Wisconsin Wine and Spirits

So, being a wino at heart, one of my goals is to visit local wineries and other related businesses while we travel.   Our first adventure in Wisconsin took us to Burr Oaks Winery in New Lisbon.  There, the wine tasting was $5 per person, but it included a complimentary wine glass.  The coolest thing about the wine glasses is they have a line to fill to.  If you use that line, you get exactly 5 glasses of wine per bottle.  For whatever reason,  that makes me happy.  The wines themselves were not too great.   I did like the Sabrevois enough to buy a bottle for $11. Most of their wines are made from grapes they grow here in Wisconsin.   The short growing season limits their selection, and the grapes that grow well here may not make the best wine, IMO.

A few miles south of there in Mauston, we found Carr Cheese Factory, which actually has goat cheese in a lot of different forms, rather than the cream cheese-type we had found in Arkansas.  My favorite was the Mobay, which was a sheep/goat combo.


Our next adventure was to Sunset Point Winery in Stevens Point.  The owners there started the business at the behest of a local distillery that was in need of a local source for wine to use to make brandy.  They import grapes from other areas of the country to make their wines.  They also have some local wines made with fruits that are locally sourced.   To be honest, I think their best wines were made from non-local grapes.  I didn’t buy a bottle,  but enjoyed a  $5 glass of their Cabernet in their tasting room.  As an aside, the winery is just a hop skip and a jump from a beautiful waterfront park, which is definitely worth a few minutes detour.  In addition, it is just around the corner from the city square where there is a farmers’ market, a fountain, and a couple of local bars.  Steven’s Point has a pretty and kind of hip downtown that is worth spending a bit of time exploring.  There are murals painted all over, some of which are incredibly detailed.


From Stevens Point, we went to Great Northern Distilling in nearby Plover to sample some of their locally made whiskey and gin.  They have a cute little bar where you can buy fancy drinks made with their own spirits.  I had a Sazerac and Chuck had a Gin and Tonic.  It was a nice stop and we met some nice people there.

A couple of days ago, we spent an afternoon exploring the central Wisconsin area and its wine tasting opportunities.  We started in Wautoma.  Although not a winery, Candle Freak Gallery and Gifts offers wine tasting of the wine it sells.  You can taste what’s open for free, or for $10 a person, you can get a flight of 4 wines that are selected for your preferences.  Each wine is brought to you separately, and the owner discusses each wine’s origin, flavors and why she chose it for you.  This was perfect for us, since Chuck and I have different tastes in wine (he prefers sweet whites, I prefer dry reds).  We sat out in the garden (until the mosquitoes got too bad) and it was lovely.  We ended up buying two of the wines we tasted and chances are good we’ll go back next week and try another.

From Wautoma, we headed to the Lunch Creek Vineyards & Winery near Neshkoro.  The place was rocking — a good sized crowd in the fairly small main tasting room and a second tasting going on in the production room.  Lunch Creek has 13 wines on their list, and we got a taste of most of them. Their tasting was free, but sad to say, we weren’t overly impressed with any of their products, but the woman serving us was awfully nice and informative.  They had a band that was playing in their courtyard, but they were on a break when we were there.  I would have liked to stay and listen, but neither of us wanted to buy a glass of their wine.   So, onward we went.

Typical scenery along the way

Our next stop on our day of wine tasting was Vines & Rushes Winery near Ripon.  It felt like we drove miles and miles in the middle of nowhere, but again, there was a large crowd of people and a live band.  Again, the tasting was free, and we got to each try 8 of their wines.  Chuck paid the extra $3 for a taste of their port.  They also made hard ciders.  Chuck tried the strawberry cider, but it was too sweet.  We weren’t too impressed with the ciders or the reds, but we did take home a bottle of their St. Pepin wine, which went well with our salmon dinner the other night.


Our final stop was at Rushford Meadery & Winery near Omro.  We almost missed the building, even though we had Google mapping us there.  The business is in an old school building, and they only have a banner on the side of the building for a sign.  We were greeted by two dogs as we walked in.  There was a guy working on building a tasting room, and the tasting we did was in the production room, surrounded by boxes of product.  They had only one wine to taste, but they had several meads, which are made by fermenting honey, rather than fruit.  They also had hard ciders.  We had never tried it, but we actually ended up loving the mead.  Our favorites were the Heather Blossom Metheglin and the Winneconne Wild Mead Bourbon Barrel Aged.  We couldn’t decide between them.  The Heather Blossom was just a light delight on the tongue, while the Bourbon Barrel Aged mead had all sorts of interesting bourbon-like flavors along with the honey taste.  We ended up taking home a small bottle of each, and they are waiting for a good occasion to drink them (like happy hour or something).