It was February of 2009 when our fascination with winemaking began. My wife Jan and I had planned on making rhubarb as our initial batch. The fruit had been waiting patiently in our freezer from the spring/summer harvest. When we went to retrieve the frozen herbaceous perennial, however, we soon discovered there was not enough to fill a 5-gallon (19-L) carboy.
So, we turned to my father-in-law, Bob Hipenbecker, (an extraordinary winemaker nicknamed Hip), who gave us an affirmative nod for mixing cranberry juice with the frozen rhubarb. Outside of wanting to drink it too soon (it was green and lacked clarity due to acid precipitate), our first go at winemaking was quite successful, and our wine had a very nice taste.
That was just the beginning. These days we are blending our 20th batch. I will admit that our exploits have been varied. However, I can’t say enough about the excellent mentoring we received from Hip, who has been a vintner for roughly 45 years. The culmination of our efforts is our own Glen Parc Winery in Nashotah, Wisconsin, and Hip was with us every step of the way.
Hip began making wine around 1965 while living in Milwaukee and raising his family. He started out by recruiting his wife Kathleen and his kids Greg, Ron and Jan to pick dandelions by the bucketful.
In 1979, he retired from running his flooring business and moved to a farm in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin. This is when his passion for winemaking really took off, and he converted a milk house into a winery with a portable heater for those frigid Wisconsin winters. He planted his first vineyard at that time as well, which produced many fine grape harvests.
In the summer of 1988 he moved to Waukesha, Wisconsin. Bringing grapevine cuttings from his property in Oconomowoc, he started a wonderful and more permanent vineyard, which continues to thrive in his Waukesha backyard today. Varietals include Concord, Foch, Frontenac and King of the North.
Dad will be 85 this year. He still lives in his home in Waukesha. Once in a while he will say he is going to stop making wine, or at least slow down, but then he gets an idea for another blend of juices or grapes and the carboys get mysteriously filled up again. Throughout the years, Hip has made many different kinds of wine. We have tried to pick a favorite but have never been able to select just one. Hip has also been a great purveyor of his craft, teaching his children, grandchildren and any friend whose ear he could grab.
With cuttings from his grapevines he has started most of us with our own vineyards, so Glen Parc truly is a family winery. We are still learning the craft of winemaking and having a great time doing it. All of us want to thank Hip (Dad) for his great knowledge and patience. We cherish the time we spent with you and your craft over the years, as well as the time spent with each other discussing (and tasting) the latest experimental or seasonal batch. For all of this, we raise our wine glasses in a toast to the Master Vintner in our lives, Hip, and to many more cases of wine that must be made and enjoyed. Cheers!