Take a short drive to one of these 21 area wineries

There are a proliferating number of wineries in the area.
people drinking wine outside with a dog
Courtesy of Bailey’s Run Vineyard & Winery
Bailey’s Run Vineyard & Winery

When it comes to wine destinations, south central Wisconsin might not cross the serious global wine aficionado’s radar. The state has a reputation for sweeter varieties — most famously Door County’s fruit-infused bottles. But in our area, there’s an oversized cellar’s worth of high-quality wineries that offer not just an array of signature vintages for dry- or sweet-loving palates, but also unforgettably rustic and pastoral environs in which to drink them.

Bailey’s Run Vineyard & Winery
The fact that Todd and Janet Kuehl’s winery is named for their now 11-year-old goldendoodle tells you a lot about the vibe at this New Glarus getaway, which opened in 2018, as does the winery’s slogan, “Where Wine Goes to Have Fun.” This is a place where the list of 25 to 30 dry, sweet and sparkling wines includes a little number called Venom, a dry jalapeño wine that serves as the base of spicy bloody marys more frequently than it gets served straight up. “It’s not common, but people do buy it by the glass,” says general manager Julianna Boczkiewicz. Todd Kuehl isn’t just about creating intriguing wines. Bailey’s Run’s signature wine is the Remember Me Red, a dry, barrel-aged offering. A portion of the sales from this bottle supports Alzheimer’s disease research. (Both Kuehls have relatives who have Alzheimer’s.) Seventy percent of the grapes he uses are Midwest-grown, including plenty of familiar hearty varietals (including Frontenac, Marquette and La Crescent). If you’re the type who’d rather sip varietals made with Edelweiss, petite pearl or Sabrevois grapes while nodding along to live music, this is the place for you — live music is featured every weekend at Bailey’s Run. When the weather is warm, the area behind the barn-like main building becomes an open-air concert venue. Later this year, they are adding a new distillery with bourbon, whiskey and infused liqueurs. “Most people who visit a winery stay for a couple of hours,” says Boczkiewicz. “When they come here, they spend the entire day.” N8523 Klitzke Road, New Glarus, 608-496-1966, baileysrunvineyard.com

Botham Vineyards & Winery
There are plenty of reasons why Peter and Sarah Botham’s gorgeous vineyard remains a local favorite. But it starts with meticulous attention to detail. Botham’s wines are carefully curated. Peter Botham, the primary winemaker, believes in celebrating the grapes, two varieties of which are grown at the vineyard. None of the 12 offerings are over-oaked, and the Blonde Rocks, a dry chardonnay, isn’t aged in barrels at all. “What we’re making is both art and science, and to do it well, you have to pay close attention,” says Sarah Botham. Situated on a former dairy farm with clay and loam soil that’s just about perfect for growing Wisconsin grapes, Botham boasts an atmosphere that’s as appealing as its wines. The tasting room is tucked inside a 120-year-old barn, and let’s be honest: It doesn’t get much more Wisconsin than that. If the weather is warm, you can enjoy a glass on an outdoor terrace or, if you’re so inclined, borrow a pair of binoculars and scout for birds between sips as you explore the gorgeous natural grounds. Botham’s signature wine is the Big Stuff Red, a semi-dry red that’s named after the couple’s son, Mills, who’s now grown and part of the business. It’s meant to be served chilled (yes, really). Sarah Botham says it’s a “red wine for people who hesitate to drink dry reds.” Final piece of advice: Plan ahead for your visit, as the winery is likely to be open only on weekends, at least for the coming months. 8180 Langberry Road, Barneveld, 608-924-1412, bothamvineyards.com

Cambridge Winery

bottles of cambridge wine outside

Courtesy of Cambridge Winery

You can sample one of Cambridge Winery’s Wisconsin or California wines at two different locations: One is a cozy tasting room across the road from Vitense Golfland on Madison’s west side, and the other is an event center in Cambridge, a few hundred yards away from the grapevines in the former Matt Kenseth Museum space. Either way, you’re in for an amazing experience. Frank Peregrine, who has a bachelor’s in chemistry from Carleton College and a MBA from Northwestern University, doubles as co-owner and winemaker. He planted his first vines in 2015 as part of a deal with the village of Cambridge to develop the area. The vineyard is filled with Marquette grapes, one of Wisconsin’s hardiest and most widely planted grapes, along with other varietals. This year yielded the biggest harvest since the polar vortex — great news for those who love the Cambridge Rose, a semisweet, fruit-forward white wine Peregrine calls a “great patio-pounder.” Cambridge’s bestseller, the 2018 vintage Founder’s Red, blends three Wisconsin grapes (including Marquette). Peregrine, who runs Cambridge Winery with his wife, Laurie, prefers to focus on dry varietals. The winery has racked up 14 awards for its 16 wines since opening the tasting room in 2014. “We are really true to the art of winemaking,” Peregrine says. “Some places just make the wine sweet and go from there. I believe the grapes should be as prominent as possible.” 1001 S. Whitney Way, 608-819-6672; 700 Kenseth Way, Cambridge, 608-423-2348, cambridgewinery.com

Drumlin Ridge Winery

three bottles of drumlin ridge in front of wine barrels

Courtesy of Drumlin Ridge

Dave Korb took a roundabout road to helming his own winery. He planted his first 30 grapevines back in 1994, but it wasn’t until March 2017 that he was able to construct and open Drumlin Ridge, a winery that’s now a key part of the cultural scene in Waunakee. Along the way, Korb sought and listened to a lot of advice, but he went his own direction when it came to some of the most critical decisions — and it’s paid off. “I was initially told I need to produce 70% of my wines as sweet,” recalls Korb, who runs Drumlin Ridge with his son, wife and daughter. “But a lot of people I know like full-bodied wines.” We’re talking wines like the Wauna Red — Drumlin’s top seller, a rich blend of cabernet sauvignon, syrah and zinfandel — and La Crescent, a dry sauvignon blanc made with Wisconsin-grown grapes. You can certainly indulge your sweet tooth here — the Old Fashioned, an orange muscat splashed with a tinge of brandy, might just lure you away from your highball glass. Drumlin’s tasting room is expansive, with a small-plates menu and a retail area geared to the gift-box curious. They’ve just switched up the tasting system as well, allowing customers to fill out a six-glass flight as they see fit. Just be sure yours includes a glass of Wauna Red. 6000 River Road, Waunakee, 608-849-9463, drumlinridgewinery.com

Odilon Ford Winery

selection of arcus pink wine from odilon ford

Courtesy of Odilon Ford Winery

It’s not a coincidence that most of the wines created at this Madison winery, which started producing wine in 2016, are named for clouds and weather — think Cirrus, Arcus and Opacus. The head winemaker, Jerrold Odilon Robaidek, is a meteorologist and data scientist at UW–Madison. Odilon Ford’s specialty is sparkling wines, but don’t mistake them for champagnes. The grapes aren’t sourced from France, but rather the Sampson Valley Vineyard — his family’s estate in northeastern Wisconsin — where hardy Wisconsin varietals that thrive in low temperatures are grown. Robaidek uses a variety of techniques to infuse them with bubbles during the winemaking process. “When we make our bubbly, we also control the entire process,” he says. “We grow the grapes, we hand-harvest the grapes, we vinify the grapes, we create the sparkling wine in-house, we bottle in-house and we label.” Odilon Ford’s Nimbus sparkling wines (there are bone-dry red and sweeter white versions) are its signatures. Both are pétillant naturels — pét-nats for short — a type of wine in which some of the fermentation occurs after the wine has been bottled. The pét-nats are made from a single vintage of grape, and the winemaker doesn’t intervene much in the process. Because it only recently earned the right to sell on-site, Odilon Ford does not have a patio or garden area where you can sip its wine, but given that it’s right here in Madison, scoring a bottle of sparkling and finding a nearby sunny spot to enjoy it sounds like a great plan. 4614 Femrite Drive, 608-520-0550, odilonford.com

Wollersheim Winery

bottle of wollersheim with a glass

Courtesy of Wollersheim Winery

This year marks the big 5-0 for one of the area’s original wineries, a stately operation that’s been earning its spot among Wisconsin’s elite winemakers since it opened its doors in 1972. Location is a big part of Wollersheim’s enduring appeal. Camped on a historical site along the Wisconsin River, the mix of historic limestone buildings and pastoral vineyards looks like something straight out of a French film. The Coquard family has expanded its operations in recent years to include a distillery and a bistro, but people keep coming back for the wine. Prairie Fumé, a semi-dry white with a low alcohol content and a refreshing taste, remains Wollersheim’s most well-known and popular choice — it’s been the centerpiece of picnics and dinner parties in south central Wisconsin since 1989. “It was a wine ahead of its time,” says co-owner Julie Coquard. “It’s a very easy-to-drink wine that so many people just love.” Last year, winemaker Phillipe Coquard rolled out Scarlet Fumé, a red version of the Wollersheim flagship, featuring the same dry-yet-slightly-sweet flavor as its paler cousin, but with a cherry undercurrent to fuel the flavor. Enjoying a glass of that — or perhaps the Domaine du Sac, which is a dry, oak barrel-aged red that’s among Wollersheim’s best wines — in the on-site wine garden may be the most memorable thing you do all spring and summer. 7876 WI-188, Prairie du Sac, 608-643-6515, wollersheim.com

Sip Back and Relax
Hop in the car and check out one of these additional 15 wineries.

American Wine Project, 802 Ridge St., Mineral Point
Balanced Rock Winery, 1065 Walnut St., Baraboo
Baraboo Bluff Winery, E9120 Terrytown Road, Baraboo
Broken Bottle Winery, S2229 Timothy Lane, Wisconsin Dells
Edwin Brix Vineyard, N4595 Welsh Road, Juneau
Fermenting Cellars Winery, 2004 W. Manogue Road, Janesville
Hawk’s Mill Winery, W8170 Pilz Road, Browntown
Lewis Station Winery, 217 N. Main St., Lake Mills
Minhas Winery, 1404 13 St., Monroe
Narrows Creek Winery, E5286 Narrows Creek Road, Loganville
Northleaf Winery, 232 S. Janesville St., Milton
Rock N Wool Winery, W7817 Drake Road, Poynette
Stable Rock Winery, 123 W. Milwaukee St., Jefferson
Timber Hill Winery, 1223 Storrs Lake Road, Milton
Von Klaus Winery, 133 Third Ave., Baraboo

Aaron R. Conklin is a contributing writer to Madison Magazine.

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