Nestled into the scenic Sugarloaf Bluff of Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin, Wollersheim Winery watches the Wisconsin River flow past. The Winery's rich history began when Hungarian nobleman Agoston Haraszthy came to America in the 1840's and deemed the slopes of Sugarloaf Bluff a perfect place to grow grapes. But after two years of Wisconsin's winters, Haraszthy moved on to California and eventually was recognized as The Father of Californian Viticulture. The winery property passed into the hands of German Peter Kehl, who built the limestone winery building in the 1850's. The Kehl family successfully grew grapes and made wine until the time of the Prohibition.
It wasn't until 1972 that two entrepreneurs, Robert and JoAnn Wollersheim, purchased the winery property from the Kehl family and restored it to a working family winery. In the 1840's Haraszthy had planted traditional European varietals. But due to Wisconsin's frigid winters, Bob Wollersheim knew that he would have to try something new. He experimented with French-American hybrid varietals and eventually keyed in on the varietals of Foch, LaCrosse, and St. Pepin. These grapes are still being cultivated at the winery's 27 acres of vineyards today.
Fate smiled kindly on the budding winery when a Frenchman by the name of Philippe Coquard arrived in 1984 and became the winemaker and later married the eldest of the Wollersheim children, Julie. Philippe brought a long tradition of winemaking as his family has been making wine in Beaujolais for many generations. Today the family tradition continues at Wollersheim Winery, with Philippe and Julie Coquard running the winery.
Though the winery still uses the traditional oak barrels to age some of their wines, they are also using innovative equipment with an eye on quality. The winery uses a computerized cooling system to control the wine temperature and an ozone machine to clean equipment. The winery is making both traditional-style wines, such as Domaine Reserve and Pinot Noir, while also making innovative styles of wine, such as the well-known Prairie Fume and Prairie Sunburst Red.
With the 150 year old limestone building still in use, the winery has expanded and added several stone buildings to better accommodate wine production and visitors. Many have commented that the property is a slice of Europe in Wisconsin's backyard.
Obviously, tradition and innovation are part of the history and certainly part of the future for this Wisconsin winery.
Wollersheim Winery has weekday tours at 10:15 AM, 12:00 PM, 2:00 PM and 4:00 PM. Weekend tours times are 10:15 AM, 11:00 AM, 12:00 PM, 1:00 PM, 2:00 PM, 3:00 PM and 4:00 PM.
Wollersheim is located at 7876 State Road 188, the winery is across from Prairie du Sac and Sauk City between highways 60 and 12.
PO Box 87 Prairie du Sac, WI 53578-0087