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Source: Wisconsin Grape Growers Association news release

A meeting with Wollersheim Winery's owner, Philippe Coquard, and his vineyard manager, Bruce Reeve, in the fall of 2006 launched Judith Reith-Rozelle's research into cold-hardy grapes. At the forefront of Wisconsin's burgeoning grape and wine industry, both men had seen a need for research by University of Wisconsin agricultural scientists to propel the state's expanding grape and wine industries.

Reith-Rozelle, assistant superintendent at the UW's West Madison Agricultural Research Station, didn't hesitate. She readily agreed to collaborate, and with a small start-up grant from Wollersheim, she submitted a grant application for funding of seedless table grape field trials to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection's Value-Added Grant Program.

By the spring 2007, the grant proposal had won approval, thanks in no small measure to the state's small but flourishing grape and wine producers. Work began immediately with the construction of the West Madison Agriculture Research Station's first vineyard. The planting of 15 cultivars of seedless table grapes followed.

Twelve varieties survived that first winter and have flourished for five years, establishing the viability of production of winter-hardy seedless table grapes in Wisconsin. The initial grant and trial, helped prompt grape growers and winery owners in 2008 to approach the university for research into cold-hardy wine grapes.

The College of Agriculture's Dean, Molly Jahn, offered her support, agreeing to secure funding for research to be based at three research stations: Peninsular (Richard Weidman), Spooner (Phil Holman) and West Madison (Reith-Rozelle). Half-acre plots of twelve cultivars were planted that spring.

Since the onset of these wine grape field trials in 2008 many of these initial wine grape cultivars have overwintered well and several can be found growing in vineyards across the state. Wineries have already begun to ferment fruit and produce wine from two varieties in particular, Marquette and Brianna.

The road to research and production of cold-hardy Wisconsin grapes now stretches eight years since its beginning in 2006. As the Wisconsin grape industry enlarges, the road is sure to lengthen even more.

The Wisconsin Grape Growers Association was pleased to acknowledge Reith-Rozelle's contributions to viticulture in Wisconsin by recognizing her as their 2014 Industry Person of the Year!

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