By Mark Crawford
Cheese is, of course, a delicious tradition in Wisconsin. There are nearly 100 cheese factories across the state, including famous locations like Colby. Lesser known but equally impressive are Wisconsin wineries, some of which have won national and international awards. Wine and cheese is a great combination. Below are four locations that have some of the finest wineries and cheese factories Wisconsin has to offer. Sampling, however, should not be rushed—consider staying at a nearby bed and breakfast to give yourself plenty of time for tasting, relaxing, and exploring.
Cedar Creek Winery occupies a historic mill that was built from limestone blocks in the mid-1860s. Several of its wines are award-winners. Be sure to try Cedarburg Spice, a unique mulled red wine with hints of cinnamon and cloves. About 20 miles north on Highway 57 is Cedar Valley Cheese Store, where more than 300 varieties of Wisconsin cheese are available. Spend the night at the elegant Washington House Inn, built in 1886 in downtown Cedarburg. At day’s end enjoy a glass of complimentary wine in front of the fireplace in the drawing room.
Prairie du Sac
Built in the mid-1800s, Wollersheim Winery is located on a wooded hillside just east of the Wisconsin River. Take time to enjoy the spectacular view (which may include a bald eagle or two). The winery’s Dry Riesling was named Wine of the Year at the San Diego International Wine Competition in 2013. About 16 miles southwest is Arena Cheese in the small town of Arena, home of the original Colby-Jack cheese. Watch artesian cheese-makers craft different varieties of cheeses. Set up headquarters at Inn at Wawanissee Point, a luxury B&B on the Baraboo Bluffs north of Prairie du Sac (feel free to play the baby grand piano in the great room).
- Wine: Stone's Throw Winery
- Cheese: Schoolhouse Artisan Cheese
- Bed & Breakfast: Door County Lighthouse Inn
Stone’s Throw Winery is halfway between Egg Harbor and Baileys Harbor. Wines are carefully aged in French or American oak barrels. Don’t miss the daily tasting that pairs handmade chocolates with different wines. Stop in at Schoolhouse Artisan Cheese in Egg Harbor, which carries cheeses from over 30 artisan cheese makers (including Marieke's Gouda, a Dutch-style gouda cured on cedar planks that won Best of Show at the U.S. Cheese Championship in 2013). For accommodations, try the Door County Lighthouse Inn in downtown Egg Harbor. Each room has a private deck, providing inspiring sunset views over Lake Michigan’s Green Bay.
The Vernon Vineyards winery opened in 2006—the first winery in Vernon County. The tasting room offers a variety of red and white wines, as well as pastoral views of the vineyards. Its newest wine is Marquette, a semi-dry red that pairs well with beef. Not too far away in Cashton is the Old Country Cheese Factory, which uses fresh milk supplied by more than 200 local Amish dairy farmers. It also has an outlet store for Amish cheese, candy, and crafts. The place to stay is the Viroqua Heritage Inn, a Victorian-era B&B built in the English Tudor Revival style. Guests are served breakfast at the hour they request—so no worries about sleeping in!