American Wine Project

CAPITAL TIMES/MADISON.COM: Waunakee's American Wine Project gets creative with cold-hardy grapes


Erin Rasmussen believes that when it comes to making wine, the upper Midwest, Texas, Idaho and Iowa can do things the coastal regions can’t. 

That’s why she founded American Wine Project, currently based out of Drumlin Ridge Winery in Waunakee. 

“The wines I’m releasing this spring are surprisingly round and soft and pretty,” she said. “They’re very commercially viable wines. But the other part is, they’re flavors people have never come across in wine before. That’s the exciting part and the scary part.” Read more…

WisBusiness: The Podcast with Erin Rasmussen for the American Wine Project

 This week’s episode of “WisBusiness: The Podcast” is with Erin Rasmussen, founder of an early-stage business called the American Wine Project.

She grew up in Madison but spent the last decade in California studying winemaking. Her new venture has several wines in development, and she says she wants to stimulate interest in the “farm-to-table” model of wine in Wisconsin.

“How do I as a Midwest native bring thoughtful, artistic, high quality winemaking to a region that is really just beginning its wine industry lifespan?” she said. “It’s really only pretty recently that we’ve had the technology and the research done to be able to consistently grow grapes that survive our cold winters.”

Rasmussen is a graduate of the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation’s Upstart program, which supports minority and women entrepreneurs.

She and her business partner are currently looking for a space to set up their winery, which she says presents some different challenges here than in California.

“The ways that that happens in California are not available to me here,” she said. “For example, what’s called ‘custom crush’ -- renting a space in someone else’s winery to be able to produce wine under your own name.”

She’s not farming her own grapes herself, though she says she may explore that in the future.

“It’s winemaking as I’ve done it for the last 10 years working for various high-end wineries in California,” she said. “I’m treating these grapes that grow in the Midwest like they’re $10,000-a-ton cabernet from Napa Valley, because I think that’s what it takes to make great wine.”