Grape news

Peregrine firmly rooted in winery, vineyards, and Cambridge development

From the pages of In Business magazine.

Entrepreneur Frank Peregrine, 59, proprietor at Cambridge Winery, has experienced success as well as failure. For example, after 10 years in telecommunications, he and his wife and business partner, Laurie Tines Peregrine, started a long-distance company in Madison. It failed.

Those were scary days, Peregrine recalls. “But being an entrepreneur, you don’t give up. In everything we’re doing, it’s all about finding a way. There’s always an obstacle.”

Shaken but undeterred, their next company, CustomCall Data Systems, launched in 1993 and was much more successful. They sold it in 2012 and Peregrine still works there part-time while his wife focuses on their latest venture, Cambridge Winery.

The Cambridge Winery Tasting Room and gift shop opened in 2014 at the corner of Whitney Way and Gilbert Road in Madison. A second winery will likely break ground later this year in the village of Cambridge as the centerpiece of a new 73.5-acre project named The Vineyards at Cambridge. Peregrine is a 50% owner in the development and Cambridge Winery has purchased a 23-acre parcel.

We spoke to Peregrine recently about his latest venture.

IB: What is the status of the Vineyards at Cambridge?
We have plans for 51 residential lots, 14 condos, 72 apartment units, and commercial. Two homes have gone up thus far. My partner Bill Ranguette is a realtor and handles most of that development legwork.

IB: And you purchased the former Matt Kenseth Fan Museum!
When we learned it was moving and was for sale it was too good of an opportunity to pass up. It’s now the Cambridge Winery Event Center and it’s open for weddings and gatherings of up to 300 people.

IB: Your career was in telecom and now you’re into wine. How’d that happen?
My undergraduate degree was in chemistry and then I got an MBA in finance. Home-brewing beer and wine brought me back to chemistry, so it seemed a natural fit. I’m also a Wisconsin master gardener, so I’ve always enjoyed growing vegetables and flowers.

IB: Does the winery serve its own wine?
Right now we have about 12 different varietals sourced from California. From 2015 forward we are making wine in Wisconsin under contract. We have 1,000 cases being made at a winery in Ripon that will be bottled under our name. Growers in Plymouth and Westby did our harvesting, and we’ve also used fruit from the University [of Wisconsin–Madison].



IB: How much wine will you produce in Cambridge?
We’re planting four to five acres a year right now as part of the development and will have 20 acres of vineyards when done.

In 10 years, we’d like one-third of our wines to be estate wines from our own vineyards; another third made from Wisconsin-grown fruit; and the final third will be wines from out of the area such as California.

We’re making a Riesling right now using juice from New York state.

IB: One doesn’t typically think of Wisconsin as a grape-growing state.
Wisconsin is still in the infancy of being a big grape production state, but there are some excellent wines being made with hardy fruit called cold-climate cultivars, a different species.

Over the next year or two we’ll be reliant on California wines to support our sales, but our goal over 10 years is to ramp up to about 20,000 cases a year.

IB: When do you expect to make money?
We’re hoping that we’ll be cash flow-break even in 2017, but we’ll need a number of events on the schedule to do that.

We’re also raising money to build the winery production building and to cover some early-stage costs such as inventory. We want the Cambridge winery to be ready for production in 2017.

We planted our first vines last year, so our first harvest will be in 2018, and it takes a year or two before the wine is ready. So we spent money in 2015 but won’t see revenue on it until 2020 and we’ll do that every year.

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