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AEppelTreow Winery & Distillery Embraces Heirloom Fruit

Old World flavors for today’s beverage connoisseurs

Nov. 15, 2016
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Most Milwaukeeans are familiar with the sights along I94 en route to Chicago: motels from Highway 41’s glory days, 7 Mile Fair, fireworks stands, cheese shops and the Richard Bong State Recreation Area. A short jaunt down a tranquil Kenosha County road from the latter destination will lead to AEppelTreow (Anglo-Saxon for Apple True/Tree) Winery & Distillery, makers of hard cider, wine and spirits, located on the grounds of Brightonwoods Orchard.

Charles McGonegal, who owns AEppelTreow with his wife Milissa, began experimenting with fermentation while in college and later sought out unusual apple varieties for cider. In 2001, the McGonegals partnered with Brightonwoods Orchard, home of 200 varieties of heirloom and rare antique apples. Distillation began in 2009. 

Visitors will enjoy hearing the McGonegals’ fun stories about successes and bumps in the road they endured during start-up—like sharing their workspace with barn swallows during early renovations—and what they discovered about the beverage business during their journey. 

Like most artisan food and drink, batches and product offerings can vary based on availability of ingredients. “The blends are dependent upon what the orchard produces,” Milissa said. Some batches, especially those in the Single Barrel Reserve series, can change from year to year—or not be made at all, if there’s a crop failure.

A mid-October visit to AEppelTreow revealed a wine list with dry Appely Brut, a dry, crisp sparkling wine, and Perry, a semi-sweet sparkling wine made with fermented pears. The table and dessert wine highlights include Cyser Rosé, a semi-dry, tannic crabapple mead with a hint of spice; and Summers End, an apple wine made with Cortland and a blend of old world baking apples. 

The traditional ciders garnered much interest among tasting room visitors. Varieties include Orchard Oriole perry; Kinglet Bitter, made with English and French cider apples; and Barn Swallow (homage to the early barn mates), crafted from a blend of eating and cooking apples. Flavored ciders include Sparrow, a house spice blend, and Blackbird, flavored with black currants and elderberries. “Hard cider, in its most natural form, is a light, subtle, tart, fresh summer drink,” Charles said. “We want to bring back the hard cider from the pre-Prohibition era.”

The Single Barrel Reserve series includes Antique Russet cider wine, and Americana, a still cider with a dry, smooth, subdued apple flavor with Jeffersonian era apples such as Hewes, Albemarie Pippin, Winesap, Harrison and Taliaferro. Americana is a decade-plus work in progress, as the colonial-era apples had to be located, grafted and raised to bear fruit. Brightonwoods dedicates an acre of orchard space to AEppelTreow.

Spirits lovers will enjoy Brown Dog whiskey, made from sorghum grown in Elkhart Lake, or Honesty pear brandy. They also offer slivovitz, a plum brandy with origins in Eastern Europe. The slivovitz came from a happy coincidence, Milissa said, when they happened to acquire three tons of prune plums in autumn 2014.

The tasting room is open from from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. on Saturday and noon-4 p.m. on Sunday through Dec. 18. Winter tasting room hours are by appointment only, as drifting snow makes it difficult to keep the driveway clear. AEppelTreow products are distributed through L’eft Bank Wine Company in select retail, bars and restaurants in the Milwaukee area. 

AEppelTreow is located at 1072 288th Ave., Burlington. For more information, call 262-878-5345 or visit aeppeltreow.com.

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