Shaun Lapacek is the owner and winemaker at Poynette-based Rock N Wool Winery, which is found on the 40 acres his parents purchased in the mid-80’s to raise sheep. The winery is not only home to spaces to sip the wine, but also a saloon, diner and plenty of family-friendly activities, like disc golf and wagon rides. Learn about Shaun Lapacek…
Hometown: Poynette, WI
First job: Weeded tobacco plants when about 13 for a local farmer. My first “real” job was working at the Taco Johns when I was 15. I loved it. Wearing a uniform, punching in and having to learn recipes. It was also fun dealing with the public–well, not my high school friends so much.
Favorite ways to spend your free time in WI: I have two girls, 6 and 7, so as long as I am with them and their mother, I love doing anything in Wisconsin. We like to go camping to local campsites. It is wonderful to be in such a small space because the face-to-face time is constant. I guess with fatherhood I have become a bit boring with what I do with my free time, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Your biggest accomplishment and why: Growing the winery to a full-time business. I met my wife in Chicago, right after I had built the winery inside the rustic barn my parents owned. I had to balance the insurmountable work load of wine making, book keeping, marketing and planning with being a present husband and father. I know this accomplishment would not exist without the incredible efforts of my wife. Really, getting her to marry me was and is my greatest accomplishment. Just don’t tell her.
The biggest obstacle you overcame: This one we are still trying to overcome. When I started and even now, I feel that Wisconsin in not seen as a serious wine region. That is why I committed to only using Wisconsin grapes for our wines, to make great dry wines that also use local grapes. Winemaking is still relatively new in Wisconsin, so we encounter new problems with vineyard growth, disease and proper ripening. Combine that with the fact that many of our varietals don’t adhere to the canon of classic winemaking and often we are battling to make a wine that we will put our label on. But I am glad the obstacle exists as I think making wine follows the same rules of the vine: Stress makes the grape better and stress makes me a better winemaker.
Someone who inspires you and why: My wife and my father. My wife, works as a full-time professional with a great deal of responsibility, raises two little girls, helps on the weekends in the store and diner and deals with me losing my mind when I feel overwhelmed. I have no idea how she can do so much. My father is 76 and works harder than I could ever dream. He planned and built the production area and listened to my ideas about the store, and he built it. He has so much knowledge about so many areas. To this day he still helps with spraying, mowing and maintenance allowing me to focus on the wines. This winery would not be here without him. No chance. I hope I can be to my daughters what he is to me.
Advice to someone pursuing a career path in what you do: Don’t go into winemaking for money or lifestyle or if you believe it is glamorous because it does not offer any of these things. Become a winemaker if you know you have no other choice because it is your passion and you know wine is magic and it is something you have to share. When I see a couple enjoying a bottle of our wine, I know I made the right choice in my life. If I didn’t feel that way, my choice would have been wrong for me and my family.
Favorite quote: “I would never want to join a club that would have me as a member.” Although self-deprecating, it inspires me that I always need to be better, smarter and kinder.
Something someone would be surprised to learn about you: That my first love in life was writing. I love to write plays and short fiction. Part of the reason I fell in love with wine. A couple glasses help the words flow.
What makes someone fabulous: Easy: Do more good than harm and not just within your circle of friends and family. Make a difference for people you will never know, never meet and never receive gratitude from. Make our world better.