Wine and dine

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Milwaukeeans, long noted for making beer their alcoholic beverage of choice, increasingly are putting down their mug and hoisting a glass of wine instead.
Local wine experts and connoisseurs say the wine industry is on the rise, both in consumer interest and in the variety of countries exporting wine.
"If you look at the beer industry, the growth rate is flat, where the wine industry is increasing in sales," said Brad Brunson, owner of New World Wine Co., Milwaukee. "It is catching on that wine is healthy, socially responsible and goes well with food. There has been an influx of great new restaurants in Milwaukee over the past few years, and almost every one of them has a strong wine program with either bizarre or vast selections."
Steve Danner, general manager of Cedar Creek Winery, Cedarburg, said wine consumption has increased over the last 10 years, and the trend is mainly due to younger generations taking a strong interest in wine and in trying new things in general.
"The younger segment of women is a good market to target," said Kathy Hust, vice president of Midwest operations for U.S. Cellular Corp. and part owner of a winery.
Between 60 and 65 percent of wine is sold to women, Brunson said.
"Winemakers are trying to target the female market, especially with wines like Yellow Tail from Australia, where it is more accessible in stores and has colorful labels," Brunson said.
Karen Replogle, the manager of Celia, a restaurant in the Pfister Hotel in downtown Milwaukee, said the average diner has become more wine savvy.
"Wine enthusiasts are always looking for the next new wine region, a new grape varietal, or a new vintage," Replogle said. "Currently, in the restaurant, we are seeing lots of experimenting with new wines that are a good value, such as whites from Spain and pinot noirs from Oregon."
Jamie Boldt, general manager of Grapes & Grain LLC, Mequon, said consumers are experimenting with wines from different countries. Boldt said wines from Spain, South Africa and Argentina are popular and are affordable.
Boldt carries Spanish wines that range from between $5 and $7 per bottle and wine from Argentina that is of good quality and sold for between $10 and $15 per bottle.
"Spanish wine is available in rose, red, white and sparkling," Boldt said. "People like Spanish wine because of its earthy feel, it is smooth, holds back a little longer and is a little more mellow as opposed to a Californian wine that is not always ready to drink."
Boldt said South African wine is popular because people are curious to sample its taste.
When it comes to pairing wine with food, the trend is changing as well. The rules of thumb, such as red wine with beef and white wine with chicken or fish, no longer apply, according to Danner and Boldt, because of trends in food preparation and the increased interest in wine.
"When a chef is calling from many different cultures while preparing a dish, the traditional guidelines for food and wine pairings do not apply," Boldt said. "The idea that red wine does not go with fish is out the window. There are a lot of red wines that go well with fish, and there are still so many different balances that work."
Danner said picking a wine with an entrZe requires a balance between the weight of the wine and the food. Today, people judge by the thickness of the sauce and the acidity of the wine.
"Typically, the universal wine is dry champagne," Danner said. "It goes with anything."
Because of the fusion trend for food, the wine and meal pairing is more complex, Boldt said.
Grapes & Grain accommodates the issue of pairing wine with food and learning about wine in general by hosting a restaurant series and a tasting series at Boldt’s shop.
Pinot noir paired with salmon is still common and popular, according to Boldt.
Replogle said more customers are choosing wines independent of their entrZe choice.
"Customers are very receptive to recommendations of wines with smaller production and more obscure locations," Replogle said. "Customers also like to know a little history about the bottle, the wine or the winemaker."
Because of the trends in colorful labels and cheaper and more accessible brands of wine from other countries, consumers no longer believe that a good wine must be expensive, Danner said.
"The bulk of winemaking is the quality of the grapes," Danner said. "The quality of the grape depends on whether the vineyard is on flatland or on a slope and also depends when the vines were trimmed, how they were trimmed and how the vineyard is kept up in general."
In recent years, chardonnay was a trendy choice for new wine drinkers, but pinot grigio is becoming increasingly popular in restaurants.
According to Brunson, the more people know about wine, the more often their tastes change.
"When people approach me about choosing a wine, I always tell them that if they taste it and they like it, then it is good," Hust said. "To someone more knowledgeable about wine, that may not be a scientific way to judge, but I think for the average person, if they like the taste, then that is what they should drink."
Cedar Creek captures local flavor
By Elizabeth Geldermann, of SBT
Cedar Creek Winery has become a popular destination for upscale Cedarburg residents and tourists to taste and learn about wine, take a tour and purchase a bottle from a local company.
The business opened in 1990 after Wollersheim Winery in Prairie du Sac purchased the historic limestone building from Newberry Stone Mill, which had occupied the space since 1972.
The winery is on the site of the Cedar Creek Settlement that was a woolen mill in the 1860s.
Steve Danner, the general manager of Cedar Creek, guides visitors on the path the grapes take from the vine to the glass and shows them how to select a wine that will excite their palette.
"The grape itself suggests the style," Danner said. "It is kind of like apples. Some are red and soft, some are green and tart, some are better for making apple sauce and some are better for making apple pie."
Danner said each wine, although made from grapes, has a distinct essence of other fruits in both flavor and smell. Chardonnay typically has the essence of apple and lemon within it, cabernet has the essence of black current, syrah has the taste of blackberry or cherry, and reisling has a hint of licorice, apricot and plum.
Cedar Creek Winery only produces its chardonnay at the winery, and the rest of the 12 offered wines are fermented, aged and bottled at Wollersheim Winery. Danner said the process starts at Cedar Creek once the grapes are pressed at Wollersheim and the juice arrives at Cedar Creek.
The chardonnay is cold-fermented in stainless steel tanks for up to 10 days and then placed in oak barrels for six to 10 months. The oak barrels soften the wine while it ages and add an oak flavor, according to Danner.
The cold fermentation process allows for a lighter, fresher tasting wine, he said.
"Full-bodied wines like syrah, cabernet and chardonnay are aged," Danner said. "For flavoring, the winemaker will use less yeast for more fruit flavor and stop the fermenting process early for a semi-sweet or semi-dry wine."
The Cedar Creek wines range in price from $7.50 to $15, and most are around $8.
Cedar Creek wines are distributed throughout the state, mostly in Milwaukee and Madison.
October 29, 2004, Small Business Times, Milwaukee, WI

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