Jay & Kay Stoeger
These two truly do everything together. They married, had children and raised their family. Now they enjoy owning and operating the vineyard and winery together.
Jay has a wide range of interests. He was a singer and songrwiter in Nashville and has a CD of his music. He was a horse trainer and farrier. Now he's a full time vintner while still working full time at the nearby nuclear plant.
Jay is involved in all aspects of the business but his true calling is making amazing wines! Due to his modesty he doesn't put a lot of stock in entering wine competitions but when he's prodded to enter he comes out with medals!
Kay has a very discerning sense of smell and taste. She can detect imperfection in wine a mile away. Jay creates the wine but Kay gives it the final thumbs up. Kay's great escape is putting on headphones and cutting the grass.
Kay is also involved in all aspects of the business but her specialty lies in running the tasting room. She insures that every guest in her tasting room has the same wonderful experience.
Grandma and Grandpas Grapes
As a child in the 1960s, Jay remembers a huge arbor of concord grapes growing in northern Wisconsin at his grandparents house. Not far from there his aunt and uncle also grew a different variety of cool climate grapes.
At the time Jay was probably unaware that cold-hardy grapes had not come into vogue. He just remembered it being a struggle to get grapes to ripen in a colder climate. Smudge pots (orchard heaters) and canvas were used to keep the fruit from freezing as early as the first week in September. Despite pain-staking measures to save the fruit until harvest, the grapes were often lost.
Oenophiles are Born
When Jay was in his 20s his dad started enjoying European wines. It didn’t take long for father and son to realize a shared passion in wine. An Oenophile (lover of wine) was born along with Jay’s dream to one day plant a vineyard and own a winery.
Jay had a vision of cold-hardy grapes and in the 1990s great progress was made with industry research into cold-climate cultivars.
By the mid-2000s, grape varietals were produced to survive cold northern winters and ripen in a shorter growing season. These new varietals are perfectly suited for Wisconsin.
Jay was encouraged by extensive viticulture breakthroughs in grapes perfect for his land.
Planning, Planting, and Preparing
In 2010 Jay and Kay began planting different varieties of cold-hardy grapes on the land they lived on for 15 years. The land is just south of Kewaunee and 3 1/2 miles west of Lake Michigan and on the edge of the East Twin River Valley which is part of the Niagara Escarpment. (Ledge carved out by glacial activity.)
While the vines were establishing, Jay studied enology (winemaking) through the Viticulture Enology Science and Technology Alliance (VESTA), a national grape and wine education program.
The Wisconsin Ledge was designated an American Viticultural Area (AVA) in 2012. This means the topography, soil conditions, water source, and wind streams are perfect for grape growing.
The First Harvest
Three years of love and care went into the initial vines before the first harvest. In 2013 Brianna was harvested and production began.
The first bottle of wine was bottled and corked in May of 2014.