Wisconsin may be famous for beer, but that’s certainly not the only libation you can enjoy in America’s Dairyland. With 120+ wineries in Wisconsin, there is a lot to sip.
Nicole Haase, Contributing Writer
Sipping is subjective and with so much great wine in Wisconsin, you’ll find most everyone has different favorite vineyards. But these 10 Wisconsin wineries – in no particular order – give you a sample of the great history, wine and views that make wine tasting in Wisconsin worthwhile.
Where to Sip
Chateau St. Croix Winery – St. Croix
Modeled after a chateau in France, this imposing estate somehow fits into the Wisconsin landscape. Featuring a stable, formal gardens and carriage house, this is the full French wine experience much closer to home. Their La Crescent Wisconsin White wine is an award winner that’s citrusy sweet with honey notes. In addition to their slate of white, red and rosé wines, they make a number of ports, many of which have been aged for 10 or more years.
Wollersheim Winery, Distillery and Bistro – Sauk City
A short drive from Madison takes you back more than 100 years to the place where commercial winemaking in Wisconsin started. Check out the original cellar cave, learn about their grapes and sample a wide variety of wines and spirits. The Prairie Fumé and Dry Riesling are some of their most awarded, but their River Gold is the easy-sipping bottle I go to all summer long. Wisconsin loves brandy and Wollersheim makes a number of smooth-sipping options
Baraboo Bluff Winery – Baraboo
What could be better than sweeping panoramic views and delicious wines? Open year-round, these folks encourage you to bring your dog, stroll their vineyard, picnic and generally enjoy the place like it was your own. The oak-aged Sangiovese is peppery and flavorful while the Baraboo Blush will remind you of strawberries.
Parallel 44 Vineyard and Winery – Kawaunee
At the southern end of Door County, 20 miles from Green Bay, this is one of the most awarded Wisconsin wineries. The 44° North Latitude line that gives the winery its name passes through renowned wine-making regions like Bordeaux, France, Emilia-Romagna, Italy and the Willamette Valley in Oregon. The Petit Pearl is lightly sweet and delicious while the 44 Rosé is semi-dry and very fruity. The Nouveau Rouge is a light-drinking red blend that’s great with summer barbecues.
Fun Fact: Wine regions around the world fall between 30-50 degrees of latitude. Wisconsin wineries fall around 44 degrees.
Botham Vineyards – Barneveld
Slightly off the beaten path, it’s well worth a trip to Botham for what a number of outlets have been called the best wine in the state. In other words, it’s one of the Wisconsin wineries not to miss. Their Uplands Reserve is estate-grown with Marechal Foch grapes. It is earthy and full, aged on oak and pairs well with strong-flavored cheeses and mushroom dishes.
What Wines Will You Be Sipping in Wisconsin?
More than ⅔ of the grapes grown in Wisconsin are cold-hardy varieties. Some of the most popular – and delicious – include Valiant, Edelweiss, Marquette, La Crosse and Frontenac grapes. Though the names may be unfamiliar, the flavors will not. These grapes are close relatives of grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Moscato and Riesling; they’ve just been bred to produce in colder climates. Thanks to Swenson, who was incredibly generous with sharing his grapes and knowledge, a wide variety of wines are made in Wisconsin. Sweet, citrusy, bright and fruity whites tend to be popular while reds don’t tend to be very dry or big on tannins.
Elmaro Vineyard – Trempealeau
Their gorgeous, peaceful patio is one of the best places to sit back, relax and sip in all that is Wisconsin wine country. Their Silver St. Pepin is a dry, buttery white that stands out from so many sweet whites across the state. They make great use of currants in a number of wines, including the Big River Currant port.
Door Peninsula Winery – Sturgeon Bay
One of the first post-Prohibition wineries in Wisconsin, they started making non-grape fruit wines, starting with famous Door County cherries. Most well-known for their fruit and fruit-fusion wines, they make more than 60 different varieties of wines and ciders, from Blackberry Merlot, Mango and even a Halloween wine to more traditional Riesling, Pinot Noir and Cabernet. They’ve also added ciders, port and now have a full distillery. There is literally something for every palate here. The Sunset Splash is a dangerously easy-drinking patio pounder. The Bourbon Barrel Aged Cabernet is full of layered flavors.
Where to Stay in Wisconsin Wine Country
River Bend Vineyard – Chippewa Falls
These folks started making wine for themselves before entering in and winning amateur competitions. Their winning ways haven’t stopped since they opened the commercial vineyard and they have added a distillery to their portfolio. Sunset tastes like the grapes are fresh off the vine and it’s perfect with an afternoon snack. If you get a chance to try their Black Diamond, don’t skip it. Made from a lesser known grape and blackberries, it’s not too sweet and roundly fruity.
White Winter Winery – Iron River
Taking a little bit of liberty here, but these folks make mead (honey wine), cider and spirits from locally-grown fruits along the shores of Lake Superior. The Black Mead is somehow earthy and like a dry red with a little bit of spice. The Cyser is a cider/mead blend that’s very sweet but very tasty and it stands up well to pairing with stronger food flavors.
Located less than an hour outside Milwaukee, this quintessential-looking Wisconsin farm is a perfect day trip for some time with loved ones and fresh air. Beyond simple wine tasting, they offer a wine and chocolate pairing as well as small plates to pair with their wines. A gorgeous event space, you’ll love the look and feel of this place. Their Blanc De Crescent is fruity with a hint of earthy spice. I haven’t had anything like it elsewhere in the state.
Wisconsin Wine Country Travel Guide
Where to sip, stay and thing to do in Wisconsin wine country.
Nicole Haase is a freelance writer who lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin with her husband and their basset hound. She writes about a wide variety of topics including women’s sports (particularly hockey), food and drink and travel. Her bylines include Sports Illustrated, BBC, Modern Farmer, ESPNW, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, St. Paul Pioneer Press and The (Madison) Capital Times.