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PRAIRIE DU SAC, Wis. - Before heading out into his countless rows of snow-dusted vines on Wednesday, Philippe Coquard bundled up.
The construction site of Wollersheim Winery's new distillery was empty. Workers couldn’t build in the bitter cold, Coquard said.
“With the wind, it's torture,” Coquard said.
This time of year, there’s no fruit to show. Unfortunately, that was the case on a number of vines during the latest harvest.
“We had greens, we had little crop, but very small harvest,” Coquard said.
Wollersheim’s Ice Wine is made from pressing frozen white wine grapes, but the tough and long winter last year left Coquard with just enough to make some of his other wines.
In all, Coquard lost more than half of certain white wine grapes grown in his vineyards.
“If it stays cold without the wind, we are OK,” Coquard said. “Cold and the wind, we could suffer, but hopefully nothing like last year.”
That means that come this fall, wine connoisseurs used to partaking in the unique drink won’t have a new release to enjoy. Coquard said he will also miss out on a lot of national publicity without Ice Wine.
“A lot of money that we didn't make, let's put it that way. It brings a lot of customers,” Coquard said. “It brings cash flow. It brings a lot of momentum.”
Wednesday’s bitter cold and wind chills brought back bad memories for Coquard, who said the vines he grows can withstand a couple of weeks of this kind of winter weather, but if it keeps up, he risks the same fate.
“Vines have seen colder, but hopefully not the length of the cold. That's what really hurt last year,” Coquard said.
There is nothing Coquard can do to protect the vines from the cold and wind.
“A couple of days below zero is not a huge concern, but if it stays like that and with the wind, the wind will dry out the shoots,” Coquard said.
As Coquard returned to the warmth of his tasting room, he said he hoped Wednesday’s weather isn’t a sign of things to come.
“So far, let's not cry wolf,” Coquard said. “We haven't been hurt.”
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