Half Moon Hill Farm & Winery opens for season
By Mitchell A. Skurzewski
TOWN OF HAMBURG – The countryside of Wausau-between Merrill, Athens and Marathon- isn’t where you’d expect to find a winery.
But Jared and Sadie Franke created a winery on their family farm in Hamburg just three miles west of Little Chicago.On May 3, Half Moon Hill Farm & Winery kicks off its third season after a decade of trying to get things up and running.
The couple’s long-standing aspirations of a winery came to fruition in 2017.
It was a long process to get to this point, but the Franke’s say that they are noticing more buzz around the winery leading up to this season.
Both Gerrid and Sadie are from the area with Gerrid growing up in Edgar and Sadie in Dorchester. They have two sons ages 14 and 12.
The Frankes began plans for a winery in 2007 and bought 32 acres of land in Hamburg and started with cold-hardy grapes on their farm. They also raise sheep and have them on a rotational graze on about 21 acres and the family sells lamb and berries at the Wausau Farmers Market. The family started farming in 2009.
“Right around the market crash, so we waited for the economy to rebound to start the winery. We started in 2016, so it was a lot of planning and prep work on a tight budget to get up and running and started to sell wines in 2017,” Sadie said.
They started with about 150 grapevines but Wisconsin is a tough location to have consistently successful grape-growing seasons, Gerrid said.
“Our plan was to make wine from the cold-hardy grapes we can grow here, but we quickly realized that even “cold-hardy” doesn’t necessarily mean “Wisconsin-proof,” Gerrid said.
So, the Frankes researched other options and are now also growing raspberries, blueberries and blackberries to create fruity wines.
Meads and hard Ciders were a natural fit. The honey used to make mead and the apples grown to make cider are two of the most “Wisconsin-y” things,” Sadie said.
Meads and hard ciders are a growing feature for the winery as well, with the Frankes sourcing locally to get honey for their meads and apples for their ciders from local suppliers and because they can be consistently made are likely the future of the winery.
Mead is simply a specialty wine made with honey (instead of grapes). Hard Cider is made with pure, raw fresh pressed apple cider from Wisconsin orchards Half Moon Hill produces dry, semi-sweet, spiced and fruit ciders.
“What we can’t do here on the farm, we have locally sourced from Wisconsin orchards and farms,” Sadie said. “That’s important to us.”
Gerrid said the first batches they made of meads and ciders were so good, they knew it was going to be a growing part of their winery.
Gerrid built the family home in a very European style and the couple remodeled the basement to contain a tasting room by their production area and cellar. The Frankes bottle and do everything by hand.
The Frankes converted the lower level of their home into a licensed winery and started fermenting their wines. Gerrid said from start to finish it takes about 9 months, so basically 2018’s produce is fermenting now.
The Frankes redid their labels, added on for more patio space and are using their former greenhouse for another seating area for guests. The Frankes encourage people to relax and enjoy a glass of wine and bring their kids out to enjoy the farm and animals.
“There is no reason a winery can’t be family-friendly,” Gerrid said. “We encourage people to come enjoy a glass of wine and take in the scenery.”
During mid-summer berries are open for u-pick and you can stay updated on the Half Moon Hill Winery Facebook page. The winery is open every Friday and Saturday from 1 to 7 p.m. from May through October and November.