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White Winter Winery expands line while maintaining green focus
Karl Williams of White Winter is pictured above with a bag mead about to be filled.
Since 1996, White Winter Winery in Iron River has focused on being green. This effort first started by creating a product that primarily contains fruit, honey and other products purchased within a 150-mile circle.
Using local ingredients, said owner Jon Hamilton, provides the freshest product but also conforms to their personal beliefs. As a result, when the Wisconsin Department of Tourism launched its Travel Green program in 2006, White Winter was the first winery in line to become designated.
Today, there are 353 travel green certified businesses within the state of Wisconsin, said Lisa Marshall, spokesperson for the Wisconsin Department of Tourism. As part of this program, businesses receive signage for their business along with special recognition on the Travel Wisconsin website.
More importantly, Marshall said the program reflects the values of Wisconsinites.
“Wisconsin has a long history about caring for its natural resources,” she explained. “We really rely on our natural resources as a reason for people to visit our state.”
By creating the Travel Green program, Wisconsin took the lead in recognizing businesses that share in that value, Marshall said. Also making Travel Green unique is the fact that everything is verified by a third party and the certification extends beyond lodging to include all businesses in Wisconsin.
Back at White Winter Winery, Hamilton said he hasn’t seen a direct marketing benefit to the program but instead an acknowledgement on how important the environment is to the business.
“This program confirmed our environmental ethics,” Hamilton explained. “We’d been doing many of these things from day one, and this just meshes together with everything else we do.”
Since opening, White Winter Winery has incorporated a number of sustainability initiatives including the use of compact fluorescents, recycling, reducing waste, composting and finding secondary uses for some of their fruit pulp. Hamilton said the road to sustainability never ends.
The winery is now focused on reducing its packaging for consumers as well. This summer, White Winter Winery launched its line of meads in a plastic pouch. It was initially to reduce the environmental impact and volume of trash for the Renaissance Festival, which purchases their mead. But, they are extending the line for customers at their shop as well.
“The bags use 80 percent less energy than glass,” he said. “They are also convenient for people on the go.”
For example, visitors traveling to the Boundary Waters or Apostle Islands can take pouches with them and once empty, they are flat and light versus having to tug around an empty bottle.
Hamilton said the new eco-friendly product package for busy consumers on the go is the first in the state. The pouch with pour spout comes from Astrapouch. In addition to the pouch bottles, which Hamilton anticipates will generate 25 percent of their business this year, they continue to use glass bottles with Forest Stewardship Council certified corks and soy ink labels.
The product line is just one way the winery is expanding. Currently, they sell anywhere from 5,000 to 6,000 cases of mead. But they aren’t done expanding. In July, the federal government approved their distillation permit, allowing them to create a local brandy. The brandy must sit for two-years before they can sell, so it won’t be on shelves for a while. But, the permit also allows for them to start distilling Eau Di Vie, which is water of life in French. The colorless spirit will provide a hint of smell and flavor of regional fruits. Hamilton hopes to have some on the shelves by this holiday season.
Beth Probst is a freelance writer based in Iron River, Wis.
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