An array of bottles line shelves and tables and pack boxes, filling the Wine Cellar of Wisconsin with its namesake beverage. Frequent specials are highlighted weekly, including recommendations from the staff. Additionally, evening wine tastings encourage visitors to sample and learn about various varietals. Although the store primarily carries wine, it also stocks a number of craft beers from the likes of New Glarus Brewing, Bell's Brewing, and Ale Asylum.
With a background brewing beer, Jim Wirsching-Neuser was immediately interested when his wife suggested that they create a wine with which to toast at their wedding in 2001. More than a decade later, the two have refined their winemaking processes and recipes to create an impressive selection of varietals using juices from wine grapes produced around the globe. Inside their tasting room, guests sample pours from each of the house-made wines, a selection which may vary according to the season and the sommelier’s ability to juggle. The elixirs may include a faintly tart blueberry pinot noir, dry Tuscan chianti, and Johannesburg riesling, which bursts with fruity notes before breaking through into a smooth dryness.
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.
When Chicagoans think of the Glunz name, they think of a good drink. It's hard not to when the family has been active in the wine business in the Chicago-area since 1888. In 1992, the family formed Glunz Family Winery & Cellars, a winery based in their hometown of Grayslake.
In the 20 years since that decision, they have created a roster of elegant table wine, fortified wine, specialty seasonal wine, and reserve wine, which includes chardonnay, pinot noir, and a zinfandel blend. They age their tawny port in specialty barrels for 10 years and isolate the sweetness of more than two pounds of raspberries to create every bottle of their dessert wine. Like a puppy dressed in an ugly christmas sweater, their traditional glogg—a blend of port, dry red wine, spices, and an orange peel—adds cheer to the dreary winter months.
Their true speciality, however, is their first family wine. Every spring, the family calls upon a 19th-century recipe to make their May wine, which is imbued with the fresh spring flavors of crisp green apples and cinnamon. At the winery's tasting room, guests can try samples of this wine and the others.
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.
Rudolph Valentino DiTommaso has approximately 4,000 growing vines to look after at his 20-acre estate vineyard of ripening grapes in Long Grove. Rudolph and his team harvest their fruits and age their elixirs in barrels made of French and American oak to yield more than 20 types of wines, all of which are produced completely on-site. And they take just as much delight in showing off their libations as they do in making them. The vineyard regularly hosts seminars and tastings, which guests can pair with tours of the vineyard.