Wisconsin has a diverse group of wineries with many making fruit wine. But some of the state's oldest wineries, led by Von Stiehl in Algoma and Wollersheim near Madison, are pushing quality and wines made from the cold climate grapes. There are more than 40 wineries spread across the state. Most wineries do not charge a tasting fee. The "Prices" listed are for wines most often available. Several of the wineries do have some wines above the range provided below.
Here is a look at the four wineries I visited in 2011 with some details. “Of Note” indicates wines I thought were particularly well made and interesting. “Best of Show” indicates personal favorites.
Uniqueness: A winery this close to Green Bay has to have some fun with the area's history and Parallel 44 does with a line of "Tundra" wines - including a Frontenac Rose a bit on the sweeter side they call "Frozen Tundra."
Wines: Glacier Red (Foch, St. Groix, Frontenac), Rosso (Marechal Foch), Nouveau (Rougheon), Tundra Reds (Frontenac), Glacial White (La Crosse, Louise Swenson), St. Pepin Late Harvest (St. Pepin), Frontenac Rose'.
Best of Show: The Glacial White ($18) is a great glass of wine. It's somewhat similar to a Sauvignon blanc with nice acidity and a peach/pear and honey delivery.
Uniqueness: Vineyard dates back into mid 1800s when Hungarian Count Agoston Haraszthy planted the first grapes in Wisconsin. Wollersheim family took over in 1972. Beauolais native Philippe Coquard arrived in 1984 and runs the winery today.
Of note:: Domaine du Sac (like a Beaujolais), Domaine Reserve (Foch), Prairie Fume (Seyval Blanc), Port (Foch).
Best of Show: Blockbuster Prairie Fume ($9) has brought Wollersheim success and unparalleled recognition. But try the Domaine Reserve ($20) made from Marachel Foch
Uniqueness: Winery and beautiful tasting room sit along side a biking trail and near the Niagra Escarpment.
Wines: Ledgestone Vineyards La Crescent, Ledgestone Vineyards Frontenac, others wines from purchased grapes.
Best of Show: The 2008 Frontenac Reserve ($28) was one of the most intriquing wines of my trip. It's aromatic and bone dry red wine. It might remind some drinkers of a Zinfandel but the tart black cherry and balanced acidity sets it apart from others.
Fisher King Winery
Uniqueness: Opening an ubran winery and tasting room in mid-July. Few notes as I only tasted one wine.
Wines: A full list on the website. Alywn Fitzgerald wants to follow path of other wine makers and concentrate on Wisconsin grown grapes.
Of note: I tasted the Marquette-Millot blend which was very similar to a Merlot with nice spice notes.
Best of Show: Just tasted one wine since Fisher King had not yet opened during my visit. Tasting room in great downtown location in this Wisconsin Village that has Norwegian roots.