Whether you’re gazing at the icy blue waters off the coastline of Lake Michigan, taking in breathtaking cliffs along the Mississippi River or driving through flat farmlands bursting with fall colors, there’s always a winery nearby. In fact, the state has over 100 for you to sample.
And Wisconsin wines needn’t have the reputation of sweet fruit wines; in fact, winemakers are crafting exciting blends that marry together grapes grown in- state with varietals from far-flung regions that put a sophisticated spin on your tasting experience. Here’s a quick taste of 11 wineries from different regions that are worth sampling.
Door Peninsula Winery
As one of Door County’s oldest wineries, Door Peninsula Winery in Sturgeon Bay was founded in 1974. Today’s visitors are treated to a tasting experience inside a renovated two-room schoolhouse dating back to 1868. Moving beyond traditional wine grapes, many of the wines are crafted from locally grown fruit (like the county’s signature cherries). Still others feature Wisconsin-grown grapes, such as St. Pepin and Marechal Foch. In 2011, Door County Distillery launched under the same roof, which also offers tastings. dcwine.com
Stone’s Throw Winery
Since 1997, Stone’s Throw Winery in Egg Harbor has been a favorite attraction of many Door County vacationers, thanks to its relaxing gardens with art sculptures and a bocce-ball court. Winery tours—in addition to tastings—are offered at the winery. You can easily spend half a day here, starting with lunch in the tapas bar, or pizza baked in an oak-barrel oven and topped with ingredients grown in the winery’s gardens. stonesthrowwinery.com
The Chiselled Grape Winery
The Chiselled Grape Winery, open since 2011, is far from a one-hit wonder: it produces 32 wines. Taste many of them at the tasting room, tucked into a home along Washington Avenue in downtown Cedarburg, with an outdoor patio. A repeat award- winner for its wines, the line-up includes The Little Red Dress (a red-wine blend) as well as more familiar varietals (Riesling, Malbec and Pinot Noir, etc.) and cold-weather grapes like Marechal Foch and Frontenac. chiselledgrape.com
Vines & Rushes Winery
Yoga in the vineyard June through August, wood-fired pizzas hot out of the oven, cooking classes, five-course pairing dinners, craft fairs and live-music concerts are among the events hosted at Vines & Rushes Winery in Ripon, open since 2012. The tasting room is adjacent to the winery’s four-acre estate vineyard. Grapes grown there—cultivated just for the cooler climate, such as St. Pepin, LaCrescent, Frontenac Gris, LaCrosse, Marquette and Petite Pearl—are used to make a portfolio of red and white wines. Some are an homage to Wisconsin history, like the 2018 Little White Red, in honor of the country’s Republican Party’s founding in a Ripon schoolhouse in 1854. vinesandrushes.com
With the tagline “Your Napa, close to home,” Elmaro Vineyard’s apt description of its Trempealeau digs welcomes visitors with open arms. View the stunning vineyard for acres around you, take a seat on the spacious stone patio to enjoy a bottle (their Red Tail Reserve or La Crescent, perhaps?) or book an individual tasting, group tasting with light food pairings, two-hour educational class or picnic package to immerse yourself in Wisconsin’s friendly wine culture. As with many of the state’s vineyards, this one’s a family affair too, with two generations running the business—which was named after a 300-year-old Elmaro lone white pine tree on the family’s homestead. elmarovineyard.com
Dancing Dragonfly Winery
Not only is St.Croix Falls’ Dancing Dragonfly Winery a superb spot to taste wines, but their events calendar is chock-full of events year-round—special dinners, live music, art experiences and even comedy acts can all be experienced—while sipping on your favorite grape-crafted libation. The dance-themed wines (Polka, Jeté, Cancan, Waltz and Foxtrot, among many others) offer something for any oenophile, and tours can be paired up with wine tastings with or without food—as the on-site café also whips up paninis, pizzas, wraps, cheeses and desserts. And with many awards under their belt, the winery’s sphere of influence stretches beyond just the Dairy State’s borders. dancingdragonflywinery.com
Wollersheim Winery & Distillery
For the closest thing to Sonoma located here in the Midwest, head to Wollersheim, where you’ll take in gently sloping hills covered in grapevines, lush trees and flowers, and a California-inspired tasting room and outdoor seating area. As one of Wisconsin’s most well-known wineries, its history stretches back to the 1840s, when Hungarian immigrant Agoston Haraszthy discovered the land the winery sits on today and planted it with grapevines. He eventually headed to California in 1849 where he also had a hand in developing their winemaking industry. Wollersheim’s tour celebrates its storied past and also delves into when the current owners, the Wollersheim family, took it over in 1972 and have slowly built up the winery to win countless awards and even opened a distillery on-property, too. Their signature Prairie Fumé, a light, fruity semi-dry white wine, just celebrated its 30th anniversary this past June. wollersheim.com
Drumlin Ridge Winery
Set in the tranquil countryside of Waunakee, a suburb of Madison, Drumlin Ridge offers a comfortable tasting experience in a stylish tasting room—all while enjoying views of the surrounding vineyard. Wines are made with grapes grown on-site (like Marquette, Osceola Muscat, Frontenac Gris and more) and other varietals are made with California grapes during their harvest season. Wines can be paired with small bites—like cheese boards, flatbreads, a hummus plate and cheese curds—for an enjoyable way to while away a weekend afternoon. drumlinridgewinery.com
AeppelTreow Winery & Distillery
Snug in Racine County, AeppelTreow Winery & Distillery is an offshoot of Brightonwoods, an apple orchard home to 200-some antique and heirloom varietals. Charles and Milissa McGonegal debuted the winery in 2002, inside a vintage barn that serves as the tasting room, and is on the same property as the orchard. Drop by the tasting room— weekends only—to sample a flight of six ciders, sparkling apple wine or still apple wines. aeppeltreow.com
Pieper Porch Winery & Vineyard
Located in the town of Mukwonago, which is in Waukesha County 30 miles from downtown Milwaukee, the visitor experience at Pieper Porch Winery & Vineyard is designed to be relaxing. It starts with a glass of wine—maybe the signature Lemon Wine or a pour of the River Road Red?—on the tasting room’s namesake porch. Then it might evolve into a hike on the 11-acre wooded property bordering Vernon Marsh. Cold-weather grape varietals like Marquette and La Crosse are grown in the estate vineyard. pieperporchwines.com
The couple who owns Studio Winery are passionate about art and music—which shows in the visitor experience. Live music as well as art classes are just two activities that go beyond tasting wine. An extensive collection of locally made art is also retailed in the tasting room. Wines are actually made on-site, in the heart of downtown Lake Geneva. Although the first vintage was released in 2007, Studio Winery didn’t move into its current tasting room (a former machine shop) until 2012. studiowinery.com
Article by Kristine Hansen & Shayna Mace | Photo: TravelWisconsin.com
This article originally appeared in the 2019 fall/winter issue of Experience Wisconsin magazine. The contents of this article were checked for accuracy when it was published; however, it’s possible some of the information has changed. We recommend you call first if you have specific questions for the destinations, attractions or restaurants mentioned in this article.
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