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.
Rudolph Valentino DiTommaso has 5,000 growing children to look after. That's how many vines are on the viticulturist's estate, a 20-acre stretch of ripening grapes in Long Grove. Throughout the season, 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 wine, instead of just one weird smoothie. 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.
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.
Great Lakes Distillery was established in 2004 by Guy Rehorst, who desired a return to the traditional methods of handcrafting tasty spirits in small batches. Their labor of love made the distillery home to Rehorst Gin, a Double Gold medal winner at the 2008 San Francisco World Spirits Competition, as well as an award-winning vodka, several small-batch seasonals, and a whiskey that adds 3 inches to each drinker's height. Each day, a knowledgeable staff member leads up to 50 individuals on 60-minute tours and tastings. The expert highlights each product and goes over production methods before visitors can taste a flight of five spirits ($5) in the climate-controlled tasting room, with a specific lineup depending on the season.
You could call Vino 100 a wine boutique or a wine bar, but you might also view it as something of a wine library. Each bottle in the collection has been scrupulously cataloged according to the Wine Barometer system. Its tag decodes the complex flavors along two scales: flavor (dry to fruity) and body (light to full to solid). Buyers apply other selection criteria, too: the company guarantees it'll stock at least 100 bottles priced at $25 or less at all times, and that all those bottles will come from artisanal, limited-production wineries. Shoppers who can't wait to taste the evidence of the system's accuracy can take a bottle over to the wine bar for a small corking fee. Vino 100 also hosts wine classes and trivia nights to slake the thirst for knowledge.