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.
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.
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.
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.
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.