Travelers follow Jo Daviess County's sprawling fields and undulating hills toward Massbach Ridge Winery?s 18+ acre estate. Founded by the Harmston family in 2003, the winery?s proprietors grow the grapes to concoct their batches of reds and whites. Members of the winery family escort guests on impromptu tours before rendezvousing in the tasting room or on the patio for samplings. The outdoor patio grants a heightened view of the vineyards below, which visitors can wander through on quests for vine-ripe copies of The Grapes of Wrath. In addition to its frequent tastings and tour sessions, Massbach Ridge Winery hosts a number of wine-related events each year.
A shared dream of Cheryl Hailey and her late husband, Jim, Hailey's Winery began as a mere half acre of grapes planted at the couple's home. The adventure started with homemade wines?specifically, four varietals the Haileys crafted and shared with their friends. What began as a family affair has become a team of women working together to share our labor of love. Now Hailey's Winery is female-owned and producing handcrafted varietals that number a dozen. At the tasting room, visitors can sip samples of the semi-sweet Rocking Chair Red, the dry Timeless White, or the Road Trip Red, which pairs well with meats and books by Kerouac.
Situated inside a renovated historical building, Northleaf Winery pays tribute to the location?s agricultural past while bottling more than a dozen wines. Fragrant samples of peppery zinfandel and floral pinot grigio are poured at the wooden tasting bar, which hosts open tastings and private pairings of wine and artisanal chocolates or cheese. Next door, the bistro and market stocks a tempting selection of Wisconsin cheeses and party trays, along with fresh salads and build-your-own grilled sandwiches with included blueprints.
More than a century ago in Sicily, a man named Michael Vetrano began making wine?a hobby much appreciated by the friends and family who sipped his creations. Today, great grandson Bill Vetrano continues the family tradition at Vetro Winery. Bill and his team transform Wisconsin grapes into dry, semi-dry, and sweet reds and whites. During visits to the tasting room, guests can pair sips with bites of chocolate and cheese, take in sweeping views of the woods and marshland, or try their hand on a pair of vintage pinball machines. Indulging in these wine tastings also benefits the community at large, as the Vetrano family donates funds to support the Special Olympics.
Picturesque rows of vines and trellises blanket Acquaviva Winery's 40-acre estate. But this idyllic outdoor setting is hardly the only draw. In fact, it may even be overshadowed by the elegant edifice standing nearby. That would be Acquaviva's tasting room, full service restaurant, and marketplace. This structure, whose architecture and decor are the work of artist Andrew Zabela, features the rich color palette and complexity associated with the high Renaissance. Domed ceilings display elaborate, gold-painted plaster filigrees, which, in turn, frame Zabela's hand-painted murals.
The elaborateness of the decor actually stands in stark contrast to the simplicity of the wines. "We have a minimal intervention approach to our process," says wine maker Sergio Benavides, "permitting our terroir, grapes, and vines to speak for themselves." He manages every acre of the vineyards, coaxing flavor from 23 different varieties of grapes. His care and tending pay off: virtually every bottle of wine the vineyard produces, from the Bianco Bello to the Frontenac, boasts multiple awards and notes of robust self-esteem.
Village Vintner Winery & Brewery poses a gastronomic triple threat, operating as not just a restaurant and winery, but also a fully functioning brewery. A battalion of stainless-steel machinery ferments the hand-selected wheat and barley that make up the vanilla-cream ale, the German-style hefeweizen, and the Vintner Hop Rocket, an 8.2% ABV varietal culminating from six types of hops and mad, mad science. At the tasting bar, guests can sample these brewery end products, along with Village Vintner’s expansive selection of homemade red, white, and fruit wines. The main restaurant area houses a wood-fired pizza oven, which bakes the pesto pizzas and smoldering baby back ribs that complement potables.
A spirit of good-natured fun permeates the copper-hued premises, as evidenced by a free monthly wine and mug club. Live music is a common occurrence on Friday nights, and Wednesdays star Chef Rob’s pork special.