American Wine Project
Where: DeWitt, Iowa
“The vineyard is on deep decomposing limestone soils and the area is flat. It’s about 15 miles west of the Mississippi River and valley bluffs, which encourages an almost constant breeze. This vintage of Sympathetic Magic is rich and plush, with incredible depth of color. For the 2020 vintage, I sourced Marquette from the steep, decomposing karst hills in the Driftless region of southwestern Wisconsin, deeper dolomitic soils near Green Bay, and a small vineyard on a sandy loam ridge near Madison that I am farming biodynamically. “
Who: Erin Rasmussen is a native of the Great Lakes region who spent a decade earning her chops in Napa, Sonoma, and New Zealand before returning to Wisconsin to focus on cold-hardy varieties. With a penchant for “challenging, inscrutable grapes”, she founded American Wine Project in 2018.
“About the same time I realized I wasn’t seeing myself in California forever, I realized I had been quietly collecting fascinations with other American regions. A North Carolinian wine flight at the airport, a friend with a side project in Texas, an extraordinary 10-year-old bottle of Vidal blanc from New York. I was much more engaged by those experiences than by benchmark Russian River Pinots or Napa Cabernets.
Why: Ever tried a really high-quality Marquette? Didn’t think so. Now’s your chance.
On cold-weather winegrowing:
ZAFA Wines Whitewater Wines Wilde Prarie Winery Wooden Wheel Vineyards Walpole Mountain View Winery Whaleback Vineyard Tucker’s Walk vineyard Two Saints Winery Vigneto del Bino Vineyard & Winery
“The greatest challenge of making wine in a cold climate isn’t actually the cold! It’s the high humidity during the growing season. Elevated humidity and unpredictable precipitation patterns create a welcoming environment for all sorts of fungal diseases in the vineyard. Site selection and canopy management are of utmost importance. Many hybrid varieties are very vigorous so anything you can do to create a balanced, open canopy pays dividends.
There is a lot of joy in being able to explore winegrowing on the frontier. There are so many unknowns! How do you manage vinification of Frontenac noir in a cold season when your malic acid is screechingly high? Is traditional vine spacing appropriate for a super-vigorous grape like Brianna? What styles are going to define this region? …The plain fact that each year offers up a few answers and even more questions is why American Wine Project is just that – a constant project, an experiment in an unstudied, challenging climate.”