A little education to go with your wine

Rushes & Winery will host wine-making demonstration Saturday, Sept. 17

Vines & Rushes Winery Owner Ryan Prellwitz stands beside a freshly made batch of wine, stored in wooden barrels.   Hannah Tetzlaff photo

by Hannah Tetzlaff

From the vine to the bottle, Vines & Rushes Winery creates quality wine while ripening its consumer’s knowledge of wine-making.

On Saturday, Sept. 17 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., the winery will offer free grape harvesting and processing demonstrations, educating consumers how grape clusters transform into fermented alcohol.

According to winery owner Ryan Prellwitz, the event gives the consumer “a-day-in-the-life view” of what happens at the winery during harvest season.

“It’s really just a live tour of us working,” he said. “The grapes are coming in, we’re de-stemming, pressing and pumping the juice into the tanks. We start with a raw material and we finish with a juiced product essentially.

“It’s a sneak-peak at what happens during ‘crush,’ [also known as harvest time].”

He added the demonstrations include juice and wine tasting as well.

“We’ll grab a cup of juice and say ‘Hey, this is what the juice starts like,’ and you can go to the tasting room and taste the wine after it’s finished,” Prellwitz said. “You get to see the full process and taste it along the way, which is certainly something that people enjoy, and it engages them in a truer experience that we can provide here.”

According to Prellwitz, what makes this event a rare treat is the winery’s presence in Wisconsin.

“It’s an unusual thing in an unusual state,” Prellwitz said. “Wisconsin doesn’t have a long-standing known history of growing grapes and making wine. Everybody thinks of California when they think of wine, but we’ve gone from 13 wineries in Wisconsin in the year 2000 to 130 wineries this year.”

He noted the Wisconsin winter has deterred the number of wineries in the past because it limits the types of grapes vineyards can grow.

Even though there recently has been an increase of wineries in Wisconsin, not many educate the consumers on wine-making.

“A lot of wineries that you might visit, you might just see the front of the house, so to speak, [and] you don’t see the back end where all the production is happening,” Prellwitz said. “We like that communication with the customer and engaging with them more, making them more knowledgeable on where the product comes from.”

Prellwitz’s desire to teach wine-making originates from visitors’ curiosity about the method.

“A lot of them have an interest in how the product gets from beginning to end but never necessarily ask the question,” he said. “I think everybody has at the very least a cursory interest and [wonder] ‘what does the process look like?’ whether it’s spending five minutes or an hour looking at it.”

For guests, it may be a one-time experience, but for Prellwitz, it’s his life all day, seven days a week.

“It’s just lots of long days, long nights and not a whole lot of sleep,” he said. “Somethings go smoothly with no issues at all and sometimes you got a bunch of problems to deal with, so every day is a little different.”

Though harvest lasts anywhere from four to eight weeks, Prellwitz manages to persevere due to his love for the craft.

“It’s an intense time of the year where there’s a lot going on, but [I] kept going through the process and working with each product; focusing on the science side of it, but also focusing on the art side of it,” Prellwitz said. “You’re creating something and there’s a flexibility on how the wines turns out and that’s up to the choice of the winemaker.”

Prellwitz is eager to share his passion for wine and the understanding that comes with it. He notes the demonstrations aren’t limited to Saturday, Sept, 17, but are available every day.

“During harvest season, anytime we are doing that stuff [such as processing grapes], which is pretty much every day, people are always able to walk through and see what that process looks like, so it’s not exclusively on that Saturday,” he said.

Vines & Rushes is located at 410 County Road E, Ripon.