Introducing Paul Santoriello:
With this, his first post, Door County Chefs Magazine is delighted to have enlisted California oenologist, Paul Santoriello as a regular contributing writer, covering all aspects of the emerging Door County wine scene. Paul moved to the Midwest more than five years ago for, “a chance to do something different with fruit wines” and joined the knowledgeable staff at the Door Peninsula Winery in Sturgeon Bay. Originally from Santa Cruz, California and educated in plant biology, soil science and viticulture at UC-Davis, Paul has worked for the David Bruce Winery in Los Gatos, E. & J. Gallo in Modesto and The Wine Lab in Napa before coming to Door County.
Growing grapes in the Midwest isn’t exactly like growing grapes in Napa Valley…
It can be difficult to market Wisconsin wines because the perception is that they aren’t real wines like a California Chardonnay. Fruit wines and cold climate grape wines are often overlooked because the grape variety is unknown or they are sweet. But, the wines produced from Wisconsin fruit are continuing to gain in popularity because wine enthusiasts are looking for something new and discovering it locally in Wisconsin. At Door Peninsula Winery, we produce many wines from local juice, and we have chosen grape varieties that will survive the freezing winters, and ones that have potential for an excellent table wine.
The “French varieties” do not grow in Wisconsin or surrounding states – examples are Syrah, Merlot, or Chardonnay. The plants will freeze beyond repair when temperatures get down to 5-10*F. Non-traditional soils, unreliable weather and the lack of sufficient hot summer days speak to the struggles and continued lack of good sleep that Door County grape growers endure. The vines we do have available to us are “French-American Hybrids.” These varieties offer the best plant survivability down to -30*F and the grapes they yield make great wine.
The vines Door Peninsula Winery has chosen to cultivate are Marechal Foch (dry red wine) and LaCrosse (dry white wine). The Foch has a wonderful French oak-aged aroma that is uniquely smokey and is balanced with the grape fruitiness. The LaCrosse was styled just like a Spanish Albarino (Alvarinho), a dry white wine, with slight thickness and creaminess across the pallet. For more information about these and other varieties please visit the Door Peninsula Winery in person or on-line.
Local fruits like cherry, apple and cranberry have become a standard for wine making in Wisconsin. During a busy summer month we will produce approximately 2,800 gallons of cherry wine. Almost all of that cherry juice comes from the Seaquist Orchards in Sister Bay. In the wine industry, we are witnessing a burgeoning recognition and acceptance of the quality of fruit wines in competition with many of the country’s largest wine competitions opening new wine categories as specific as, “Best Cherry Wine.” In the winery, we generally see customers buying 6-12 bottles of wine and on average, 80% of that purchase is in fruit wines that we have produced and bottled here at the winery.
Door Peninsula Winery was established in the old, 1868 Carlsville Schoolhouse which serves as the entryway to our facilities and first floor of the winemaking area is downstairs. The school was originally a two-room classic Door County schoolhouse and serviced the Carlsville area until 1963. The winery operation started here in 1974 initially making only four wines: apple, cherry, strawberry and plum. The Pollman family expanded the winery in 1994, doubling the size of the retail and production areas and doubling it again in 2004. In 2009 the Door Peninsula Winery was honored by the Door County Economic Development Corporation as Industry of the Year.