Cambridge Winery

Photo by Eric Tadsen

Frank Peregrine wanted to build a winery. The Village of Cambridge wanted a winery. Thanks to an article in The Capital Times , the two found each other in 2013, and today the Cambridge Winery is a reality.

But Cambridge Winery is, and will be, much more. It is part of a residential development with a vineyard, a tasting room serving small plates, and a future production facility and aging cellar.

Frank planted four acres of grapevines in the spring of 2015. His 10-year plan calls for a total of 20 acres planted over a 5-year period, some of which will be in the backyards of the residents who build homes in the 73.5 acre Vineyards at Cambridge development—the only development of its kind in Wisconsin with a winery. The varietals Frank planted were developed for a cold climate by the University of Minnesota–Twin Cities and a private Minnesota grower. However, wine enthusiasts will have to wait three years or more before sampling the wines from these grapes.

Photo by Eric Tadsen

In the meantime, Cambridge Winery is uncorking wines from California’s Central Coast. Frank and his wife, Laurie, select and blend wines produced and aged under the Cambridge Winery label in collaboration with a recognized California winemaker. The tasting room and event center (in the former Matt Kenseth Museum) in Cambridge, 700 Kenseth Way (on Highways 12 and 18), was acquired last fall. The facility also offers full banquet services. Another tasting room is located at 1001 S. Whitney Way in Madison.

Cambridge Winery products that customers currently taste and purchase are a result of Frank and Laurie’s sourcing of grapes and wines. Basically they are enjoying the Peregrines’ preferences. For example, the 2013 Pinot Noir Reserve is a blend of three different California wine lots aged for the length of time and in barrels specified by the Peregrines.

For its 2015 production of wines that will be served in the future, Cambridge Winery bought fruit from growers in Westby and Plymouth, Wisconsin, as well as some grapes grown by the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Another producer making wine according to the Peregrines’ recipe is now using the tanks and barrels that will eventually be used on location in Cambridge.

According to Frank, a good Cabernet needs to age two or three years before it’s released. A white wine can be ready in six months and often never sees the inside of a barrel.

A Carleton College chemistry graduate, Frank is finally using what he learned in the winemaking process. Prior to opening the Cambridge Winery, he and Laurie owned an IT business, which they sold in 2012.

Photo by Eric Tadsen

Frank has always been interested in horticulture. He’s a master gardener and volunteers at the UW–Madison’s West Madison Agricultural Research Station. Frank, originally a self-proclaimed beer guy, and Laurie began wine touring about 10 years ago. Wherever they traveled, they sought out local wineries and tasted their wares.

Wineries are everywhere, not just in California. In Wisconsin, grapes are grown and tested at another UW–Madison facility, the Spooner Agricultural Research Station. Grapes good for Wisconsin are hardy enough to survive the winter and are able to ripen by the end of the summer growing season.

Cambridge Winery boasts an organic vineyard that uses ozone water for pest control. Grapevines are sprayed weekly. “It’s like giving kids a bath and washing behind their ears even if they weren’t in the sandbox,” Frank explains. Ozone water is also used in the winery to sanitize barrels and keep contaminants out of the production process. The ozone water does a good job of eliminating Japanese beetles, which can be a big problem in a vineyard. Deer, continual trouble for many Wisconsin gardeners, do not seem to be an issue in an established vineyard; however, birds can clean out an entire year’s harvest in an afternoon if netting is not thrown over the vines when the grapes are ripe.

It’s also important for the Cambridge Winery that the 2,4-D herbicide sprayed on neighboring cornfields to control broadleaf weeds does not drift into its vineyard. Frank participates in the DriftWatch program, registering his vineyard online so that pesticide applicators can identify potentially sensitive areas before they spray.

Photo by Eric Tadsen

Wisconsin has 120 licensed wineries with about 80 of them belonging to the Wisconsin Winery Association. This compares to 400 wineries alone in California’s Napa Valley. Frank envisions Cambridge Winery to be a boutique winery, producing about 20,000 cases per year when the production facility is completed. That’s about equal to 10 percent of what Wollersheim Winery produces. He hopes to sell his wines locally as well as in Chicago, Minneapolis, and maybe Iowa. Frank estimates that about one-third to one-half of his wines will be sold directly. Currently, consumers can become members of one of two Cambridge Winery wine clubs and receive an assortment of reds, whites, or a combination of both throughout the year.

The Vineyards at Cambridge project will cost about $30 million and add another destination for visitors to Cambridge. Plus it will be a unique living space with single family homes, condominiums, and apartments, offering residents the opportunity to take a leisure bike ride or walk through a Wisconsin vineyard. And they will be able to buy a bottle of wine from grapes grown in their own backyard.

Jeanne Engle is a freelance writer.