Bob and Noreen Pollman
In 1986, the 10-year-old Door Peninsula Winery was purchased by Bob and Noreen Pollman, a pair of former corporate executives who moved to Wisconsin to escape urban life and spread their entrepreneurial wings. At that time, the winery produced 6,000 cases of fruit wine per year and employed six.
Though neither had a background in winemaking, they quickly learned the trade and capitalized on the winery’s location, which gave it ample access to locally grown fruit – and Door County tourists. After solidifying the winery’s initial offerings of Wisconsin-grown cherry, apple, cranberry, plum, raspberry and strawberry wines, they soon expanded their operations to include more exotic fruits, including mangos, pears and blackberries.
During the 1990s, the winery began offering seasonal holiday-themed wines such as Hallowine and Christmas Red, which proved popular with retail outlets as well as with winery customers. The Pollmans also began experimenting with blends of fruit and grape wines such as Cranbernet, which also became popular retail products. More recently, the winery has successfully introduced wines made from Wisconsin-grown grape varietals such as La Crosse, which have been developed specifically for northern climates. Today the winery makes more than 50 varieties of wine, including fruit, grape and fruit/grape blends. The second-largest winemaker in Wisconsin, it employs as many as 275 people during peak season.
Buoyed by the success of Door Peninsula Winery, the Pollmans invested in a similar operation in Mississippi, Gulf Coast Winery, which they operated from 1995 through 2004. They also opened – and continue to operate – several other Door County businesses, including the popular Shipwrecked Brew Pub in Egg Harbor; Cooper’s Corner restaurant in Fish Creek; and Fat Louie’s Olive Oil in Fish Creek, just south of Fish Creek and Egg Harbor. The Pollmans have also expanded operations at Door Peninsula Winery, adding the restaurant Bistro 42 to the winery building and an award-winning boutique spirits enterprise, Door County Distillery, in an adjacent building. In addition, they own and operate two restaurants in Key West, Florida – Six Toed Cat and Seven Fish.
Although Robert Pollman has served as Door Peninsula Winery’s chief operating officer for nearly two decades, his knowledge of the winery’s operations extends far beyond just business management. He first worked for the winery as a student, stocking shelves and guiding tours. In 1994, he moved into a fulltime position as head winemaker, continuing in that capacity until 2003. Rob helped open Shipwrecked Brew Pub in 1997 and worked for several years as its brewmaster.
In addition to managing the winery, Rob has served as secretary of the Egg Harbor Business Association and as a board member of the Door County Green Fund. He is currently on the board of the Door County Wine Trail.
A native of Massachusetts, Rob moved to Lake Mills, Wisconsin in high school and later attended UW-La Crosse, where he graduated with a degree in business administration. Rob and his wife Nikki have two children – daughter Sophia and son Robbie – and live in Carlsville, just a short drive from the winery. Rob spends much of his free time coaching youth sports in the community, including football, baseball, softball and basketball.