Focus on Dane County: New winery coming to town of Westport

August 7, 2015
Wisconsin State Journal

David Korb is on the verge of building his own winery, more than a decade after he first planned to do so. Last month, the Waunakee Village Board unanimously approved Korb’s application to build a 6,400-square-foot winery on his property in the town of Westport.

Drumlin Ridge Winery, named for the drumlin it sits atop, will be a family-operated business with wine produced by Korb and his son, Keenan, and a tasting room managed by his wife, Brenda.

Korb’s path to opening a winery began in 1991 when his family was pressing apples from the orchard on his property. The family had purchased one-gallon jugs to bottle and freeze the juice in, but a family friend convinced him to make the juice into wine.

“He said, ‘Well, your grandfather taught me how to make wine. I’d like to pass this onto you and you can turn that apple juice into wine.’ He passed it on and I ended up having some of his wine-making equipment passed down to me,” Korb said. “We’ve been doing it ever since. We experimented — as everybody does when they start making wine locally — with whatever you can make it with. Vegetables, local fruit, dandelions, you name it.”

Korb quickly adopted the amateur wine-making as a hobby, and his passion for wine has led him across the country. In recent years, he’s traveled to San Luis Obispo County along California’s Central Coast to make wine with his son. The wine they’ve made there — some bottled, some still in barrels — will be the starting block for Drumlin Ridge’s opening.

Korb plans to break ground on the facility in October and hopes the winery can open by June. It takes six months to two years, depending on the type of wine, to create a product ready for sale, so it will open with wines the Korbs produced in California.

The winery will occupy two floors with a production facility on the lower level and a tasting room, storage area and retail on the upper floor. The vineyard accompanying the winery will eventually contain more than 22,000 vines. Drumlin Ridge’s wines will feature a selection of Midwest-grown grapes, but in order to appeal to wine connoisseurs, the winery will also purchase fruit from California.

In the early 2000s, Korb planned a winery similar to what the family will open next year. But hard economic times put that plan on the back burner until 2013 when Korb and developer Frank Peregrine planned a much larger winery that would have included a 250-capacity banquet hall and a distillery.

The plan was met with significant opposition, including a petition against the winery, by area residents concerned about increased traffic. This time, the path to approval was no different.

“Unfortunately we have a lot more cornfields around here instead of vineyards and wineries, so people don’t really understand the concept,” said Korb, who expects the 50-capacity tasting room to attract just a handful of guests at a time.

To help address neighbors’ concerns, the winery’s conditional use agreement says the facility can host only a dozen events a year with no more than 75 attendees.

Pat McGowan, who voted against the project at the Westport-Waunakee Joint Planning Commission, could not be reached Thursday.

When it opens, Korb expects to produce 2,000 to 4,000 cases a year — considerably less than other local wineries like Botham Vineyards and Wollersheim Winery.