Redefining Wisconsin Wine with Door 44

Joe Kolafa

joe kolafa | door 44 | june 2019

A couple of weeks ago the new and improved Door 44 opened its doors to a new location and turned the page on the next chapter of redefining Wisconsin wine.

Parallel 44 introduced itself to the area on May 25, 2007, when it opened its location in southern Kewaunee County with its winery overlooking 10 acres of vineyard. Due to the success of this pioneering venture in the newest part of the wine world, in May of 2013, Door 44 opened its doors to the well-traveled wine tourism destination of Door County.

The next step taken by husband and wife and co-owners Steve Johnson and Maria Milano was to demonstrate the world-class potential of this newly nationally recognized wine region by constructing an 11,000 square foot production and tasting room overlooking a five-acre vineyard just two miles north of the former Door 44 location.

“Our vision and mission is to offer our customers an unrivaled experience of wine from this part of the world from ground to glass. We have sensed the desire of wine lovers to connect with the sense of place that a vineyard and winery provide. This new location was perfect in providing this experience to our customers,” said Johnson.

The business model of both Parallel 44 and Door 44 from the very start was to grow, craft and offer wines that are truly regional. Nearly every wine they produced is primarily Wisconsin grown.

“This vineyard here at Door 44 reinforces our commitment to develop and promote the world-class potential of wines from this part of the world” stated Johnson.

The couple noted that because such a large portion of the wine tourism experience occurs here in the Door/Kewaunee County area that it was important to have people connect first hand with the process and experience of grapes and wine.

“From the overhead doors that open up to a patio overlooking the vineyard to the unique local stone tasting bar to the table bench seating, we can now offer our guests a world-class wine experience that is entertaining, educational and relaxing,” said Milano. “We are so excited for everyone from locals to visitors to take and experience this all,” she added.

“Fruit wine will always have a place here in Door County, but we also want visitors to know that internationally award-winning wines are being grown and crafted here in Wisconsin and on the newly designated 'The Wisconsin Ledge' American Viticultural Area or Appellation which stretches along the Lakeshore from Washington Island to just north of Milwaukee” said Johnson.

He stated that their vineyards at Parallel 44 and Door 44, in conjunction with the other nearly dozen growers from across this area and the state, will produce hundreds of tons of grapes needed to make their Frozen Tundra family of wines and the Red, White and Pink Door family of wines.

On average between both wineries, Johnson crafts around 24 wines every year from reds to whites, from roses to sparklings to authentic ice wines.

“This focus on regionally grown grape wines is very labor and capital intensive and leads to a price point that is typically a little higher than other many other wines,” the couple noted. “We know how important it is for many to connect with a place and understand the story and the uniqueness of these wines. I think it enhances the experience of the wines to look out over the vineyard that provided the wines that you are now enjoying.”

Throughout the summer, the winery will be offering music on Saturdays, along with tours, a farmers market and the ability to enjoy fine cheeses with the wines. She suggests that people look to the website to learn more about upcoming events and offerings at both Door 44 and Parallel 44.

Ultimately Johnson wants to see these wines sought after and enjoyed by people who will never even visit Door County.

“There is no denying that the beauty of this area will draw millions to Door County, but just like now people will order Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley or Pinot Noir from Oregon, there will be a day someday soon where there will be a Marquette and a Lacrescent from the Wisconsin Ledge on wine lists in places like New York City and Los Angeles,” said Johnson.

These wines, like Frozen Tundra Red and White Door recently received platinum medals with scores of 94 and 95 at the Winemaker Challenge in San Diego, California.

“We can't wait for everyone to see, taste and experience these wines and this place,” said Milano.

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