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Vintners getting ready to uncork

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Kayla Bunge
May 11, 2008
— To say Joe and Wendy Staller like wine is an understatement.

For the couple, both 28, wine is a passion.


“When you go from a vineyard with no grapes to nurturing those grapes … the whole wine process, and then you finally get to the bottle … that’s it,” Joe said.


Staller Estate vineyard and winery at W8896 County A features the couple’s first five vintages.


Joe and Wendy’s foray into winemaking started before they were legally able to drink wine. They made small batches of fruit wine (wine made from ingredients other than grapes, such as blackberries, cranberries or raspberries) while studying biology and chemistry at UW-Whitewater.


Their first good batch—a delicate rhubarb wine, circa 2000—solidified their interest enough that they planted grapevines on a small plot on a friend’s dairy farm in Whitewater Township.


Joe and Wendy entered their first wines in the 2003 Indy International Wine Competition, one of the largest international competitions in the country.


“We wanted to see what people thought,” Joe said.


Until then, the couple had only judged the quality of their homemade wines by what family and friends said.


“We wanted to get some unbiased feedback,” Wendy said.


Staller Estate wines have collected more than 20 awards at the competition since 2003, giving Joe and Wendy the confirmation they needed: opening a boutique, artisan winery wasn’t just a dream any longer.


The couple purchased “the cute little farm” on County A in September 2006 and began planning for the winery in February 2007. Construction began in June 2007 and wrapped up Saturday, in time for a private opening for family and friends. (The winery opens to the public Monday, and a grand opening event is planned for Saturday, May 24.)


The Stallers started a small vineyard on the property, but planting grapes isn’t like planting corn; it takes three years to grow grapes for winemaking.


Staller Estate wines are made with locally grown grapes from the Stallers’ small vineyard in Whitewater Township and from contract growers in Wisconsin. Because the varieties are best suited to Wisconsin’s cold growing conditions, they produce wines unique to the area. And each variety produces a different wine.


“Each grape has a style of wine it can make,” Joe said. “You don’t want to mold it into something it’s not.”


Staller Estate wines are aged in stainless steel tanks, which actually better preserve the flavor of the wine than traditional wooden casks, Joe said.


The Stallers’ three tanks have an annual capacity of about 7,200 gallons. They can make wine in large, 600-gallon batches; small, 15-gallon batches, or experimental, 5-gallon batches.


At Staller Estate, nothing is automated. The wine is bottled, corked and labeled by hand.


“It’s a labor-intensive process,” Joe said, “but it’s a labor of love.”


The wines

Staller Estate offers wines are available for tasting and purchase. They are:


-- Horizon Cuvee, a delicious, semi-dry, full-framed white wine with distinct grapefruit citrus aromas followed by a lingering palate of fresh fruit. Bottle: $9.50.


-- Estate Blanc, an excellently balanced semi-sweet white wine with luscious peach and apple flavors. Bottle: $9.50.


-- Maiden Blush, a semi-dry blush wine with a strong strawberry aroma and subtle floral and citrus tones. Bottle: $8.95.


-- Richmond Rouge, a semi-sweet red wine made from fresh Concord grapes. Bottle: $8.95.


-- Lady In Red, a semi-dry, medium- to full-bodied red wine with deep aromas of dark cherry and raspberry. Bottle: $14.50.


IF YOU GO

What: Staller Estate vineyard and winery grand opening


Where: W8896 County A, Richmond Township


When: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, May 24


Details: The winery features a store where visitors can purchase wine by the glass, bottle or case; a tasting counter, and a lounge area. The Stallers will even take guests on a tour of the winery and teach them about the winemaking process.


To learn more: Visit www.stallerestate.com.



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