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Famous Fossil Winery Is Making Its Mark With Mid-Western Wine

By Pamela Sosnowski

Wisconsin seems like an unlikely place to open a winery, given that the state has developed a reputation for its punishing winter months. But Famous Fossil Winery of Freeport is thriving, partly because of its hearty grape varieties that were developed to withstand up to 30 degrees below zero. Besides that, the winery has become a popular place with locals and tourists that want to taste some mid-western wine, taste locally grown foods, and enjoy the many events throughout the year hosted at the winery.

"There is always something fun going on at Famous Fossil," says Pam Rosmann, who opened the winery along with her husband Ken in 2008. "We try to be gracious hosts, helping people learn, taste and enjoy being in our winery. We have many events throughout the year that allow visitors to learn more about wine, relax and have fun."

Organic farming sparked an interest in wine making for the Rosmanns several years ago. Ken grew organic soybeans in the 1980s, selling most of them to a Japanese tofu maker that appreciated the flavors the minerals from the earth gave the beans.

"After farming for many years, Ken felt a strong desire to make a product that people could enjoy," explains Pam. "Wine is a natural fit for Ken's personality and skills?his ease with chemistry, his farming success and his enjoyment of food, wine and friends. He first made wine in his college days and began studying in earnest over 20 years ago. His philosophy of natural winemaking creates wines that show the great potential of grapes grown in the northern climate. Once the winery 'bug' bit us we never looked back."

The couple finished planting the vineyard in 2004 and four years later, opened the winery after their first harvest. Five acres of grapes and over 2,000 vines encompass the Famous Fossil vineyard. And that "famous fossil", it's a recepticulite or sea sponge from an ancient sea bed over 450 million years old that Pam says is on display in the tasting room- an ode to the land's pre-historic roots and one of many fossils that were discovered when their vines were being planted.

The winery currently makes over 15 different wines including full bodied reds, refreshing whites, sparkling wine and sweet dessert varieties. The grape breeds, which were developed at the University of Minnesota specifically for cold climates, include LaCrescent, Marquette, Frontenac, St. Croix and more. Harvesting takes place from August through October, and the winery is open year-round except for select holidays and the first half of January.

An outdoor deck overlooking the vineyard offers the perfect view to partake in while sipping wine and sampling the small bites plate the winery offers. In 2017, the Rosmanns will be able to host weddings, music events, gatherings, and more at a newly restored barn on the property in addition to the cookouts, festivals, and other fun events are held during the year. Pam Rosmann is looking forward to another year of welcoming visitors to the winery. "We hope that guests will enjoy tasting our wines and come away with a new appreciation of what this emerging wine region can offer."

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