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Wisconsin Winemaker Has Eureka Moment, Invents First "Green" Wine

Ferments Red, White Together for No-Waste Wine, Reflects Demands of Growing Vines in the North
June 04, 2014


KEWAUNEE, Wis. (June 2, 2014) – Wisconsin winemaker Steve Johnson does not take offense at being called a mad scientist. In fact, he considers it a compliment. After all, Johnson just created two new wines that are both firsts for the U.S. wine market – the first wine that ferments red and white grapes together so that juice left in the skins is not wasted called Vin du Nord, and Wisconsin’s first grape-grown sparkling wine dubbed Bubbler in an insider nod to the Wisconsin colloquialism for water fountain. Both are available online at, at the winery in Kewaunee near Green Bay, and at their second location, Door 44 Winery in Door County.

Johnson refers to Vin du Nord, which literally translates to Wine of the North, as a “green” wine in that it makes use of the juice left in the skins after crushing and pressing. “It seemed a shame to waste that juice given the high demand for Wisconsin-grown wine,” said Johnson. So he fermented red and white together, rather than blending after, to create a unique flavor expression. As Johnson tells it, it was a scientifically rigorous process that included doing the chemistry on eight different lots. All eight worked.

“It looks like a red and has the nuanced complexity of a red, yet has the fruit-forward expression of a white,” said Johnson. “It’s not intimidating for those who like white wines and will still appeal to red wine drinkers.”

Johnson also noted that, if this strikes a chord with wine drinkers, it could open up a whole new category for winemakers.

Bubbler is a blend of three different grapes and is a bit drier than some sparkling wines. Johnson was inclined to invent this because the climate and varietals in northern Wisconsin lend themselves to crisper sparkling wines. “My inclination was that the cooler summers here produce the best expression of grapes in sparkling wines and that was confirmed for me by a winegrower from the Champagne region of France,” explained Johnson.

Bubbler was created to enjoy year-round, not just for holidays and special occasions. Try it for the first time in a summer mimosa recipe, suggests Johnson.

Two other new wines join the winery’s growing wine list. Drink Pink, the “truest of rosé wines” according to Johnson and already very popular, is a blend of Frontenac and Foch grapes, gently pressed and capturing a bright fruit aspect with aromatic expressions of strawberries, red raspberries and pint grapefruit. “The aromatics were so true and vibrant it almost didn’t seem real at first,” said Johnson. Drink Pink is chilled as a classic rosé in a semi-sweet style.

Glacier Fumé is a semi-sweet white wine offering a crisp, refreshing balance of honey aromatics and tropical fruit flavors with a hint of minerality.

All four new wines are available at the winery’s original location in Kewaunee, N2185 Sleepy Hollow Road and online at Bubbler is available at their Door 44 Winery which opened last summer in Sturgeon Bay at 4020 State Highway 42/57. Their Kewaunee location’s 35-acre estate vineyard, established in 2005, includes more than 7,000 vines and counting.

Interestingly, both wineries are located on the 44th parallel, the northern latitude that inspired the original winery’s name and is shared by the storied wine regions of Bordeaux, France and Tuscany, Italy with one big difference – the vines at Parallel 44 endure sub-zero temperatures. Their wines are also representative of the newly announced American Viticultural Area (AVA) named the Wisconsin Ledge Appellation for the Niagara Escarpment ledge that dominates the landscape in the region. AVAs are designated by the federal government as having special characteristics due to an area’s topography, soil type and climate; the wine growing regions of the Napa and Sonoma Valleys among the more famous examples. It’s a sort of geographic pedigree for wineries, recognizing that the AVA influences a flavor and style not easily reproducible anywhere else.

Parallel 44 is perhaps best known for its original Frozen Tundra line of wines. Its wines are also available at select retailers and restaurants throughout Wisconsin.

The winery kicks off its popular Summer Concert Series June 21, with concerts on select Saturdays in June, July and August from 4-6 p.m. Guests can enjoy the view of the 10-acre vineyard while listening to jazz, soul, folk, pop or rock on any given Saturday. Wine sampling is $6 and food is available for purchase. Door 44’s version is called Music on the Patio and is staged on select Fridays in July and August. For complete schedules, log on to and click on the Events link.

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