Hungarian nobleman Agoston Haraszthy came upon a sloped piece of land across the Wisconsin River. He liked what he saw and decided to plant grapevines to make wine.
The harsh Wisconsin winters made it difficult for his grapes to grow, so he made his way to California during the Gold Rush. It was there that wine making for him proved quite successful. In fact, he’s often referred to as the “Father of California Wine.”
The property he left in Wisconsin, just east of Sauk City, still has vines trellised on the hills over the river. It’s Wollersheim Winery, one of the biggest wineries in the state. The winery, now on a National Historic Site, has earned awards nationally and internationally.
Wisconsin isn’t as well known for wine as it is for beer. You may be surprised to learn that more than 800 acres of grapes are grown in Wisconsin to produce wines at more than 100 wineries across the state.
Several of them are close to home.
Cambridge Winery, 600 Kenseth Way, Cambridge (with a tasting room in Madison at 1001 S. Whitney Way)
Distance from Madison: 20 miles
A constant state fair winner, the winery boasts such bottles as Founder’s Red, Snazzberry, and Sabrevois.
Campo di Bella, 10229 Sharp Rd., Mount Horeb
Distance from Madison: 35 miles
The small family-run winery is also an organic farm offering farm-to-table dinners. The winery’s current list includes a dry oaky white wine, reds, and a light Riesling. Note: seating is limited so call ahead. The winery doesn’t do wine tastings, though sells wine by the glass or bottle.
Drumlin Ridge Winery, 6000 River Rd., Waunakee
Distance from Madison: 10 miles
Located on a natural scenic drumlin near Waunakee, the family-owned operation prides itself on being a comfortable, relaxed destination to drink locally produced wine. The winery’s offerings include Bubbly Rose, Cranberry Blush, Frontenac, and a dry red.
Rock N Wool Winery, W7817 Drake Rd., Poynette
Distance from Madison: 25 miles
The family-owned 40-acre property used to have sheep upon it. The soil was very rocky. “I bet you understand the name now,” notes the owner Shaun Lapacek. Vineyards have replaced the sheep and wine flows freely inside their 100-year-old plus barn. Wines include dry whites, dessert wines, semi-sweet reds, and more.
Wollersheim Winery, Distillery, and Bistro, 7876 WI-188, Prairie du Sac
Distance from Madison: 30 miles
The beautiful property offers visitors a bevy of bevies. Popular wines include Prairie Blush, a semi-dry blush wine; Ice Wine, made from St. Pepin grapes frozen on the vines; and Domaine du Sac, a dry red. The property also has a distillery and bistro. Tours are available.
The Wisconsin Winery Association has a directory showcasing wineries throughout the state.