By Ed Marek, editor
July 22, 2012 updated July 29, 2012
Editor’s note: I first visited LedgeStone Vineyards on April 19, 2012. As I report, it was a bit a dreary day, and of course too early for the grapes to pop. So I went back on July 28, 2012, on a very sunny, wonderful day, a Saturday, and wanted to show you photos I took then as well. You can tell the new ones ---- lots of sun!
I was visiting southeastern Wisconsin and decided to make my way back to Wausau through Fond du Lac City and DePere. I made my way up Hwy 32/57 on the east side of Lake Winnebago, the weather was not smashing, on and off drizzle. I happened upon, of all places I had not expected, a vineyard and winery, LedgeStone Vineyards. I was about eight miles south of DePere. It is in Brown County. The photo I show here was taken on my second trip, as you can see, a very sunny day.
It is at the foot of the southern section of what is known as the Niagara Escarpment, known as “The Ledge” in Greenleaf, which I will discuss later. The vineyard is located along the Fox River Recreational Trail. It is family owned by Tim and Sara Abel.
They wanted to grow premium wine in Wisconsin, began thinking about it seriously in 1993, and planted their first vines in 1998. It turns out Tim and Sara also import grapes from Washington to round out their menu of wines.
Its Estate Grown Wines include Frontenac, Frontenac Gris, Sabrevois, LaCrescent, and Marquette, with more to come as the vineyard matures. Its Monarch Creek Wines include Cabernet Sauvignon, Old Vine Zinfandel, Pinot Gris, Riesling, and Barbera.
The first thing that caught my attention was the building, shown in the opening photo. It was April 19 and the building was closed. I have shown you the photo I took on a bright summer day and you can see the picnic tables out and about. It has a terrific patio. I would learn the vineyard not only grows grapes, bottles the wine, but also has a store inside to sell the wine along with other wines from around the world, and offers places to sit and enjoy it and just chit-chat. It also offers entertainment, usually in the early evening.
During my second visit, I got the chance to walk around inside and peel off a few shots.
This man is retired Coast Guard. I am retired USAF and told him in my next life I want to be in the Coast Guard and drive one of those frigates chasing Russians! Ha, we both had a laugh. Lots of war stories went back and forth. A Great couple.
The lady serving is Heather who helps out at the LedgeStone. About photo center, with his back to us, is Tim Abel, who along with his wife, Sara, owns the vineyard.
No luck getting the lad to pose, but there’s Tim in all his glory. Wonderful guy to talk to, and he gave me free rein outside to photograph the grapes. He’s very proud of what he and Sara have built.
I walked around a bit and took some shots of the vineyard. On the first visit, it was too early for fruit, but marvelous to see the way they are “groomed.”
And an orchard …. Apples?
On the second visit, lots of fruit to see. The grapes and vines are just beautiful to gaze at on a summer day.
Before I get to the Niagara Escarpment, I wanted to mention this trail.
This is the Fox River Recreational Trail that goes right by LedgeStone. In fact, while I was there in the summer, some bicycle riders stopped off for some tasting. I admired them because it was hot outside. Anyway, this trail goes for about 25 miles from Green Bay in a south-southwesterly direction to just south of Forest Junction, roughly following Hwy 32/57.
I must say I got a bit confused as on Google I found a Fox River Trail in Illinois as well, which does come into southern Wisconsin. But that is not this trail. I also found a Fox River Wine Trail that takes you to five vineyards and wineries, including LedgeStone, all in Brown County. But this looks more like a driving trail than a bike trail, though I suppose a hearty soul could bike all around to get to the five wineries. So, this all proves nothing is easy in life to figure out!
Let’s switch gears a bit. I want to mention this business of the “Niagara Escarpment.”
The Niagara Escarpment is a landform called a cuesta, where a gently-sloping layer of rock forms a ridge. One side of the ridge has a gentle slope, a so-called dip slope that is essentially the surface of the rock layer. The other side is a steep bluff. The Escarpment is marked in red. It runs predominantly east/west from New York State, through Ontario, Michigan, Wisconsin and Illinois. The escarpment is most famous as the cliff over which the Niagara River plunges at Niagara Falls, for which it is named.
The Escarpment is an American Viticultural areas (AVA) in the New York State area. Wisconsin is working to establish its portion of the Escarpment as an AVA as well. “Viticulture” means the study of wine. Indeed along the landform sections of the escarpment, it is a vast wine region and wineries abound. Wines range from traditional varietals such as Merlot, Cabernets, Chardonnays and Rieslings to fruit wines.
LedgeStone describes the advantages of the Escarpment this way:
“The escarpment can be compared to a large cereal bowl where the edge of the bowl is the escarpment. It is a pre-glacial formation that existed when this area was covered with ocean water.
“The glaciers etched back the edges of the escarpment in Northeastern Wisconsin exposing the beautiful formations that can be observed here in Greenleaf and in other areas such as High Cliff State Park just southwest of here.
“The escarpment follows the Door County Peninsula and extends to Niagara Falls.”
For our purposes here, the western edge of the cuesta contains very rich soils that are perfect for growing fruits, especially grapes. The weather patterns here are also perfect, with hot days and cool nights.
The entire subject is worthy of your further research, if interested.
I had no idea what this was all about when I visited. But I did notice one thing. This is the picture I took looking straight to the west from Hwy 32/57:
Pretty flat. Then I looked to the east, and here’s what I saw:
Quite a difference! I knew something was going on here, but until I did this research, I did not know what. Fun!
A beautiful view of the vineyard and the Escarpment.
And one more.
In our description of the Escarpment earlier, I said that one side is a gentle slope, a so-called dip slope that is essentially the surface of the rock layer. The other side is a steep bluff. The steep bluff is on the western side. You are looking at it.
I found a way to get up to the top of the Escarpment, getting on a residential road called Ledge Road. Oh boy, do these people have a wonderful view from up here. I found one man painting his house and meekly asked him if I could walk to the back of his property to take a photo of the view from the top. What a great guy --- no questions asked, “Do it.” Here’s what I saw.
I would say I was looking to the west, perhaps to the northwest. Legend has it that on a good day, which today was, you can see Green Bay from here. Of course you have to know what you’re looking for and I did not know. Plus I had intruded on this man’s painting and property enough and did not want to overstay his kind welcome.
What a great day. Oh yes, I bought two bottles while there. I told Heather I had been an USAF officer for 20 years and then ra my business for 10 years, and was tired of making decisions. So I asked her to pick out a red and a white. My pal in the last Guard gave her some help. The red is a Frontenac-Barbera, 2009, and the white is a Pinot Gris, 2011. I am a beer drinker, but am excited to try these.