Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Borgman, Harold

Harold Borgman was the owner of the Pontchartrain Wine Cellars restaurant in Detroit from 1935 until his death in 1951 at age 60. In 1937 he created a sparkling wine he called “Cold Duck” that became known worldwide.

Borgman, who came from a Detroit banking family, was a manager of Peoples State Bank when the Depression forced him to look elsewhere for work. Following his interest in cooking, he turned restaurateur, opening the Pontchartrain Wine Cellars in 1935 in its first location at 618 Wayne Street. Wanting to use up the contents of open bottles of champagne before the wine went flat, he came up with a mixture following a German custom of mixing the dregs of unfinished bottles of wine. According to Borgman’s obituary, he studied wine when he served in France in World War I.

Borgman’s drink consisted of burgundy wine and champagne. The original German recipe, based on varying tales, was called Kalte Ende which means “cold end,” but somewhere along the way Kalte Ende became Kalte Ente, the change of one letter making the phrase “cold duck.” Some attribute the changed letter to Borgman.

The concoction became an immediate hit with his regular customers and he began to bottle and sell it. Eventually, other wine companies began to make and sell their own versions of Cold Duck, often using poor quality grapes that required sugar to be added, turning it into an inexpensive dinner wine for indiscriminate wine drinkers. The fascination with the beverage peaked during the 1970s, with spinoffs like Baby Duck and Daddy Duck, then waned, though winemaker Andre still sells a sparkling Cold Duck wine today.

The Pontchartrain Wine Cellars closed in 1991 in its second location at 234 W. Larned Street.



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