time it will be in the bottle.  When this happens you get fizzy wine that will often pop the cork and get wine all over the place.  We’ve had this problem and it’s quite embarrassing.  We think we’ve resolved that problem but you are always one contamination event away from a new batch of wine that will have this happen.

So if you drink wine that is more sweet than dry, you will probably run into this every once in a while.  Don’t worry about it hurting you, if it tastes good you can still drink it.  It will just be a little less sweet and it will be carbonated.  In this era carbonated wines are actually selling pretty well but most people who buy regular table wine don’t want any surprises.

Until next time

J. Stoeger

How to Read a Wine Description

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wine descriptions,

Cold Country Wines

This is another question that comes up many times. Does the wine description describe what actually goes into the wine? The answer is no. The wine description describes what the different flavors in the wine taste similar to. So when descriptions say “black cherry”, “raspberry”, “with notes of chocolate and leather”, that means that that particular person senses resemblances of those flavors in the wine. Almost all wine is made of grapes and only grapes. Granted, your local boutique winery will have what are called fruit wines, usually made from locally grown fruits of every kind, but these are really a novelty. On the other hand there are a few fruits, such as blackberry and cranberry, that break out of that mold and occasionally produce an acceptable wine.
Our own winery produces a grape cherry blend, which of course, is another exception to what I said in the first few sentences. We take a cherry wine which is extremely one dimensional and blend it with the very strong flavors of the Frontenac grape and what results is a quite complex wine we call Northern Lights. So in this case, the cherry flavors actually come from cherry wine.
The next part of the question is the divisions of the tasting experience. The description usually stops at the front end after the first flavors you experience when you take that sip of wine. There is also the middle mouth, mouth feel, and finish to describe the experience. The middle mouth is somewhat debatable but my version is, that part of the tasting after the initial impression that will include the sides of your tongue and further back. The mouth feel is really the texture of the wine often described as thick or thin. Ice wines usually have a thick mouth feel whereas Rhone style wines are almost always thin.
And then there is the finish. The finish is the final impression you get when you swallow. Low alcohol wines score lower in this category because you don’t get the warmth or burn when you swallow. Tannins affect both the middle mouth and the finish based on both its’ dry feeling and the varying degree of bitterness it imparts. I always thought this would make wine judging difficult to define in this area, (because they don’t swallow), but talking to several wine judges I am convinced that it is possible.
So where does that leave us. People who spend a lot of time evaluating wine clearly can dissect the experience and divide it into even more parts than I’ve described here. What should that mean to you? It can mean that you start studying wine to get up to speed on all the descriptors and evaluations, but what you should really be aiming at is enjoying wine. Yes, the real point is to enjoy it.
Until next time,
Jay Stoeger

New Rose’ Released at Cold Country!

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Pink Snowflake Front

Cold Country Vines & Wines has released a new rose’ wine, Pink Snowflake. This is our first Rose’ to come out of our vineyard. It has notes of pineapple, peach, and orange peel with just a slight fluttering of tannin to make for a balanced middle mouth. A refreshing summertime wine for those that want a little more than a white wine. Incidentally, this is was made out of the grapes picked during our last Harvest Fest. That’s right, many of you had a hand in making this wine. The Marechal Foch that was picked at Harvest Fest was blended with some of our LaCrescent, Brianna, and a touch of Merlot.  This was a rose’ made by taking the red grapes and pressing them immediately verses fermenting them on the skins for a week or two. The other way to make a rose’ is to take a white wine and blend it with a red wine. Each has its advantage but the red grape straight to press approach gives a more balanced wine.  This particular wine is a combination of the two methods.  So come on out and try it. There is only about 50 cases so don’t wait too long.

Also If you would like to pick grapes during this years harvest, there are two ways to go about this.  The first is to come to our Harvest Fest on September 24th, which is always a good time and has been since 2012.  Or the second way is to sign up for picking at our tasting room or just send us an email at  We would love to have you, and you get to take part in something special.  Picking is paid in cash or wine, your choice, (must be 21 years old to take the wine).   And if you pick Ice Wine (burrrr), you get a bottle of our amazing Ice Wine.  You won’t regret it.

Until next time,

J Stoeger

Terroir or Terror in Wisconsin Grape Growing

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It’s time to talk about how great Wisconsin is for growing grapes and how terroir is a part of that.  Just don’t ask those in the Southwest quadrant of the state.  Southwestern Wisconsin had a late frost this past spring and lost as much as 75% of their crop.  Our vineyard suffered that same fate in 2015.  Now we could feel sorry for ourselves, or we could just come to grips with the fact that late frost is a danger to most grape growing regions including France, Italy and California.  While visiting Paso Robles just a few months ago, my wife and I were told about the terrible frost that hit them just a couple of years ago, where the shoots were 18 inches long and a sharp drop in temperature one night turned everything brown.  How devastating!  Walking through our own vineyard in 2015 felt like I had a stake driven through my chest.  Anyway, enough depressing talk.

The real point is that you can grow grapes in Wisconsin and this year is looking very promising so far.  If you drive down any country road right now you’ll see beautiful corn and wheat fields unlike anything we’ve seen for many years.  The same thing is going on with our vineyards.  We’ve had a mild winter and spring and now the summer is hot but not too hot and there is rain but not too much rain.  More importantly, the sun has not been hiding behind the clouds for weeks on end like it did back in 2014.  So with just a little more blessing, we could have an abundant and high quality crop.

With all that being said, there is that word that grape-growers always use; terroir.  Terroir is everything that affects the grape except the weather.  The soil, the slope of the vineyard, and the latitude and longitude where the vineyard exists all affect the flavor of the grape.  Some find this hard to believe but having grown grapes for seven seasons now it has become very apparent that these things do have an impact.  The slope of the vineyard is a prime example.  A vineyard that slopes to the south as little as 2 or 3 percent will have a significantly earlier ripening than an area sloping to the north.   Most grape growers think it goes much further than that in that it produces flavors on that south slope that are not attainable on the north sloping.  I myself would not readily believe this except for the fact that all the great grape growing regions of the world hold this concept as fact.

In Wisconsin, specifically the Niagara Escarpment, we have many gently rolling hills to make this a very common situation.  We also have the same longitude as Bordeaux France and our soil is very well suited to growing fruit.  So, several years ago the Federal Government declared Northeast Wisconsin an American Viticulture Area called “The Wisconsin Ledge”.

So what is our Terroir all about?  Good soil and good sunlight.

Until next time,