May 2018 Issue of Wines & Vines

Wine East

Covering Eastern North America

by Linda Jones McKee

A Tale of Two Expanding Midwest Wineries
Kasota, Minn.-Todd Roessler started his mobile bottling line business, Precision Wine Bottling, early in 2011 and then he and his family opened Elmaro Vineyard in Trempealeau, Wis., that November.
     Roessler said he created Precision Wine Bottling for a specific reason: to meet the bottling needs of the family's new winery and he knew other small wineries also needed bottling services. His business eventually grew to 15 clients, but Roessler decided he had to focus on managing Elmaro's production, which had grown from 2,000 cases to 10,000. "We had a hard time getting our winery onto the bottling line schedule and we decided we should focus on our core business - the winery," he said.
     This February, Roessler sold Precision Wine Bottling and the Costral 2000 NG bottling line and custom trailer to one of his clients, Chankaska Creek Ranch & Winery, in Kasota, Minn. Located in the Southern Minnesota River Valley, the winery has 13 acres of vineyards and currently produces 12,000 cases of wine, according to Wines Vines Analytics.
     Elmaro winery was designed as a "drive through" winery, so that the bottling trailer could be driven into the building, parked inside for use, and then driven out. With the mobile bottling line gone, the winery is being redesigned and expanded to include additional tanks and a temper-ature-controlled barrel room. Roessler also purchased a new Costral 2000 bottling line to be used exclusively by Elmaro.
     Chankaska's Precision Wine Bottling service will be managed by the winery's assistant winemaker, Josie Boyle. The acquisition of the mobile bottling line will take care of the winery's bottling needs, and Precision's other clients in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa will continue to be met.

-Linda Jones McKee


From Viticulture Professor to Winery Owner
Watervliet, Mich.-Dr. Tom Zabadal officially retired from his position as professor of viticulture at Michigan State University, MSU, on Dec. 31, 2017, and the next day became full-time owner, vineyard manager and winemaker at Moonrise Winery in Watervliet, Mich.
     Michael White, extension and outreach viticulture specialist at Iowa State University, told Wines & Vines that he always considered Zabadal and Dr. Stan Howell (professor emeritus of viticulture and enology at MSU) to be "the top two viticulturists in the northern half of the United States."
     Zabadal and his wife Karen planted Chardonnay, Grüner Veltliner, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon and until 2016 the grapes from the 2.5-acre vineyard had been sold. The new winery and vineyard are in an area near Lake Michigan and has sandy, well-drained soils. "All the Cabernet Sauvignon vines are on a steep, south-facing, hot slope, and the leaves stay on the vines 'til November," he said. He lets the grapes hang until Nov. and regularly gets 23° Brix and total acidity of 0.7.
     In 2009, the Zabadals put up a 100-foot long pole barn with a pressing area at one end and a room for a potential tasting area at the other. The winery was licensed for production in February 2017 and the tasting room license arrived on Nov. 22, the day before Thanksgiving. During harvest, Zabadal made 12 wines: nine will be estate bottled and three are from grapes or wine he "bought and modified," for a total of somewhat more than 1,000 cases of wine.
     The official opening was March 23, and when asked about plans for the future, Zabadal told Wines & Vines that they "have everything to learn about the marketing side of things."
     Zabadal received his Ph.D. from Cornell University in 1974 and then spent 15 years working in extension at Cornell. In 1989 he joined the department of horticulture at MSU and worked at the Southwest Michigan Research and Extension Center (SWMREC) in Benton Harbor.
     Zabadal's most lasting legacy may be his series of instructional videos on vineyard establishment, pruning and tying. He said he plans to leave the videos online (available at "All the videos are copyrighted," he stated. "There are no ads, I don't make anything from them. I planned to make 100; there are now 39. The most popular is the one on basic skills in pruning.

-Linda Jones McKee

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