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Move Over, Dairy Farms

Wisconsin is also home to wineries

Sep. 29, 2011
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When most people think of wine country, California's many vineyards and wineries come to mind. But Wisconsin residents and visitors don't have to trek across the country to follow a wine trail. Our state has a thriving wine industry all its own—one that has greatly increased in breadth since the 1840s, when jack-of-all-trades Agoston Haraszthy recognized that grapes could survive in Wisconsin's climate. Haraszthy is considered the “father of modern winemaking” in California, but he played a similar role in Wisconsin, too. Though he left Wisconsin for California, one of our state's leading wineries still stands where Haraszthy first planted his vines.

Today, Wisconsin vintners tend to grow cold-hardy grape varieties. Many use the fruits that grow easily in our climate for sweet, fruity blends. When special types of grapes are needed, they are transported from other parts of the country. Wineries, some long established, others brand new, crisscross our state. This list offers a glimpse of the many wineries to be found in Wisconsin and is not intended to be a complete listing.

Aeppeltreow Winery

1072 288th Ave., Burlington


Visitors will not be surprised to discover that this winery, surrounded by orchards, produces much more than wine. In fact, Aeppeltreow is both a winery and distillery. It specializes in Wisconsin-grown and -produced hard cider, brandy/specialty spirits, apple and pear wines and sparkling wines. Tours are available for the orchard as well as the winery, but appointments may be necessary. Hours vary seasonally, so it is best to call ahead or check the website.

Cedar Creek Winery

N70 W6340 Bridge Road, Cedarburg


Wines need a cool place to ferment and age, making the limestone cellar of the historic Cedar Creek woolen mill a natural place to set up a winery. Just over 20 years ago, the Wollersheim family bought the winery that had been located here and changed the focus from cherry wines to grape-based wines. Cedar Creek shares a winemaker with the Wollersheim Winery, but maintains its own brand and has won awards for its Cedar Creek Vidal and Pinot Grigio, among others. Its Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon are aged on location. It's open Monday-Thursday 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Friday and Saturday 10 a.m.-6 p.m., and Sunday 11 a.m.-5 p.m., with tours and tastings daily at 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.

Clover Meadow Winery & White Wolf Distillery

23396 Thompson Road, Shell Lake


The secret of Clover Meadow Winery is revealed in its name. The grapes are grown in a clover meadow buzzing with natural pollinators: bees. Wind power and a man-made pond to collect rainwater and snowmelt reinforce the sustainable ecosystem. The proof, however, is in the bottle. Clover Meadow produces a Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and other grape wines along with wines made from blackberries, plums, apples, cranberries, rhubarb and, of course, honey.

Door Peninsula Winery

5806 Highway 42 North, Sturgeon Bay


The Door Peninsula Winery is well known for its award-winning fruit wines. For decades its Sweet Cherry wine, made from the plentiful Door County cherry orchards, and other sweet wines have been its mainstays. Lately, the winery has been making inroads with grape-based wines like Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. It is open daily 9 a.m.-6 p.m. In addition to complimentary tastings, there are tours on the hour, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., for $3 per person.

Fawn Creek Winery

3619 13th Ave., Wisconsin Dells


Fawn Creek opened in January in what was formerly known as the Tourdot Winery. Fawn Creek has a very popular raspberry-flavored Pinot Noir called Razz-Prairie, which was available at this year's State Fair wine garden, and a tropical-fruit-flavored Viognier called Summer Sun. They also offer familiar table wines like Riesling, Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Hours vary seasonally, so check the website or call before visiting. Fawn Creek offers complimentary tastings.

Kerrigan Brothers Winery

N2797 State Highway 55, Freedom


Kerrigan Brothers is known for its many fruit wines. The Lemon wine was featured at this year's State Fair wine garden. Among the winery's other popular options are Blueberry Cherry, Apple and Pear wines. Interestingly, the winery also offers a creatively distinct Tomato wine. It is open Monday-Saturday 9 a.m.-5 p.m., and Sunday 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Tastings are available. Tours are $3 per person on weekends; call for weekday tours.

New Glarus Primrose Winery

500 First St., New Glarus


As a traditional state winery, New Glarus Primrose focuses on wines that showcase true Wisconsin flavors. Cranberry, cherry and rhubarb wines are featured in popular fruit wines. New Glarus Primrose also offers grape-based dry, semi-dry and semi-sweet reds and whites. Hours vary seasonally, so call or check the website before visiting. Complimentary tastings are available.

Northleaf Winery

232 S. Janesville St., Milton


Built in 1850 to serve as a wheat warehouse, the historic home of Northleaf Winery has been restored to suit the needs of the winemakers. Every few months, members of its wine club receive an opportunity to purchase handcrafted small-batch wines not available to non-members. Award-winning Redhawk Reserve Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Clear Lake Road Red are standouts among the more widely distributed varieties. It is open Wednesday-Saturday 11 a.m.-7 p.m. and Sunday 11 a.m.-5 p.m. There are complimentary wine tastings.

Parallel 44 Winery

N2185 Sleepy Hollow Road, Kewaunee


Self-proclaimed “wine pioneers,” the winemakers at Parallel 44 pride themselves on growing grapes that can withstand the cold Wisconsin winters. The new varietals they grow are genetically related to the better-known Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Riesling grapes. Distributed in the Milwaukee area and throughout the state, you'll find the award-winning Frozen Tundra label in many local stores. Parallel 44 is open Monday-Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and Sunday noon-5 p.m. It is closed Tuesday and Wednesday from Jan. 1-March 31. Free tours are available May 1 to Oct. 30, Friday, Saturday, and Monday 10:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m., and Sunday 12:30-3:30 p.m. There are complimentary wine tastings.

Staller Estate Winery

W8896 County Highway A, Delavan


Staller Estate is a small, family-run winery producing upward of 30,000 bottles a year. The winery is not able to grow enough grapes for all of its wines with its 3-acre vineyard, so it supplements its supply with other regional grapes. Staller Estate offers several varieties of white and red grape-based wines, including Richmond Rouge made from Concord grapes, a White Port called Ouro Classico, and a delicious semi-dry red called Lady In Red. Open daily 11 a.m.-6 p.m., there are complimentary tastings and tours available.

Stone's Throw Winery

3382 County Road E, Egg Harbor


Within 36 hours of being picked in California, the grapes are in Wisconsin and ready for Stone's Throw to begin fermentation. The winery follows the process of micro-vinification and produces small batches of a wide variety of wines, including handmade Pinot Noir, Zinfandel and Riesling. Even though it produces small quantities, Stone's Throw makes its wines available in stores throughout the state. It is open daily 10 a.m.-5 p.m., with tastings available.

Von Stiehl Winery

115 Navarino St., Algoma


Originally built as a brewery in 1868, the historic building that houses the Von Stiehl Winery sat vacant for many years until a doctor named Charles Stiehl purchased it in 1966. He recognized it as a perfect place for making wine, and loaned his name to the current winery, now with different owners. The cool limestone cellar that was originally good for brewing is also good for aging wine; it produces 16,000-plus cases of wine annually. Von Stiehl uses Wisconsin-grown fruit, grapes from its small vineyard, and grapes from California to create 25 varieties, including a popular Riesling and best-selling Naughty Girl Red. The winery is open daily, but hours and tour times vary seasonally, so call or check the website before visiting. Complimentary wine tastings are available.

Wollersheim Winery

7876 State Road 188, Prairie du Sac


In operation since 1972 with the Wollersheim family at the helm, the vineyard encompasses what was once the site of Agoston Haraszthy's vineyard. The majority of the 27-acre vineyard is planted with winter-hardy Marechal Foch grapes. Wollersheim makes wines from its own grapes, as well as varieties with grapes from partner vineyards in milder climates. The result is a line of successful wines, including an award-winning semi-dry white Prairie Fume, an Ice Wine made from harvested frozen grapes, and more traditional Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. It is open daily 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tours are available daily on the quarter-hour from 10:15 a.m.-4:15 p.m. ($5 for adults; children under 11 are free).


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