This article was taken from the Leader Telegram, September 2009. Joe Wynimko takes a pass on making wine from grapes. He’d rather make wine from rhubarb, dandelions, pumpkins and strawberries.
“It’s basically all fruits,” Wynimko said. “My niche is the specialty fruit wines. I don’t have a vineyard, I have an orchard. The rhubarb is all out of my garden, the pumpkin is all out of my garden.”
With the right mix of sugar and yeast, Wynimko can turn just about any fruit or vegetable into wine. He’s made carrot wine and onion wine.
After working on obtaining state and federal permits for the past 1 1/2 years, Wynimko and his wife, Dorinda, opened O’Neil Creek Winery, southwest of Bloomer, on Friday.
They have a shop on the first floor of their home with room for people to stop in and purchase wine by the bottle or by the glass.
Wynimko envisions people coming in to get a glass, then taking it onto the patio and reading a book or watching the wildlife.
“It’s comfort food — that’s what I call wine,” he said.
Wynimko, 56, retired from the Bloomer Police Department in January 2007, after 27 years on the force. About 10 years ago, his children purchased him a kit to make homemade wines.
“I kind of enjoyed it,” he said. “I never thought I’d get into this. I played around with all sorts of fruit wines. I got into perfecting the recipes I had.”
Wynimko would give bottles away to friends, and he was hearing more and more praise for the quality of his wines. The hobby quickly escalated into plans for a business.
“I thought he was crazy,” Dorinda Wynimko said with a laugh. “He’s always been making it, and I’ve always been trying it.”
Dorinda is looking forward to having the business open. “It’s fun, now that we’re getting there,” she said.
The Wynimkos built their home with the winery in mind, making a shop and bottling room. Joe also planted cherry, apple and plum trees in the yard, with the idea of using the fruit next year to make more wines. He also will add a raspberry wine next year.
A single batch of wine makes 30 gallons. In his production room, Wynimko moves the beverage between containers to ferment it.
“I clean and freeze my berries because they juice better,” Wynimko explained as he displayed his wine-making equipment.
It takes one to two years before the wine is finished and ready to consume.
The Wynimkos thanked friends and family like Sharon, Dawn and Autumn Knoepke, Gary and Connie Krenz, Nancy Erlichman and Dot Gesler for helping bottle wines and getting the shop ready to open.
Susan Rees, executive director of the Wisconsin Winery Association, said there are about 40 wineries in the state, including 35 that are members of her organization.
“That number has doubled in the last five years,” Rees said. “I think it’s partly the changing tastes of the public and it’s the accessibility to great wine. The wineries in the state are producing a really good product.”
The boom of wineries has been helped by the cultivation of cold-climate grapes, she said.
Rees is only aware of one other winery in the state that doesn’t make any wines with grapes. She encouraged wine enthusiasts to consider purchasing from the state’s smaller producers.
“Many of the wineries have bed and breakfasts around them, and they are wonderful travel destinations,” she said.
Copyright (c) 2009, The Leader-Telegram, Eau Claire, Wis.