Looking for Local Red Wine – a Field Trip

When I started my local eating experiment, I was motivated by three things.  First, I wanted to encourage and support local producers. Second, I wanted to provide some practical insights into how to do more local eating. Finally, if things worked out, I was hoping to take some fun “field trips.”  Like searching Wisconsin for local red wine — dry even.

Alas a host of other responsibilities, along with a fall food preservation panic, have been getting in the way of the third goal.  Until last weekend, when I started my search for something that I had been told was impossible.

Tending the grape vines at Lautenbach's Winery
Tending the grape vines at Lautenbach’s Winery

A Wisconsin dry red wine.  Grown from local grapes. 

I was spending a weekend up in beautiful Door County which boosts a number of local wineries.  Coming out of a tradition of fruit wines, they have sweet and semi-sweet down pat.  But could they do dry?

Now one of the ways that some of the wineries have broadened their wines has been to import grape juice from the west coast. Alas not the full spirit of local. So my first question at each stop was, “do you have wines made from local grapes?”

Door Peninsula Winery

Our first stop was at the Door Peninsula Winery on Highway 42 in Carlsville.  Housed in an old school house, the setting is quaint and attractive and there is a nice shopping area.  The winery tour, which cost $3, was conducted by a young man who read from a script and had trouble answering questions. I had to hope he wasn’t a regular tour guide. 

The wine tasting, which was free, went better. They had a number of local options including a couple promising reds.  The first, Hybrid Red, which our server said would be my best option, was unfortunately sold out for the season.  I enjoyed the local Peninsula Red, but decided to look for something with a little more complexity for my book club buddies, who can be a tough audience.

My husband, who prefers sweet wines and ciders, happily lapped up anything too sweet for me.  Of note, the business has expanded into spirits and also houses a distillery, which might be an interesting future study.  And I’ll be back in summer to try the Hybrid Red.

copper still
From the distillery side of the operation

Simon Creek Winery

Next we next headed over to the Simon Creek Winery, just minutes away, off of County I.  Their tours run less frequently (during the off-season, just Saturday at 2) but we had a first rate guide who obviously knew wine-making.

wine vat
The small vat–waiting for the local grapes

On the goal of finding a local wine, however, we struck out.  They are growing some of their own grapes, but the harvest isn’t large enough yet for production.  Recently, however, they purchased a smaller vat destined for their first sufficient harvest, so I’ll have to stay tuned.

We did find a couple interesting non-local options in the tasting that I’m going to have to get when this is over: their Chocolate Port and Hazelnut Port.  You always hear “notes of chocolate” but when I tasted the Chocolate Port, I blurted out, “this has to have chocolate in it,” and the server nodded.  Next Christmas Eve, this could be an exciting pairing with dessert.  Alas chocolate dessert isn’t in the cards now either.  Again, I’ll be back.

Lautenbach’s Orchard Country Winery & Market

Lautenbach's (in spring)
Lautenbach’s (in spring)

We hadn’t originally planned to stop at Lautenbach’s, but without a purchase, we made a last-minute detour.  In the town of Fish Creek, on Highway 42, the setting is picturesque and they even host sleigh rides in the winter.

This tasting was complimentary and a number of locally sourced wines were available.  In fact, the server knew the percentages of local ingredients right off the top of his head!  I ended up liking the Ashlyn Sophis which was 100% local!  I’ll be serving this when I host book club in February and am anxious to hear what my fellow “bookies” have to say!

The local red wine "winner"!
The local red wine “winner”!


It was exciting to succeed in the end—especially after we had been told we couldn’t find a suitable local red wine that was dry.  The whole “experiment” was so much fun that I’d have enjoyed it even if we’d walked away empty handed.

Totally ready to gear up for my next “field trip!”


  • Jean

    January 18, 2018

    Very interesting, Inger! I’m sorry I won’t be able to be at the February meeting. I’d like to try some of the wines you liked!!

    • Inger

      January 18, 2018

      I’m looking forward to getting some more opinions Jean!


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