Cold Country Vines & Wines

Author Archives: Heather

How Long Will This Wine Last?

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winemakingMany of the questions that come up during the week recur again and again. One of them is how long a wine will keep. Or more specifically, which wines will keep and which ones won’t. It is a misconception of many that time affects all wine positively. This couldn’t be farther from the truth. 90% of all wine should be drank within a year of purchase. That’s right. Most wines will taste the best within the first year after bottled. That is mostly due to the fact that the fruity flavors dissipate with time.
Heavy reds such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Borolo depend less on the fruit flavor and more on structure, mouth feel, and finish. The tannin structure improves with time up to as much as 30 years. Most are best in the five to ten-year range. After that the wine becomes a little flat and tainted with various negative flavors related to the chemical breakdown of the wine components.
There are two other types of wine that will age somewhat well, and those are; Port style wine made by adding grape brandy half way through the fermentation process and the super sweet wines such as Ice Wine or Germany’s Trokenbeerenauslese. Ports and port style wines keep well due to their high alcohol content, many of which are served even after they have become over oxidized. Super-sweets keep well due to their excess residual sugar from which the elements that make the wonderful aromas are kept from breaking down. Trokenbeerenausleses have been known to keep for as much as 80 years. Ice Wines should be in that same ball park but are relatively new to the world of wine so there is no history to support the claim that they can keep for 80-100 years.
So the morale of this story is, if it tastes good now you should really plan to drink it within a year unless you are a collector. If you are a collector, you’ve probably accumulated a significant amount of knowledge on the matter already, but are always looking for that next bottle of wine that is going to age to perfection. I myself have a bottle of Borolo in my collection. It’s probably not really a collection as much as a small gathering of interesting reds. I also have a 40 year old bottle of Beerenauslese that developed a leak about 3 years ago. The bottle was given to me by my late brother and I kind of wanted to keep it in my collection so I re-corked it. The bottom of the old cork tasted amazingly good. It’s hard to make a full analysis with just a drop but it seemed good. Maybe I should have drunk it, but we’ll see.
Until next time,
J. Stoeger

The New Wine Glass

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Many people that come into our winery ask us about our wine glasses and how we picked them.  That was a story of experimentation and testing.  But now that we are a few years into running a tasting room, we are finding out there is more to a wine glass than just a place to put your wine before you slug it down.


For instance, the stem is most commonly considered the area you hold the wine glass to prevent your body heat from changing the temperature of the wine.  Another reason for holding on to the stem is to prevent any of the 100 different fragrances you’ve encountered in a day, such as soap, cologne, or food, from getting near the top of the glass where it could interfere with your experience of getting the full effect of the wine’s aroma.

The bowl of the glass is an area of great influence toward the experience the drinker will have.  The rim must be narrower than the lower bowl to keep the wine’s aroma in but it must also be thin enough to make the transition from glass to mouth smoothly.   One more thing on the bowl, it should be large enough that you only have to fill it to about one third full for your serving amount.  This allows for an effective swirl which again enhances both the smell and the taste of the wine.

At Cold Country Vines & Wines we have or will have, 3 wine glasses; The Bordeaux, a large bowl glass, the Taster or white wine glass, and the Flute for Ice wine which consists of a smaller glass, which will not warm the chilled wine significantly.   These three are adequate for any occasion and most wine styles.  However, if you really want to get a complete experience from any given white, red or rose’ wine, you should go with the Bordeaux.  The glass we will be using in the future is a Bordeaux and has a 20-ounce bowl, which means you can pour a six ounce pour and still be less than one third full.  This makes a big difference in the overall experience of drinking with this glass.  Your wine selection will exude more aroma and taste.  Of course if you’ve selected a bad wine, it’s going to taste even worse, but there has to be some negatives.  Two more negatives would be price and breakage.  The price will be higher for a high quality Bordeaux and they will chip and crack slightly easier.

Wine glass selection is something we do better at Cold Country Vines & Wines.   Our goal is to give our customers the best experience possible.  If that means spending a little bit more on glasses to serve our customers with, that’s what we are going to do.



The 10 Biggest Fears of a Winemaker

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Many People have asked me as a winemaker, What kind of problems do you have making wine? Well I’ve had plenty. It’s not just the problems I have either. It’s problems that we have to avoid if at all possible. There are many pitfalls in wine-making, and I’m not even going to go into the problems we have with the vineyard. This is a list of a few of the obvious pitfalls that keep me up some nights.

Over-oaking – is not that much of a fear of winemakers but it happens so often, even in commercial wine making that it really needs to be feared. What is the solution? Split your batch and only oak half. Then blend to obtain the perfect batch. Of course, that means you now have to have an extra tank to hold the batch not oaking. And what are you going to do with the leftovers after you’ve blended?

Tartrate Crystals – little transparent crystals on the bottom of the bottle after the wine has been chilled is not considered defect by traditional winemaking standards but the majority of consumers will not stand for it. This is caused by an excess of tartrate in the wine after fermentation. It is normally chilled to 32 or lower, for a pre-determined amount of time to precipitate out the excess. More recently there are chemical means to prevent precipitation in the bottle. Once in the bottle however you have two choices; 1. Re-bottle or 2. lose credibility.  To Be Continued shortly.

Cork Taint – this is as old a problem as wine making itself. And contrary to its name, it doesn’t necessarily come from corks. It can, of course, but it also can come from barrels, barrel racks, tanks, scaffolding, walls, stairs, pallets, cardboard boxes, etc.  The chemical that causes the problem is TCA, (2,4,6-trichloroanisole), which is produced by a reaction between certain molds and certain chemicals used in cleaning the winery.  The cure?  There is no sure thing, but you can reduce your probability by removing wood and wood products from the winery and avoiding the use of chlorine in cleaning in your winery.

Brettanomyces – or Brett as it is known in the industry, is actually another yeast that does its’ work after fermentation. It is a very tough strain and is a constant battle of commercial winemakers. If your winery gets infected with Brett, it is a long and hard battle back to clean.  Some famous European wineries, actually allow Brett to grow in the wine to add complexity.  Once you’ve tasted how bad it can get, it’s hard to convince yourself that a Brett contaminated wine is delicious.  If you’re a red wine drinker, chances are you’ve tasted it already.  It’s a wet dog smell/taste.  Others describe it as horse blanket.

Acetobactor – another ancient problem. This one involves bacteria that eats alcohol and excretes vinegar. A little less common than Brett, Acetobactor is obvious even to novice wine drinkers.  As with Brett,  Acetobactor is controlled by cleanliness.

Oxygenation – This is noticed by wine making professionals more than everyday wine drinkers. Many of my friends, who are significantly educated in wine, cannot detect over oxygenation. Winemakers on the other hand, who are always opening up the top of tanks where the top layer is always over oxygenated, get very sensitive to the smell of this defect.  It’s a wet newspaper or moldy basement smell.   I have done tastings in several wineries, where the sample they serve is totally oxygenated.   Surprising to me, is that most of the time I’m the only one who notices it even after I point it out.

Re-fermentation in the bottle – In today’s new world of Muscato lovers we have the ever present possibility of re-fermentation in the bottle, due to the excess sugar these wines contain. This can really hurt the winery’s reputation because the bottle can actually blow the cork out, wherever the bottle happens to be stored. This results from incomplete sterilization of the finished wine.  Dry wines do not need to be sterilized because the yeast has no sugar to feed on.  Careful filtering and follow-up testing are the only ways to reduce the number of re-ferments you will get on any given batch.

Press Failure during harvest season – will likely end in spoiled fruit, or a rush to get the fruit to cold storage while the press is under repair.  Of course, I’m talking about catastrophic failure that results in days or weeks of repair time.  You might borrow someone else’s press but they are going through harvest themselves.  If you happen to live in California you may be able to convince the other winery down the street to press for you, but here in the Midwest it’s not quite that easy.

Fitting or hose failure – You hear stories about this every once in a while. The crew gets the filter pump running from one tank to the next. Everything looks like it’s going well so they decide to take a lunch break.  They come back an hour later and find that a hose fitting failed and the tank emptied into the floor drain.  Anywhere from $5,000 to $100,000 worth of wine was lost.  This usually only happens once to any particular winemaker.  He’s not likely to leave a transfer unattended again.

Excessive H2S – This may not be every winemaker’s worst fear but it is definitely my worse fear. H2s, (Hydrogen Sulfide), is a compound usually formed during a nitrogen deprived fermentation. This can be avoided relatively easily, but there are circumstances that will render the wine unfix-able.   A small amount of H2S production can easily be corrected for by judiciously adding small amounts of copper sulfate however if the contamination is excessive, it cannot be eliminated completely and will come back out of hiding once the wine is bottled.  This is a real problem considering your wine now has the bouquet of rotten eggs.  This happened in our second year of commercial production.  Apparently sulfur can be picked up by the roots from the ground water and deposit it in the fruit.  The fermentation will go great and the wine will seem perfect.  Then two weeks after press you’ll notice the bad smell coming from the vent.  At that point it was too late for me.  Subsequent years, I’ve filtered and racked several times during those first two weeks to reduce the problem to something much more correctable.

Warm Climate, Cool Climate and Cold Climate Wine Grapes

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Vineyard grand opening

Cold Climate Wine Grapes at Cold Country Vines & Wines Vineyard in Year 3.  Located in Kewaunee Wisconsin

Many people ask us what is the difference between warm climate, cool climate and cold climate wine grapes.  This is where it’s at with wine grapes today. Warm climate grapes are grown in many parts of the world including Southern California.  The well-known regions of California such as Napa and Sonoma, are somewhat in between warm and cool climate.  Opinion can vary, but most wine experts are well aware of the fact that cooler climates, especially during the important veraison (ripening) time frame, make for much richer wines. If it’s too cool, adequate ripening  becomes a problem. Then, to make it a little more confusing, there is the varietal factor. Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel can take a significant amount of heat and still produce a somewhat complex wine. On the other hand, Pinot Noir and Riesling fare much better in cooler climates, in fact it’s hard to make good wine from either in warm regions. Again many wine lovers would argue these points, especially those who prefer Rhone style wines.

And now you have cold climate grapes to consider.  New varietals cross bred with native American grapes and vinifera, (traditional European varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Riesling), have been developed at the University of Minnesota, Michigan State, and Purdue, among others.  These newcomers are making quite a stir in the wine industry. Grapes such as Marquette, Petite Pearl, and now the dry white Itasca grape are producing wines that may not surpass the depth and complexity of the traditional varietals, but are making great strides in that direction.  Proof of this is in the simple fact that California grape production has dropped as a percentage of total US production for the past 10 years.

So what does this mean to you the consumer?  More choices!  You no longer have to look at only purchasing wines from your local liquor store that are the leftovers from the West Coast or Europe.  You can sample wines of medium and high quality produced right in your own state, even if you live in the frigid Midwest.  Now here is the best part.  If you haven’t started spending a portion of your vacation doing some wine tastings, you should definitely start.  It will take you to the most beautiful places on earth.  It is almost always the high point of any day trip or vacation.  When my wife and I are out of town for business or pleasure, we always try to include a winery visit or two.  It is one of the more pleasant ways to spend an afternoon.


  1. Stoeger – Cold Country Vines & Wines

Ice Wine Today

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Ice Wine Becomes Much More Available in Today’s World of Cold Climate Grapes

Frosty Winery

Germany and Canada are the top two producers of ice wine in the world today.  Now, however, there are several more entries into this exciting area of wine excellence.  Austria, Switzerland and the United States are coming along nicely in ice wine production, especially in the Midwest.  The Finger Lakes region has been producing notable volumes of ice wine for a number of years but Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota are now entering the market based solely on the new grape varietals released by the University of Minnesota.  These States struggled to grow any worthy grapes in years past, but now there are a number of suitable varietals to choose from.  Traditional ice wine regions sometimes struggle with winters that are too warm, never reaching the 17 degrees needed to harvest, (19 degrees in Germany).  Wisconsin and Minnesota never have that problem.  They can even get to those temperatures in September in a particularly cold year.

But what is so special about ice wine? 

Ice wine is made from grapes that are left on the vine long after all other grapes are harvested.  These grapes dry and shrivel into raisins.  This would in itself concentrate the juice, however, these grapes are left until they freeze, concentrating the juice even more.  They are harvested and pressed while still frozen producing a thick, rich, flavorful syrup that is made into wine and is quite amazing to taste. 

But why is it so expensive?

When made correctly, the grapes will only produce about 100 to 200 gallons of wine per acre.  This is in sharp contrast to table wine grapes which yield about 600 to 800 gallons of wine per acre.  In addition, there is extra time and labor put into these vines because of netting to fight off birds, deer, raccoon and the like. 

How Cold Country Vines & Wines Started with Ice Wine

Jay Stoeger was raised in an area settled by German/Austrian immigrants in the early 1900s.  This type of wine was pretty much invented by those cultures starting out with Beerenauslese and Trokenbeerenauslese which are not ice wines but are definitely in the ball park.  Germany didn’t start producing commercial ice wine until about 1960.  Because of their already established sweet wine market, ice wine didn’t take long to catch on.  When Jay and the crew were half way done picking Frontenac Gris in 2013, he realized that they had too many grapes to fit into their production schedule.  So Jay, made an instant decision and said,  “Stop picking and net the remaining Frontenac Gris grapes.  We are going to make ice wine.”  Not knowing how good it would be or if the grapes would even hang on the vine long enough, (some grapes drop to the ground after they get ripe), Jay took a chance and had the crew net the remaining rows.  As it turns out, Frontenac Gris makes an amazing ice wine and the first batch of 600 bottles sold out in about 6 months.  

J Stoeger

Spring Frost Takes It’s Toll on Wisconsin

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Frosty Vine

Frost is not a good story for Grape Growers.  Last Saturday night Wisconsin suffered another devastating late spring frost. We, at Cold Country, are thanking the man upstairs for saving us…. but most of Wisconsin did not fare so well.  As you may remember, we were hit badly last year while the rest of the state was fine. This year is more typical of the normal weather pattern in this state.  Along the lake, the temperature stays 5 to 10 degrees colder than further inland so the buds don’t break until about two to three weeks later than our western friends.  Before bud break the grapes can take much colder temperatures.  Added to that, the lake normally keeps the temperature a few degrees warmer at night. Not the case on Saturday night for the western half of the state who lost most of their primary shoots. The good news is that the grapevine is a very resilient plant.  The secondary buds will start growing in a couple of weeks and those affected vines will still bear fruit producing about 50% less of a crop.  That’s exactly what happened to cold country last year.  We at Cold Country wish our fellow grape growers the best of luck for we have been there.

Jay’s Story Time!

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 vineyards in wisconsin

Okay, it’s not a story but it was somewhat of an adventure. With all the activities Jay and Kay have to deal with during the summer, they don’t get out too much.  Last week however, they had to attend a business meeting in Santa Barbara California Thursday and Friday.  So rather than come straight home they decided to take the weekend and do a little wine tasting of their own.  According to Jay the wine tasting around Paso Robles was nothing short of spectacular.  The reds were absolutely wonderful.  They only wished they could have stayed a little longer so that they could have tried a few more. There are 300 wineries in the Paso Robles district!  Yes 300. We in Wisconsin feel like we have a lot of wineries with just over 100 in the entire state.  And around Santa Barbara County Kay says she tasted the best chardonney ever at Fess Parker Winery.  (Yes, that is the Fess Parker that played Davey Crocket).  He passed away a few years ago but his family still runs the winery to this day.
So, what did they learn?  Tasting is pretty much the same in California as Wisconsin, you just don’t have to drive as far in between stops.  The other interesting thing they noted is the Californian’s that learned of Cold Country’s Ice Wines were eager to try some and begged them to bring some back with them on their next trip.  I think some trading may be on the way!

Storm Coming to Cold Country

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Coming Wednesday and Thursday?

We have what could be a major storm on the way this week with as much as a foot or more of snow.  Thats not the bad part.  It could be as much as 45 mile an hour wind blowing it around.  We at Cold Country are going to grab a bottle of Ice Wine and celebrate the fact that we are just going to stay in for the day.  We may substitute the Ice Wine for the Cab but it just seems so fitting considering that without the nasty cold weather we get here in the north, Ice Wine would not be possible.  It is truly the best thing about cold weather and the best thing about Cold Country.  Yeah, Ice Wine it is.  Cheers!


Roar on the Shore took place on March 19th at the Kewaunee County Fairgrounds in Luxemburg WI.  Cold Country Vines & Wines will be poured wine for our 2nd year.  Proceeds from this event, put on by the Kewaunee and Dykesville Lion’s Club, benefit local charities and civic activities.  There for the tasting, were 200 different beers and over 100 different wines.  (and around 400 people)  A great time was had by all.

Vineyard Pruning Makes Great Wine

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Spring Pruning

Pictured above is the vineyard showing just a hint of green grass.  In about two weeks we’ll start Spring pruning.  Each vine will have about 85% of its growth removed from last year so that new growth will start from where we want it to start and produce fruit where we want it to produce fruit.  It sounds kind of silly but doing it this way allows us to control how much energy the vine puts into fruit production and how much sunlight will reach the fruit.  This helps produce delicious flavors in our wines that you can get with fully ripened grapes.


Roar on the Shore will be taking place on March 19th at the Kewaunee County Fairgrounds in Luxemburg WI.  Cold Country Vines & Wines will be pouring wine for our 2nd year.  Proceeds from this event, put on by the Kewaunee and Dykesville Lion’s Club, benefit local charities and civic activities.  There for the tasting, will be 200 different beers and over 100 different wines.  Tickets are available at the door or by calling 388-3553.  Busses will be running from Kewaunee and Algoma to and from the event for advance ticket holders.

A romantic end to a beautiful day with Cold Country Wine.
Photo by Kathie Giuliani.

Wine and Cheese Weekend

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Wine and Cheese Weekend at Cold Country Vines & Wines!

Cold Country is celebrating Spring a little early.  With the wonderful warm weather as of late, we’re ready to declare that Spring is here.  This coming Saturday and Sunday, enjoy some complimentary gourmet cheese with your wine tasting.  Featured cheeses will be Ron’s Cheese, Sartori Cheese, and BelGioioso all locally produced.  These are three of the best cheese producers in Wisconsin and they go great with Cold Country wines. So come on out!