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Wollersheim Winery & Distillery celebrates 50 years and reflects on the past, present and future

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Winery Owners

PRAIRIE DU SAC (WKOW) -- One of the most well-known and oldest wineries in our area is celebrating a major milestone and taking a look at its past, and its future. 

Wollersheim Winery & Distillery is celebrating its 50th year anniversary -- a milestone owners Philippe and Julie Coquard said has been great as they see their business grow and evolve.

The Past

What started in the 1850's ended in 1899, after all the vineyards froze due to the extremely cold winter all over Wisconsin. 

But in 1972, the winery was restored. Julie Coquard said her parents bought the property when she was just six years old and remembers her time growing up there. 

"During, not only the summers, but pretty much every weekend, we helped wash wine glasses and do all those kinds of things that kids can help with and a family business," Coquard said. 

On the other side of the world was a 13th generation winemaker, Philippe Coquard. Philippe moved to America from France in 1984, and only two years later married the love of his life, Julie.

Philippe and Julie now own Wollersheim together. 

"Winemaking has been in my family since 1585. I've always been interested in winemaking since I was a little kid. My father was a vineyard consultant, my uncle is a winemaker, grandpa is a winemaker, cousin is a wine winemaker," Philippe said. 

The Present

The cold weather was an issue back then, and still is today. Philippe said harvesting grapes in Wisconsin has its challenges. 

"Because of the weather, it is not an easier place to grow grapes," Philippe said. "South of us, east of us. West Coast is optimum. So Wisconsin, we have challenges because of the cold winters."

Adapting to the weather to ensure a successful season, Philippe said means experimenting with different cultivars and vines. It also includes a fair amount of trial and error -- seeing what can grow and what can't. 

"However, there are many, many grapes that are adapted to cold weather. We have many of those. We also have grapes contracted for us in Washington State, Michigan and New York State. And everything comes to us, and we make it all with joy," he said.

The Future

But the next roadblock, he said, deals with global warming. 

"The next phase of adapting to the weather is a big challenge with global warming. And that's a different topic. But we are witnessing it right now and already changing things in the vineyard to adjust to the future," Philippe said.

Working to overcome the challenges Wisconsin weather throws their way, Julie and Philippe celebrate the 50th anniversary of their family business.

From generation to generation, one day the business will be passed down to their daughter 

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