GREENLEAF - When you hear the words "wine country..." images of France and California likely come to mind. Well now Wisconsin is proving it's worthy of the same recognition. It's all thanks to a special, national designation.
11 Counties in eastern Wisconsin will soon be an official American Viticultural Area or AVA called the "Wisconsin Ledge." Those counties include Door, Kewaunee, Manitowoc, Sheboygan, Ozaukee, Washington, Dodge, Fond du Lac, Calumet, Outagamie and Brown. There are 15 wineries in this area.
People thought Steve DeBaker was a little crazy when he started Trout Springs Winery in Greenleaf 1995.
"[They'd say] what are you, nuts?! Grapes don't grow here," DeBaker says.
But Trout Springs and several other area wineries have proven you can.
Thanks to DeBaker the Federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau has given the "Wisconsin Ledge" recognition as an American Viticultural Area or AVA. It took DeBaker and those supporting him seven years of research and petitioning to get the AVA designaton.
"I went back into the climatological data for the last 125 years," DeBaker says.
AVA means this area is now nationally recognized as a legitimate region for producing wine-grapes, with a unique climate and growing season.
"It'll alow the wineries to market the wines specifically for that area," DeBaker says.
"People become more aware of the high-quality wines that we're producing from grapes and be more willing to see us as serious wine makers," Jim Koehler with Captain's Walk Winery in Green Bay says.
He says this recognition will be a boon for all of the wineries in the "Wisconsin Ledge."
"Instead of thinking of separate wineries all on their own to get the customers' attention," Koehler says.
The AVA designation will make it so that the focus is less about individual wineries and more about the region as a whole.
"This will now become a destination spot, versus just a place to visit, so the agri-tourism industry will benefit greatly," DeBaker says.
Bringing more attention, people and hopefully money to this area and the state.
"We make really great wines in Northeast Wisconsin," DeBaker says.
A claim that might have sounded crazy to some 17 years ago, making a lot more sense today
Wineries will be able to officially market the "Wisconsin Ledge" designation on April 23rd. DeBaker says in order for a bottle of wine to get that label, 85% of the grapes in it need to have been grown in the AVA.
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