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Pandemic accelerates local woman’s WINEaLOT dream

By Heather Graves

GREENLEAF – WINEaLOT owner and operator Miranda Demske, 28, said she had every intention of moving slowly on her dream of opening a winery.

“We have a couple of fields over by our house and we always bailed them up for cash crop, and we got sick of doing it,” Demske said. “I decided, well, I like going out in the garden. I like harvesting and using the stuff in the kitchen. I like wine – how hard can it be? We’ll plant some grapevines, and learn how to make wine. I wanted to eventually take over all of the fields and ever so slowly learn how to make the wine, start producing.”

Fate, however, had other plans.

Demske’s hours at work were significantly cut due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and her plan suddenly accelerated.

“Let’s move forward with it,” she said. “So I ended up pushing it way ahead of schedule. I quit my job last year in July, on my birthday actually, and decided to go full force and make a winery.”

Demske said it took nine months to obtain the necessary permits, three more to get everything up and running and a year to the day later, WINEaLOT Vineyards officially opened its doors on Highway PP between De Pere and Greenleaf.

WINEaLOT Vineyards currently has four house wines – Machine Shed Red, I WINEaLoT, Peerless White Chardonnay and Ole Sport Red, which Demske said have their own unique aspects.

“The Machine Shed Red was our first one and is actually our best-seller,” she said. “That is a dry, red blend. It is so smooth to drink it actually almost tricks you into thinking it’s sweet. The Ole Sport Blend is more of a semi and has a strong red fruit flavor with more of a mouthfeel to it. Peerless White Chardonnay, we just launched. It is more medium-bodied. It isn’t as dry as some chardonnays out there. It has a slight sweetness to it. And the I WINEaLOT wine, that is a semi-sweet, white blend… people say it is refreshing.”

Demske makes and bottles all wine in house.

“I have two tanks full right now,” she said. “I filter it. I bottle it. I design the labels and install those.”

Something two years ago, she said she knew nothing about.

“I did a lot of research, and a lot of practice,” she said. “Once you get an idea of how wine is made, it is actually relatively simple to tweak that recipe based on what your fruit is. You know, what are the numbers? What’s the pH? What are the sugar levels? You just change up the recipe to match what you have.”

Demske said it’s trial-and-error, with a tweak here and there.

“I always describe it as if you were making spaghetti sauce with fresh tomatoes,” she said. “You have a recipe. You know how to make it. But you are going to tweak that recipe based on how the tomatoes tasted that day. It is kind of the same thing.”

Currently, Demske has 500 grapevines planted – a combination of Frontenac, Marquette and Petite Pearl.

She planted them with help from family and friends.

“They are all very young yet and not ready to produce grapes for another year or two,” she said. “Every year, I plant a new section. It will be 5 acres by the time I’m done.”

While Demske waits for her grapes, she is supplementing with Wisconsin-produced fruits.

With the goal of staying as local as possible, she has purchased 300 pounds of Door County strawberries, 50 gallons of fresh Door County cherry juice, Marquette grapes from a local vineyard and Concord grapes from another.

Demske said the amount of grapes each blend requires depends on the sugar levels and how much rain the area gets.

“Obviously, a juicer grape is going to give you more juice, but it is also going to give you less quality juice,” she said. “So, it really depends on how the weather played out. And then some vines do better than others. Generally, a rule of thumb is 16 to 20 pounds will go into a gallon of wine. And we should be getting about 5,000 or more pounds with our acreage.”

She said the whole process takes months.

“It really depends on the wine,” Demske said. “Some wines do better aging longer. Fruit wines don’t generally take as long. We just bottled our four wines – and the (wines in the tanks) probably won’t come out until winter or next year.”

Within the next year, Demske said the plan is to take over the remaining space of the antique barn currently housing the winery.

“The tasting room is small and is sharing the space with the production area,” she said. “The other side of (the building) is all storage right now. That will be our production area and this whole room will be the tasting space. Then over time, I want to start food options – charcuterie boards, treats like that. One day, I want to build a full kitchen.”

The WINEaLOT name

Demske said the story behind the WINEaLOT name is one she’ll never forget.

“We were planting the first section of the vineyard,” she said. “It was October and it was cold and the ground was all wet and it was rainy on and off, and I had a lot to say about it. It was not pleasant. And my husband goes, ‘Gee, you whine a lot.’ And I was like ‘Hey, that works.’”

Demske began selling the WINEaLOT brand before the winery doors opened, with accessories she makes herself.

“Hats, shirts, cups, bags, all sorts of things playing with the WINEaLOT name – ‘I like to WINEaLot’ or ‘WINEaLOT, it will make you feel better,’” she said. “Creating the brand that we are, and I had 700 or more people following us on Facebook – following a winery that can’t make wine… So when we opened the doors, we actually already had a big following.”

WINEaLOT Vineyards’ tasting room is currently open every Wednesday from 3-8 p.m.

A grand opening celebration is from 2-6 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 14, and will include wine, beer, music and a food truck.

“After that we are going to start adding Friday (tasting hours) as well,” Demske said. “Eventually, I’d like to have four days a week open.”

For now, she said she is soaking it all in.

“I always wanted to own my own business, but I never really knew what I wanted to do or anything,” she said “It kind of just landed on my lap, basically.”

More information on WINEaLOT Vineyards can be found by CLICKING HERE or on its Facebook page.

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