The bottles that make up Thief Wine's diverse inventory are not stolen, but they may as well be. The shop's name—a reference to the long tube or "barrel thief" used to sample maturing wines waiting to be bottled—reflects the air of mischief shoppers experience in encounters with otherwise inaccessible wines that makes each of the shop's selections feel like the product of a thrilling cellar heist. The fruits of Thief's careful wine curation decorate the walls of Thief Wine's two locations with more than 500 selections, which mix familiar labels with artisanal up-and-comers from around the globe. At each location's wine bar, certified sommeliers pare down the hulking inventory to about 30 essential bottles, which slosh into thematic tasting flights or full glasses to flank small plates of cheese and charcuterie.
The Old Sugar Distillery produces small-batch liquors made from Midwestern ingredients. Its cornerstone concoction, the Old Sugar Factory Honey Liqueur, is distilled from dark-brown beet sugar and then aged in a wooden womb of American oak before being subtly sweetened with pure Wisconsin honey. The Cane and Abe Freshwater Rum, named in honor of President Lincoln and his favorite criminal-scaring stick, is made with cane sugar lovingly beamed up from the saccharine states of Hawaii and Louisiana and then aged in charred American oak barrels. These luscious liquids can be sampled either by sipping a freshly made cocktail ($6) at the distillery's long wooden bar, or by buying a bottle ($30) for midnight sips in the dead chill of winter. The Old Sugar Distillery also offers free tours and tastings with up-close views of the large copper pot still.
Brothers Aric and Brad Schmiling cultivated a passion for viticulture while growing up on their parents’ Italian-style winery. After moving to Green Bay, the duo set out to remedy the area’s winery deficit by founding Captain’s Walk Winery, where trained vintner Aric produces small-batch wines in water-bent French-oak barrels. Situated in a restored pre-Civil War building, the facility entices eyes with old-fashioned design features, including plaster crown moulding, an antique tasting bar, and a television from the eighteenth century. During the summer months, an on-site herb garden mimics the flavor and aroma profile of each wine, and a year-round tasting room offers guests an unpretentious glimpse into winemaking with laid-back tastings and a cellar viewing window carved into the wooden floor.
Parallel 44 Vineyard & Winery's winemaker Steve Johnson and owner Maria Milano shepherd their staff as they transmute Wisconsin varietal grapes into an array of award-winning cool-climate wines. The vineyard's vines—some of which can withstand weather 30 degrees below zero and pinches from elderly snowmen—spawn year-round grapes such as frontenac, st. pepin, and petite pearl. Guides conduct regular public and scheduled private tours of the vineyards, production facilities, and a tasting room decked in cream-colored walls and hardwood accents.
Named for a line of latitude running through Tuscany, Bordeaux, and the Green Bay area, the winery abounds with local culture and Mediterranean atmosphere. Villa arches and wide windows overlook colonnades and rolling green fields, enabling staff to ensure free-growing grapes don't wander to other pastures. The winery grounds swell with revelers during a range of seasonal events, such as festivals and a concert series.
While fermenting and aging, Von Stiehl Winery's 25 wines reside in underground limestone caverns that date back to the Civil War era. Brothers Aric and Brad Schmiling build on experience as a chemist and theater engineer to maintain the winery and stock its online store with French- and American-style blends such as a gold medal-winning cabernet sauvignon, brandy-fortified cherry wine, and merlot aged in French oak, all of which woo palates more gently than Cyrano de Bergerac in a pillow fight. Visits to the storied winery, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, allow guests to soak in bold Austrian and Italian architecture as they pass through fermentation quarters and a production facility. Seasonal events range from tastings and food pairings to live music and grape-stomping competitions. In warmer weather, sprawling grass lawns grant panoramic views of Lake Michigan.
Being a health-conscious foodie can be a challenge, because it’s not always easy to determine the history of how and where food is produced. The owners of Armstrong Apples Orchard and Winery have created such a narrative for their clients, growing fruit deeply rooted in their commitments to community and homegrown produce.
Sixteen years ago, they planted their first apple orchard, calling on friends and neighbors aged 8 to 80 for help. Since then, the farm has expanded and now grows 14 varieties of apples, peaches, pears, and grapes, which they serve fresh, baked into pies and turnovers, and pressed into their award-winning wine. Of these libations, apple wine is the owners' specialty, and it ranges from the very dry—best paired with meat—to the cinnamon sweet—best paired with Halloween costumes.
In addition to fresh fruit, baked goods, and adult beverages, the farm boasts entertainment for kids and adults alike, including a playscape and a zorb ball, which is a 12-foot high hamster-ball-like contraption that guests climb inside to travel across an open 5-acre field.