A Trip to Wine Country

By Mark Crawford

If you think Napa Valley when it comes to wine, think again—these three Wisconsin wineries give you plenty of ways and reasons to toast the season.

A trip Up North means waves lapping on the shore, loons calling, the pop of the cork from a bottle of Muscat Alexandria wine, with its delicate overtone of honeyed pear ... That’s right — a visit to an award-winning winery (or two) could be the highlight of your trip to northern Wisconsin.

Of course, you don’t have to go north to find Wisconsin-grown wine; there are wineries in just about every part of the state (find a list at the Wisconsin Winery Association website). But there’s something special about the combination of Up North relaxation and homegrown wine.

The first German immigrants who settled in the northern part of the state planted orchards and used their Old World winemaking skills to produce Wisconsin’s first fruit wines. Today Wisconsin’s fruit wines are among the country’s best.

A good place to start is Door County — and no visit to the state’s “thumb” is complete without spending an hour or two at the Door Peninsula Winery . A short drive north from Sturgeon Bay on Highway 42 takes you to the town of Carlsville, where you can’t miss the 1868 one-room schoolhouse that’s now the headquarters of the winery. The tasting room is the perfect spot to try the Blackberry Merlot, a creative blend of dry red and blackberry wines that’s full-bodied and very smooth.

Three Lakes Winery  in the heart of Oneida County’s bog country, built a national reputation on its cranberry and blackberry wines. Finding the winery is no problem — it’s about 10 miles south of Eagle River, in the restored Chicago Northwestern Train Depot on Gogebic Street in Three Lakes.

Fruit wines are often considered after-dinner or dessert wines because of their sweetness. But their delicate flavors go well with a wide range of food, including meats (especially wild game), salads and pastas. Three Lakes Winery’s cranberry wine, with its crisp, tart flavor and deep scarlet color, is perfect for fall and winter holiday feasts. Don’t leave without trying the blackberry wine, made from Marion blackberries, and the cranberry wine sausage sticks.

Last stop: Bayfield Winery  about 2.5 miles northwest of Bayfield. There are many reasons to spend an afternoon here — the view of Lake Superior and the Apostle Islands, the historic barn and fields of wildflowers, the hospitality of owners Scott and Renate Hauser and, of course, the wine.

“People who know only grape wines, like cabernet sauvignon or chardonnay, are pleasantly surprised by fruit wines,” says Renate Hauser. “It’s fun to watch their expressions change as they realize the wine really tastes good.”

A few of Bayfield Winery’s offerings — especially the apple cider and pear wines — are surprisingly dry and delicate. Many of the Hausers’ other wines, which are apple-based and laced with cranberry, cherry, red and black currant, and other fruits, tend to be sweeter. And yes, they’re good with dessert — or as dessert: blend with vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt to make great-tasting milkshakes, drizzle over cheesecake, or add to fresh fruit and ice cubes for a cooling summer drink.

Above all, says Scott Hauser, be creative with fruit wines — and have fun!

For a more complete list of all Wisconsin's fine wineries, visit the Wisconsin Winery Association

This entry was posted in Things to Do, Local Foods, Wineries and tagged Tours and Itineraries