Drumlin Ridge Winery brings peak flavors to Waunakee

Posted by Samantha Haas on Thursday, September 21st, 2017 at 10:47am.

The idea of opening a winery has been planted in David Korb's mind for a long time. It finally came to fruition in spring 2017 with the opening of Drumlin Ridge Winery, located just north of Madison between Waunakee and the town of Westport.

Korb, his wife Brenda, and their son Keenan eliminated their work commute by building the nearly 6,400-square-foot winery on one of the four neighboring parcels where they have lived for 27 years.

"Our home is just right out the back door," Korb said. And it's been the perfect spot to grow his dream.

He started making apple juice from their orchard in the early 1990s, and soon a friend suggested they make wine. Now there are over a dozen varieties of grapes growing on 3 1/2 acres of vineyards on the 13-acre property, situated on a beautiful country hillside surrounded by pines near the Yahara River.

"My vineyard ranges anywhere from 9 years old to a couple months old," Korb said. So for several years before he was licensed, friends could come over and try it, and he also sent wine out for numerous contests. Now the public can enjoy "Wisconsin's wine at its peak."

Midwestern tastes

Once they are mature (which usually takes about five years), these 2,200 vines will yield about 16 tons of grapes at harvest.

The best weather for grapes is warm and dry, like California's desert-like conditions, Korb explained, but it's been pretty wet in Wisconsin the last two years, which can attract bugs, mildew, and fungi. The various locations of the vines on the scenic drumlin have different types of soils, exposure to sunlight, and growing conditions, which can alter the flavor of the wines, too.

"The top of the hill is rocky, silty, drier, more airflow," he said. "The same grape growing on the top will produce a much different tasting wine (more concentrated juice) than the grape growing on the bottom where the soils are heavier."

Since these grapes were developed in the Midwest, like the darker red Marquette and Petite Pearl from Minnesota, "they will survive our 30-below-zero winters and come back pretty hardy without tissue damage," he said.

During the fermentation process, Korb and his small staff (which includes Rich Trotta, who has been an amateur winemaker just a mile away since 1974 and "always dreamed of working in a winery") keep the different picks separate and taste them before determining whether or not they will make a blend.

Aside from ordering a glass or buying a bottle, people can try several different tastings of wine, which change monthly: classic with six, 1-ounce pours for $10; premium with six, 1-ounce pours for $12; and reserve with three, 2-ounce pours at the same time.

"We have a lot of wine lovers that have come out here and said that they really enjoy the wines," Korb said.

California experience

While Drumlin Ridge Winery produces both red and white wines, Korb said he is personally drawn to the full-bodied, dark, heavy reds like a California Syrah.

Back in 2013, Korb started producing wine from a friend's vineyard using a rented space in the Central Coast of California, and his son has spent considerable time there during harvest seasons, too.

"The only thing in California we own are the barrels we're aging our wines in," he said. Some of these wines will be available for guests to try at Drumlin Ridge.

The family has taken many ideas back home with them from wineries they've visited in California (as well as those in Michigan and Wisconsin) when they were in the process of designing their winery.

"The open concept, the open, curved bar, the barrels up behind the bar, the Frank Lloyd Wright prairie style brought in," Korb said. "We wanted to have a big open barn looking building, but we wanted it to be more warm and prairie style. So we didn't go with the old traditional red barn."

The production facility is on the lower level, which the public can view through large glass windows while walking up the steps to the tasting room, or on tours, which will pick up during harvest season in September and October. Korb, who is a wealth of knowledge about winemaking, said it usually takes about five people to manually bottle the wine -- but first the grapes need to be destemmed, pressed, fermented, chilled, or barrel aged.

"You could have a white wine bottled within four months ... a red wine is usually a year," he said.

The second floor, which is also accessible by elevator, includes restrooms, a gift shop with various wine- and olive oil-related items, tasting and seating areas. Drumlin Ridge Winery also has a small plates menu, featuring artisan and European cheese boards, local meats, cheesecake, and smoked oysters. On the other side of the grand space upstairs is a gas fireplace and a meeting room.

"We've had bridal showers, bachelorette parties, meetings. Small, quaint events," Korb said, especially since the event capacity for the building is 75 people.

Outside facing the vineyards is a seating area, which can be enclosed, and another fireplace with a fuel burner that can immediately be turned off when guests leave the patio. In the corner of the yard is a sand and stone area for guests to play Pétanque, a French-style bocci ball game.

"It's a lot like going to California, which was our whole idea: to have a California-type atmosphere," Korb said.

Drumlin Ridge Winery is part of the Wisconsin Winery Association, the Wisconsin Grape Growers Association, and the Vino Van-Go wine tours.

About the business

What: Drumlin Ridge Winery
Owner: David Korb
Established: March 18, 2017
Location: 6000 River Road, Waunakee (town of Westport)
Hours: Noon to 6 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays; by appointment only Tuesdays; 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays; 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays
Website: drumlinridgewinery.com
Phone: (608) 849-9463

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