How It All Started
Jay’s first exposure to grape growing came in the 1960s. His grandparents had a large arbor of concord grapes in northern Wisconsin. Jay’s aunt and uncle also grew a variety of “cooler” climate grapes not far from his grandparents’ home.
While Jay was indoctrinated into grape growing at an early age, cold hardy grapes had not come into vogue – much less fruition – at the time. Back then, it was a struggle to get grapes to ripen in colder climates.
Jay remembers smudge pots and canvas that would keep the crops from freezing as early as the first week in September. Often, despite gallant efforts, crops were lost.
But time has a way of changing things …
A Passion for Fine Wine
When Jay was in his early 20s, his father started collecting fine European wines. It didn’t take Jay long to realize he shared his father’s passion.
From there, an oenophile (i.e., lover of wine) was born – along with Jay’s dream to start a vineyard and winery.
A New Era in Viticulture
While it took the grape-growing industry several years to catch up to Jay’s vision of producing cold-hardy grapes, progress started to be made in the 1990s. Interest in cold-climate wine production began to blossom, along with funding to research and develop cold climate cultivars.
By the mid-2000s, many grape varietals had been produced to not only survive cold northern winters, but also thrive during the growing season. These new varietals were ideally suited for growing in the climate and soil conditions of the East Twin River Valley on the Wisconsin Ledge-American Viticulture Area (AVA). Encouraged by exciting and extensive viticulture breakthroughs, Jay took his dreams of opening a vineyard and winery into his own hands – literally.
May 2014: Cold Country Wines & Vines Opens
Jay and his wife, Kay, a Kewaunee native and wine lover herself, began planting different varieties of cold-hardy grapes on the land they had lived on for 15 years, just south of Kewaunee. Located on the edge of the East Twin River Valley, the acreage is ideal for grape growing – with airflow that moves the cold frost of the spring and fall out of the vineyard. (A huge advantage over other areas!)
To enhance his hands-on experience, Jay studied enology (winemaking) through the Viticulture Enology Science and Technology Alliance (VESTA), a national grape and wine education program.
After years of careful planning, extensive research and studying, and a lot of honest-to-goodness hard work, Jay and Kay opened Cold Country Vines & Wines in May 2014. Production began at harvest time in 2013 and Cold Country’s first release of its special wines debuted in May 2014.
Join us in a toast
to the beginning of a new era of fine cold-country wines!
Find us on Catch Wine – Your Guide to America’s Wineries
Winter Hours of Operation
Friday10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Saturday10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Sunday12 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Catch Wine - Your Guide to America's Wineries
Cold Country Vines & Wines
Kewaunee, WI 54216