Western Wisconsin grapes are thriving in this Summer's heat

By: Matt Hoffman Email
By: Matt Hoffman Email

Chippewa Falls, Wis. (WEAU) -- A lot of us might be sick of the hot weather this summer but for one Chippewa Valley vineyard, the heat is what's making them fine and award winning wines.

"We're having probably the best weather we've had since we've planted the vineyard six years." Donna Sachs is the owner and wine maker at river bend winery in Chippewa Falls and she says for her grapes...the hotter the better!

"We want as many heating degree days in the summer as we can get because our season is short. We usually have to pick because frost is coming. We don’t have the luxury of waiting an extra two or three weeks if they're not ripe yet like they can on the west coast," says Sachs.

This year however they will be able to test grapes in late August and if they need to, they could wait a couple weeks to let them ripen more. "When we're pushing against the frost date we can't do that."
The hot weather also makes for better quality wine. She says they could use some rain but her vines are old enough to be pretty drought resistant.

"A big part of it is acids in grapes coming down, and that's usually what we need more heat for," explains Sachs.

Provided the vineyard doesn't get any hail, Sachs says this will end up being the biggest harvest yet, which would only add to the sweet news after winning best red wine at the Wisconsin State Fair Wine Competition for one of their biggest sellers. "We have a red wine called Sunset that took, won a gold medal and went on to win best red over everything that was submitted to the competition, which was pretty cool." Sachs hopes that this record hot summer will make for more great and award winning vino.

"Wine is really made in the vineyard so the better year you can have in the vineyard, the better the chemistries can be when you pick. It just sets you up to make better wine."

In December River Bend will be releasing our area's first sparkling wine. Sachs says the climate for making sparkling wine is ideal in Western Wisconsin because she says you want more acidity. River Bend produces 4,000 cases of wine a year, but they hope to make up to 10,000 cases in the future.

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